There’s no way around it; this WJC is going to have some prominent MIAs.
August is obviously wonky timing for a World Junior Championship, as the 2022 event that was slated to take place eight months ago in Edmonton but had to be shut down thanks to COVID-19 will now run from Tuesday through Aug. 20 in Northern Alberta.
Had the original plan worked out, we might have been introduced to Juraj Slafkovsky six weeks before his breakout at the Olympics or seen Shane Wright step up in a big moment and prove his growing list of doubters last winter wrong. As it stands, neither of those players — the former now a first-overall pick of the Montreal Canadiens and the latter giftwrapped at fourth overall for the Seattle Kraken — will represent their countries in Edmonton as their focus shifts to being ready for the opening of NHL camps in the back half of September.
Also out of this WJC for Canada are 2021 first-overall pick Owen Power of the Buffalo Sabres, high-flying Winnipeg Jets prospect Cole Perfetti and the guy who was set to wear the ‘C’ for the home team back at Christmastime, Habs defenceman Kaiden Guhle.
And, of course, with Russia suspended from the tournament we won’t see the wizardry of 2023 draft-eligible winger Matvei Michkov, who’s billed as the best player to come out of that country since Alex Ovechkin 20 years ago.
All is not lost, though. First off, drinking in world-class hockey while potentially sitting beside a pool sounds just fine. And, even with these absences, there’s still plenty of reason for fans of Canadian NHL clubs to get amped during these dog days of summer. With that in mind — and with some final cuts likely to come on Sunday — here’s a peak at how the seven north-of-the-49th squads will be represented at this make-up event.
Toronto Maple Leafs
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Forward Matthew Knies has looked like a steal ever since the Leafs selected him in the second round in 2021. After a point-per-game freshman season at the University of Minnesota, he’ll wear Team USA’s colours at this event, just as he did at the Olympic Games in February.
Like the other Arizona-born Matthew(s) in Toronto’s organization, Knies has a big frame, which gives him tantalizing power-forward potential.
On the back end, 20-year-old Topi Niemela will be a fixture on the Finnish blueline. A third-rounder in 2020, Niemela’s stock has been on the rise the past two years and he just finished up a full season skating for Karpat in Finland’s top circuit.
Small-but-spunky centre Roni Hirvonen — a second-rounder in 2020 — will join Niemela on Team Finland.
Sure, there’s disappointment that neither Slafkovsky or Guhle — who grew up just outside Edmonton in Sherwood Park — will lace ’em up. Heck, even Montreal’s second first-rounder this year, Slafkovsky’s Slovakian countryman Filip Mesar, is taking a pass. Still, the Habs figure to have five guys wearing their countries’ colours when this tourney kicks off.
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The most intriguing Montreal prospect here is surely Canadian Joshua Roy. After seeing his stock plummet in his draft-eligible year — Roy fell to the fifth round in 2021 — the Sherbrooke Phoenix winger led the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League in scoring with 119 points last year, then followed that up with 23 more in 11 post-season outings. Riley Kidney actually topped that league in assists with 70 this past season and while the second-rounder from 2021 might have a limited role on Canada, he’s there nonetheless.
Two Canadiens picks also appear on Finland’s roster. Oliver Kapanen’s calling card is his two-way game as a centre, while D-man Petteri Nurmi was taken in Round 7 this year after being passed over the first two times he was available in the draft.
Jan Mysak, a second-rounder in 2020, is coming off a Memorial Cup appearance with the Hamilton Bulldogs and the centre will be a key figure on Czechia’s entry.
Of course, Canadiens fans are praying they might be watching a future Hab in 2023 NHL Draft headliner Connor Bedard. Montreal would appear to be the only one of the Canadian clubs to have legit lottery hopes of landing the phenom from North Vancouver, who’ll surely be putting on a show in Edmonton.
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Not only has Ottawa had a killer off-season, now its supporters get to watch a handful of potential future Senators do their thing at the WJC.
Forward Ridly Greig’s feisty style is going to endear him to Canadian fans during this tournament, but only Ottawa fans will get to keep loving him once he gets to the NHL. The 28th overall pick in the 2020 draft was third in the Western Hockey League this past season with a points-per-game mark of 1.62. Winger Zack Ostapchuk (39th overall in 2021) will be on the fringes of the Canadian roster.
Like the Leafs and Habs, the Sens have a pair of representatives on Finland. Goalie Leevi Merilainen, a third-rounder in 2020, didn’t have great stats during his first and only Ontario Hockey League campaign this past year, but that doesn’t preclude him from being a factor for the Finns at this tournament. Meanwhile, six-foot-three Roby Jarventie showed extremely well as a 19-year-old this past winter in the American Hockey League, netting 33 points in 70 contests for the Belleville Senators. The 33rd overall selection in 2020 could be an absolute force for the Finns in Edmonton.
Rounding out the Ottawa contingent, hulking D-man Tyler Kleven — a second-rounder in 2020 and a teammate of top Sens prospect Jake Sanderson the past two years at the University of North Dakota — will line up on Team USA’s blueline.
