Team Canada had to settle for silver the last time the World Junior Hockey Championship was played at home, falling to the United States with gold on the line. Last year, they got back onto the top step of the podium by defeating Sweden in the tournament’s final game.
Despite another loss to Team USA in the preliminary round a year ago, Canada wasn’t really tested again until they reached the final. Team Sweden may have done the Canadians a favour by eliminating the Americans in semifinal action, preventing a repeat of the previous two results between the neighbouring countries.
That didn’t make matters much easier for Canada in the Gold Medal Game. They entered the third period in a 1-1 tie, as despite some serious penalty issues for Sweden (they had six minors in the contest), they’d evened the score while on the penalty kill. The Canadians netted two goals in the third to leave Buffalo with gold medals around their necks for the first time since the 2015 event.
Only one player — Anaheim Ducks prospect Maxime Comtois — returns from that team, so it will be a completely new experience for the players selected to represent the host nation.
Two players who were among the final cuts from the 2018 squad return to grab spots this time around. Mikey DiPietro is one of the two netminders who will get to play in the tournament. Similar to what Montreal Canadiens fans had seen from Michael McNiven the previous year, DiPietro wasn’t fazed by the decision, going on to be named the goaltender of the year in the Ontario Hockey League.
Nick Suzuki, then a Vegas Golden Knights prospect, now a property of the Canadiens, also made the team on his final attempt after missing out last year. With the ability to play any forward position, he’ll be an important piece on the forward corps.
Team Canada final roster
|#||Player||Position||League||Current team (NHL)|
|#||Player||Position||League||Current team (NHL)|
|1||Mikey DiPietro||G||OHL||Windsor Spitfires (VAN)|
|31||Ian Scott||G||WHL||Prince Albert Raiders (TOR)|
|2||Evan Bouchard||D||OHL||London Knights (EDM)|
|3||Josh Brook||D||WHL||Moose Jaw Warriors (MTL)|
|6||Noah Dobson||D||QMJHL||Acadie-Bathurst Titan (NYI)|
|4||Jared McIsaac||D||QMJHL||Halifax Mooseheads (DET)|
|5||Ian Mitchell||D||NCAA||University of Denver (CHI)|
|18||Markus Phillips||D||OHL||Owen Sound Attack (LAK)|
|24||Ty Smith||D||WHL||Spokane Chiefs (NJD)|
|11||Jaret Anderson-Dolan||F||WHL||Spokane Chiefs (LAK)|
|15||Shane Bowers||F||NCAA||Boston University (OTT)|
|14||Maxime Comtois||F||QMJHL||Drummondville Voltigeurs (ANA)|
|16||MacKenzie Entwistle||F||OHL||Hamilton Bulldogs (ARI)|
|26||Morgan Frost||F||OHL||Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (PHI)|
|8||Cody Glass||F||WHL||Portland Winterhawks (VGK)|
|27||Barrett Hayton||F||OHL||Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (ARI)|
|22||Alexis Lafrenière||F||QMJHL||Rimouski Oceanic (2020)|
|20||Brett Leason||F||WHL||Prince Albert Raiders|
|23||Jack Studnicka||F||OHL||Oshawa Generals (BOS)|
|17||Nick Suzuki||F||OHL||Owen Sound Attack (MTL)|
|21||Owen Tippett||F||OHL||Mississauga Steelheads (FLA)|
|9||Joseph Veleno||F||QMJHL||Drummondville Voltigeurs (DET)|
In a rare occurrence, Canada has a player not eligible to be drafted for two more years. Alexis Lafrenière is projected to be the top pick in th 2020 NHL Draft, and while he likely won’t see much ice time in the tournament (he was slated to be the final forward cut until injuries altered his fate), he’ll get a chance to show a bit of what he can do on the international stage.
There is a lot of firepower up front for Canada. The team has five players who rank in the top five of their respective CHL league (Morgan Frost of the OHL, Brett Leason and Cody Glass from the WHL, and the QMJHL’s Joseph Veleno and Lafrenière), along with two who have played games in the NHL this year. While other nations may boast more individually talented attackers, the depth of quality offensive players runs from top to bottom on Team Canada, and that’s going to be tough to compete with.
There is quite a bit of offence to come from the back end as well. Most of the players have enjoyed a near point-per-game campaign either this season or last, so the forwards will have plenty of help from the trailing support to find success in the offensive zone.
With most of the defencemen being good offensive players, there is a question about how good they’ll be in their own end. They tend to rely more on positioning rather than strength in their own end, and that could make it tough to contain the dynamic forwards other nations possess. That approach could also be felt on the penalty kill, which is usually tested often early in the tournament as Canada adjusts to international rules.
There aren’t many areas where the Canadians will struggle at the tournament, and that’s why most already have them pencilled into a semifinal spot, while many see the team battling for gold on January 5.
It’s a lot of pressure for a group on teenagers in a country so eager to see the team succeed. It doesn’t take long for a few mental mistakes to pile up and knock a team out of contention in a one-game elimination tournament, so the team will have to quickly recover from any adversity faced.