Hockey Canada, the defending World Junior Champions are back again this season, and they have raided North America for the best talent, and have put together a roster that is stacked with NHL prospects and eventual draftees.
Hockey Canada knows how important this tournament is in the development of talent in Canada. Canada has won the most gold medals in the tournament with 17, and have won the second most sliver medals behind Sweden and Russia/Soviet Union. The Canadians, all-time, are 198-47-8 along with 21 ties in the tournament. They have been the precedent that other countries strive to be, and consistently have been favourites going into every tournament.
No, not the Charles Dickens novel.
With amount of success that Canada has had, there is no question that they are expected to perform well in the WJC. Especially after two separate five-peats in the tournament (1993-1997, 2005-2009), experts and fans alike expect to Canada to be in the Gold Medal Game. Of course when you are pumping talent through such as Sidney Crosby, PK Subban, Connor McDavid, and many others, there is plenty of merit into believing that Canada is a favourite to win. This is why when the Canadians fall short, the tournament is looked upon as a failure. There is no question that it is a lot of pressure to be on such young talent. However, it sometimes brings out the best in these players. With plenty of talent up-and-down the roster, there are plenty of expectations for this year’s team.
Who to Watch For
Of the two goaltenders Team Canada possesses, Tim Hunter has quite the coin flip on who should start. However, it would be unfair if he did not give Scott a fair chance in group play. The Toronto prospect is a very quick, side-to-side moving net-minder. He is quick to get into position, and uses his size to take away net from the shooters. His puck playing abilities are also exceptional, and he showed that off as he scored a goal back on November 16. Scott has almost came out of nowhere, as have the rest of the Prince Albert Raiders. He is 23-2-0-1 this season, with his 23 wins being second in the WHL. His 1.61 GAA and .943 SV% are best in the league. It looked like Michael DiPietro may have been the shoe-in starter for the tournament, but they way Scott has played this season, he has definitely made his case why he should be the number one guy.
Moose Jaw sent a real playmaker in Josh Brook. The Montreal prospect has incredible vision in the offencive zone. His passing is pin point, and when he can get his heavy shot away, it spells trouble for the opposition. His size really helps him in his own end, as he uses it to clear out the front of the net, and outwork forechecking opponents. This year, the Warriors’ captain is fourth in defencemen in the WHL, and his nine goals tie him for most by a d-man. He will be put out on the ice in almost every situation for Canada.
The New York Islanders made a wise decision regarding their future when the selected Dobson in the first-round this past summer. An extremely skilled defenceman, Dobson is also a very smart player as well. In the offencive zone, he is able to see the play develop, and make plays that some other defencemen will not make. On the defencive end, he reads the play exceptionally well and makes it difficult for teams to enter the zone cleanly. His shot is very accurate from the point, as he is able to shoot around screens and on net. Despite playing a very poor Bathurst team this season, Dobson is still one of the top scorers on Titan. His plus-minus over his three year ‘Q’ career is also worth noting. He is a -30 this season, however his career total is still a +37, as he was +34 in his rookie season, and a +33 last season on his way to the Memorial Cup.
The Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds are back towards the top of the standings in OHL’s Western Conference, thanks in large part to the play of their star centre. Frost has very quick hands and very accurate wrist shot. His quickness and agility gives him the ability to put himself in position for a quality scoring chance. His vision with the puck superb, he can fit a pass into a tight spot where some players will even think to look. Frost is third in scoring the OHL with 58 points. He leads the league in helpers with 38 assists this season. He is also dominant in the face-off circle as his 390 wins on the dot are good for fifth in the league. Watch for Frost to play down on the half-boards on the Canadian power play.
The youngest player on this year’s squad, Lafreniere has made his case why he should be allowed to play with the older kids on the world’s stage. For a 17 year-old, Lafreniere has the confidence of a 21 year-old. His hands are just lightning quick, especially in tight in the slot. He will look in trouble against a defenceman at one point, then find himself in the open with a scoring chance the next. He has a firm shot to go along with it, he can pick corners, and the find the tiniest holes left by the opposing goaltender. This season with Rimouski, he is tied for fourth in QMJHL scoring with 54 points, and second in assists with 37 helpers. He played for Canada in the Hlinka-Gretzky Cup this past summer and was phenomenal, tied for the lead in tournament in scoring with five goals and six assists en route to Canada’s gold medal.
Another terrific playmaker for Team Canada. Glass has continuously improved in his now fourth full season in the WHL. Glass has amazing vision when he has the puck in the opposition’s zone. He will find an open man, even if nobody else can see them. His speed allows him to open up space for himself to create, and even finish, scoring chances. Despite being an outstanding passer, his shot is almost as impressive. It is very hard and the puck will go exactly where he wants it to. After scoring 102 points last season with Portland, Glass is on pace to go over his total from last year. In only 26 games, he as 12 goals and 42 assists for 54 points, which is still tied for fourth in the league, despite him not playing a game for the Winterhawks in almost a month.
Michael DiPietro (Windsor Spitfires, OHL)
Ian Scott (Prince Albert Raiders, WHL)
Evan Bouchard (London Knights, OHL)
Josh Brook (Moose Jaw Warriors, WHL)
Noah Dobson (Acadie-Bathurst Titan, QMJHL)
Jared McIsaac (Halifax Mooseheads, QMJHL)
Ian Mitchell (Denver Pioneers, NCAA)
Markus Phillips (Owen Sound Attack, OHL)
Ty Smith (Spokane Chiefs, WHL)
Jaret Anderson-Dolan (Spokane Chiefs, WHL)
Shane Bowers (Boston Terriers, NCAA)
Maxime Comtois (Drummondville Voltigeurs, QMJHL)
MacKenzie Entwistle (Hamilton Bulldogs, OHL)
Morgan Frost (Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, OHL)
Cody Class (Portland Winterhawks, WHL)
Barrett Hayton (Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, OHL)
Alexis Lafreniere (Rimouski Oceanic, QMJHL)
Brett Leason (Prince Albert Raiders, WHL)
Jack Studnicka (Oshawa Generals, OHL)
Nick Suzuki (Owen Sound Attack, OHL)
Owen Tippett (Mississauga Steelheads, OHL)
Joseph Valeno (Drummondville Voltigeurs, QMJHL)
Dec. 26 vs. Denmark (8:00 pm ET/5:00 pm PT)
Dec. 27 vs. Switzerland (8:00 pm ET/5:00 pm PT)
Dec. 29 vs. Czech Republic (8:00 pm ET/5:00 pm PT)
Dec. 31 vs. Russia (8:00 pm ET/5:00 pm PT)
All stats found on eliteprospects.com
All records found on iihf.com
Featured Image Photo Credit – Pixabay.com