The Canucks got Jonathan Lekkerimaki 15th overall a month ago at the draft in Montreal and a lot of Vancouver supporters have been doing cartwheels ever since. This young man already has one major international incident on his resume this year, having registered four points in Sweden’s gold medal-game victory over a favoured Team USA squad at the U-18 World Championship in May. If you’re betting a nickel on where some of the nicest goals of this tournament will come from, consider placing it on Lekkerimaki.
Should the Swedes face Finland in the medal round — they won’t see each other in the round-robin — Joni Jurmo would be one of the guys trying to thwart Lekkerimaki. The six-foot-four D-man wasn’t chosen until the third round of the 2020 draft, but was actually Vancouver’s first selection that year.
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The journey to finding out if Brad Lambert was the steal of the 2022 first round starts now. Winnipeg got Lambert 30th overall, despite the fact the Finn — who is a late birthday, so we’ve been talking about him for a while — was for long stretches projected to be a top-10, even potentially top-5 pick. His miserable 10-point Liiga year is a memory now; what can he do in Edmonton to fire up the hype train again?
While there’s far less flash in Daniel Torgersson’s game, the big-bodied winger — a second-rounder in 2020 — could bring some heft to Sweden’s lineup.
The host city fans would have a little more to get excited about if 2021 first-rounder Xavier Bourgault made himself available to Team Canada, but the winger is on the long list of high-quality players who decided this event didn’t dovetail with his best off-season preparation plan.
As it stands, the two guys fans in Oil Country can keep an eye on are a pair of defencemen drafted just a few weeks ago. Finn Joel Maatta — who plays for Oilers coach Jay Woodcroft’s brother, Todd, at the University of Vermont — was a seventh-rounder after being passed over the first couple times he was eligible for the NHL Draft. Meanwhile, big German Luca Munzenberger — also a Vermont freshman this past year — was a third-rounder in Montreal.
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The Flames have just a single player in the WJC mix, but it’s a good one. Matt Coronato was the 13th player selected in the 2021 draft and he had a strong freshman year at Harvard this past season, registering 18 goals and 18 assists for 36 points in 34 contests. The high-energy centre is the kind of player who could provide a consistent spark to Team USA.
Schneider: 'Everything is on the table' for struggling Kikuchi – TSN
Toronto Blue Jays interim manager John Schneider said Monday the team is weighing their options when it comes to struggling starter Yusei Kikuchi.
Kikuchi saw his record drop to 4-7 on the season with Monday’s 7-3 loss to the Baltimore Orioles, in which he allowed six runs – three earned – in 3 1/3 innings of work. The 31-year-old is winless in his past three starts and has a 5.25 ERA through 20 games this season.
“Everything’s on the table right now,” Schneider said, per MLB.com. “We just want him to continue to focus on the things he’s working on. But having options and having other guys that can step into roles is a good thing. And we’ll figure that out in the next couple days.”
Kikuchi spent three weeks on the injured list last month with a neck strain. He delivered a strong outing in his return in July 28 against the Tigers, allowing one run and two hits over five innings, and held the Tampa Bay Rays to two runs in four innings on Aug. 3, but has allowed 11 runs over his past two starts.
“There are a few things that we’ve been working on, trying to figure out what’s good and what’s bad,” Kikuchi said through an interpreter after Monday’s loss. “I feel like we’re just caught in between the ups and downs right now.”
Schneider was non-committal on what changes the team could make to help Kikuchi find his way.
“There’s always a scenario for everything,” Schneider said. “Off-days play into it; performance plays into it. It’s a welcome addition to have (Ross) Stripling back and I love what Mitch White has done as well. You can go a variety of different ways. We’re just going to continue to keep our options open.”
The Blue Jays dropped to 61-53 with Monday’s loss and now sit tied with the Tampa Bay Rays for the second wild-card spot, a game and a half ahead of the Orioles, who they will play again on Tuesday and Wednesday.
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Orioles vs Blue Jays Odds, Picks, & Predictions Today — Zero Value on Blue Birds – Covers
The Orioles have been a thorn in the Blue Jays’ sides all season. As such, even with Alek Manoah on the mound, Toronto at -235 is simply too steep to offer any value. We’re pivoting to focus more on the total in what could be a low-scoring clash.
The Baltimore Orioles moved to 9-4 in the month of August with a 7-3 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays on Monday night.
In Tuesday night’s matchup, Toronto looks for revenge as Alek Manoah battles Dean Kremer on the mound.
This is an important series in a crowded AL playoff race. Toronto is currently tied with the Tampa Bay Rays for the second Wild Card, leaving Baltimore 1.5 games back.
Check out our MLB picks and predictions for the Baltimore Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays on Tuesday, August 16.
Orioles vs Blue Jays odds
This odds widget represents the best odds available for each betting market from regulated sportsbooks.
