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2021 World Junior Hockey Championship: Team Canada preview & roster

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With this roster, there’s a pretty good chance that the defending champs will hold on to their title.

2020 IIHF World U20 Championship, quarter-finals: Canada vs Slovakia Photo by Peter Kovalev\TASS via Getty Images

Looks like we’re going to be getting a sweet Christmas present this year thanks to the IIHF World Junior Championship spreading a little holiday cheer! After a messed-up hockey year (or, year in general), we’re finally going to scratch that hockey itch starting on Christmas Day.

The two-week tournament is being held in Edmonton, Alberta and the chances of Team Canada taking home the gold for the second year in a row — on home ice — is looking pretty promising.

It’s been a long road to trimming the 46-player pool down to the chosen 25. The 26-day selection camp was interrupted by a two-week pause for quarantine after two players tested positive for COVID-19.

Head Coach Andre Tourigny is looking to put together a fast team with a ton of skill, and it looks like he got his wish and then some. With the roster he assembled, this team is going to be a force to be reckoned with. We even have 18-year-old Montreal Canadiens prospect Kaiden Guhle suiting up for the team, so bonus. Guhle was the only Habs prospect invited to camp and will be going up against fellow Canadiens’ prospects Cole Caufield of Team USA and Jan Mysak of the Czech Republic.

The teams entered the Edmonton bubble on Sunday, where all players and officials will have a four-day mandatory isolation period at their hotel and will be administered daily COVID testing. If all goes well, the teams will hit the ice on December 18 to prepare for the tournament.

Team Canada final roster

# Player Position League Current team (NHL)
# Player Position League Current team (NHL)
31 Dylan Garand G WHL Kamloops Blazers (NYR)
30 Taylor Gauthier G WHL Prince George Cougars (2021 Draft)
1 Devon Levi G NCAA Northeastern (FLA)
27 Justin Barron D QMJHL Halifax Mooseheads (COL)
4 Bowen Byram D WHYL Vancouver Giants (COL)
6 Jamie Drysdale D OHL Erie Otters (ANA)
21 Kaiden Guhle D WHL Prince Albert Raiders (MTL)
5 Thomas Harley D OHL Mississauga Steelheads (DAL)
3 Kaedan Korczak D WHL Kelowna Rockets (VGK)
2 Braden Schneider D WHL Brandon Wheat Kings (NYR)
8 Jordan Spence D QMJHL Moncton Wildcats (LAK)
19 Quinton Byfield F OHL Sudbury Wolves (LAK)
22 Dylan Cozens F WHL Lethbridge Hurricanes (BUF)
7 Kirby Dach F NHL Chicago Blackhawks
10 Dylan Holloway F NCAA Wisconsin (EDM)
18 Peyton Krebs F WHL Winnipeg Ice (VGK)
17 Connor McMichael F OHL London Knights (WSH)
20 Dawson Mercer F QMJHL Chicoutimi Saguenéens (NJD)
15 Alex Newhook F NCAA Boston College (COL)
12 Jakob Pelletier F QMJHL Val-d'Or Foreurs (CGY)
11 Cole Perfetti F OHL Saginaw Spirit (WPG)
29 Jack Quinn F OHL Ottawa 67's (BUF)
16 Ryan Suzuki F OHL Saginaw Spirit (CAR)
26 Philip Tomasino F OHL Oshawa Generals (NSH)
9 Connor Zary F WHL Kamloops Blazers (CGY)

Strengths

This is one quality team that Tourigny has put together. The team is made up of 20 first-round picks. The New York Rangers refused to release Alexis Lafrenière to play in the championship, so I guess we’ll never know if he would have made the roster.

This team has strengths up the wazoo. Just to touch on a few highlights, there are three top point-producers from the OHL — Cole Perfetti (111), Connor McMichael (102), and Philip Tomasino (100); leading CHL goal-scorer Jack Quinn (52); and one of the best defensive NHL prospects in Bowen Byram, who was also part of Team Canada’s win last year.

Coming out of camp and intrasquad scrimmages, it looks as if we can expect to see returning champs Byram and Jamie Drysdale as the top pairing. Four forwards are also back after last year’s gold medal win: McMichael, Quinton Byfield, Dylan Cozens, and Dawson Mercer. With this lineup, it’s pretty much a given that we can expect to see a stacked top line and it will most likely consist of McMichael, who tallied a near point-per-game season; Cozens, who is a terror in the neutral zone; and Kirby Dach who has been kicking butt at camp since he landed, leading his teammates with seven points.

Weaknesses

With this roster, weaknesses are few and far between. If I had to pick one area, it would be goaltending. Out of the three goaltenders selected for the team, there’s not really a number-one starter that stands out.

However, after helping his team become one of the top WHL teams last season, Dylan Garand is coming in with 42 starts under his belt from last season — one of the highest in the league — and a 2.21 GAA and .921 save percentage. So we know he has the skills and stamina to have his team’s back. It could be between him and Devon Levi, who ended his spectacular year with league MVP and national Jr. A goalie of the year honours thanks to his impressive 1.47 GAA, .941 save percentage, and mad 34-2-1 record.

So, as I said, weaknesses on this team are few and far between.

X-Factor

On a team with an uber amount of talent, I’m going to spin the Team Canada talent wheel and see who we land on as the X-factor.

Kirby Dach it is.

After being chosen third overall in the 2019 NHL Draft by the Chicago Blackhawks, Dach suited up for 64 NHL games last season, nine of them playoff games where he really found his groove on both sides of the ice, notching six points and tallying the fourth-highest power-play minutes on the team. With his 6’4” frame, the additional muscle that he gained after the March shutdown, and insane puck skills, he’s already proven that he’s in it to win it by showing up his teammates in scrimmages.

Not only is it great to finally have a bit of hockey to watch, but this team is really going to up the excitement level.