The Blue Jays opened -215, but money has come on them and widened the line, which currently resides between -213 and -235, with most books closer to the latter. As for the total, both 8.5 and 9 are available at the time of this writing.
Orioles vs Blue Jays predictions
Picks made on 8/16/2022 at 8:00 a.m. ET.
Click on each pick to jump to the full analysis.
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Orioles vs Blue Jays game info
• Location: Rogers Centre, Toronto, ON
• Date: Tuesday, August 16, 2022
• First pitch: 7:07 p.m. ET
• TV: MASN, Sportsnet
Orioles vs Blue Jays betting preview
Dean Kremer (4-4, 3.70 ERA): In Kremer’s first extended stay in the show, he compiled an ugly 7.55 ERA across 13 starts in 2021. It’s safe to say things have gone better for the right-hander this go around as indicated by his 3.69 ERA. His 4.87 xERA is a concern and his 6.4% barrel rate is too high to trust considering he pitches to contact.
Alek Manoah (12-5, 2.56 ERA): Toronto found a good one in Manoah. Despite being just 24 years old, he’s been one of the better pitchers in MLB this season. His 2.56 ERA is fantastic, although his 3.44 xERA does indicate that some regression might be incoming. His strikeout rate (22.4%) is down over five percentage points from last season, but he’s countered that by lowering his walk rate by three percentage points to 5.6%.
Be sure to monitor the gametime conditions with our MLB weather info.
Betting trend to know
Toronto is 9-2 in its last 11 games on astroturf. Find more MLB betting trends for Orioles vs. Blue Jays
Orioles vs Blue Jays picks and predictions
Our side and total predictions are based upon our analysis of the line and total in this game. Our best bet is our favorite pick across all markets.
With these teams so close in the AL East and Wild Card standings, it’s fair to question whether or not this line is too wide. After all, these divisional foes have played seven times this season and Baltimore has won five times — yet the Orioles are a significant +195 underdog at most books.
The pitching discrepancy is the most likely answer. Manoah has been fantastic, compiling a 2.56 ERA, while Kremer’s 4.87 xERA and 6.4% barrel rate don’t instill much confidence.
Still, Manoah has faced the Orioles twice in 2022 and his team is 1-1 during those games. He tossed a beautiful one-hit, seven-strikeout, blanking of the Orioles back on June 13, but allowed three earned on eight hits across only five innings in a no-decision in his most recent outing, which Toronto lost 6-5.
Ultimately, it’s hard to not give Toronto a significant edge in starting pitching. The Blue Jays are 13-9 in Manoah’s starts this season, which includes a 6-2 record at home.
As for the lineups, Toronto ranks fifth in wRC+ this season while Baltimore checks in at 20th. The roles have been almost perfectly reversed in the month of August, however, as Baltimore ranks fifth in wRC+ and Toronto ranks 21st.
The Orioles have been hot, going 25-11 in their last 36 games overall. This seems like a favorable spot for them as they’ve had success against Toronto this season and are 9-2 in their last 11 during Game 2 of a series and 5-0 in their last five Tuesday games.
The Blue Jays have been cold, going 1-5 in their last six overall. The line is not justified in my opinion, so I’ll side with the Orioles against the moneyline as it represents better value.
Prediction: Orioles moneyline (+195 at bet365)
Covers MLB betting analysis
If you played the Under in every game that these two starting pitchers appeared in during the 2022 season, you would’ve made a nice profit. The Orioles are 8-4 to the Under in Kremer’s 12 starts while the Blue Jays are 14-8 to the Under when Manoah is on the bump.
Baltimore has been hot at the plate, ranking fifth in both wOBA and wRC+ since the calendar flipped to June. Manoah has been fantastic this season, and it’s difficult to project the Orioles for an offensive explosion when facing a pitcher who has allowed just a 3.8% barrel rate this season.
Toronto’s lineup has gone through hot and cold stretches this season. It’s a potent lineup that can look very dangerous when things are clicking. The Blue Jays are in the midst of a cold spell, however, ranking 19th in wOBA and 21st in wRC+ in August.
Toronto is 9-2 to the Under in its last 11 games on astroturf and the Under has been a good play at the Rogers Centre during this cold spell, cashing in seven of the Blue Jays’ last nine home games.
Both of these starting pitchers have trended toward the Under this season, and I’ll bet on that to continue Tuesday night.
Prediction: Under 9 (-120 at DraftKings)
I’m rocking with the Under as Tuesday’s Best Bet between the Orioles and Blue Jays.
Baltimore’s bats have been hot, but a matchup against Manoah is nothing to scoff at. The youngster has been terrific this season, posting a 2.56 ERA and 3.8% barrel rate. Toronto is 14-8 to the Under in games that he starts.
Meanwhile, Toronto’s lineup has gone cold, and though Kremer may not be a household name, the Orioles have gone 8-4 to the Under across his 12 starts.
Some books are posting a total of 8.5 but 9 is available in a few spots, so I’m grabbing that number and riding with Under 9 as the best bet.
Pick: Under 9 (-120 at DraftKings)
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