Note: Hockey Canada has just amended the pre-tournament schedule for the World Junior Hockey Championship. Pre-tournament games will now begin on December 23rd.
After dominating last year's tournament up until the final, Team Canada looks to return to the top of the podium.
Parts of the following article are from SB Nation:
If there was ever such thing as a dominant silver medal, Canada’s World Junior silver medal in 2021 would be it. They allowed two even strength goals through the seven games they played at the tournament. The only issue for them, is that they both came in the final against the United States, which ended a as a 2-0 loss.
They return to Edmonton and hope to get the boost of home fans after no attendance, although with rising COVID numbers that can change between now and their opening game on December 26.
Canada is always a threat at this tournament, even if they end up struggling. Their team this year seems to be a favourite again.
NOTE: Many websites, including SPREADS.CA have postponed taking bets on the World Juniors Championship until the situation is better known. Check back at SPREADS.CA for the latest odds, which will be posted as soon as the schedule gets finalized.
Canada’s strength is their depth at forward. They have so many forwards that 2023 top prospect Connor Bedard had to play his way onto the roster. Hendrix Lapierre, a Washington Capitals first round pick, is believed to be the first eligible player to play NHL games and get cut from the Canadian World Junior team in the same year.
Cole Perfetti, who is playing this season in the American Hockey League, is the lone returning forward and should be expected to be one of the forwards Canada will lean on. Other top prospects on Canada’s roster include Columbus first-round pick Kent Johnson, 2022 top prospect Shane Wright, and Edmonton Oilers’ first-round pick Xavier Bourgault, whose 42 points in 24 games leads all Canadian players in their club teams.
Canada’s goaltending should once again be solid, led by Detroit Red Wings prospect Sebastian Cossa. The 6’6” first-round pick has a 15-3-3 record with a 2.26 goals against average and .924 save percentage with the Edmonton Oil Kings, who have four players on this Canadian team.
Cossa will be joined by Dylan Garand — Canada’s third goaltender from a year ago — and undrafted Brett Brochu. The three goaltenders didn’t have to fight for a spot for the team at the camp, as only three goaltenders were brought, giving them time to focus on their game without the threat of not making the team.
We talked about Perfetti being the only returning forward, and experience is definitely lacking on this team. Only three players have experience at the World Juniors: Perfetti, Montreal Canadiens’ first-round pick Kaiden Guhle, and Garand.
That’s not necessarily a deal breaker, but Canada’s 15 games of experience at the WJC are the lowest of the 10 teams in the tournament.
Canada’s roster is also built as a top-six, bottom-six roster, meaning that some players will have a specific role instead of bringing the 25 best players on the roster.
On defence, Canada has no right shots. All eight defenders shoot left. It can be something that some teams can exploit in the forecheck or when attacking the Canadian team.
Canadiens’ draft pick Guhle is definitely someone who will be asked to lead this Canadian team. He has been named Canada’s captain and will look to set the tone for the team. He had a very good tournament as a 18-year-old last year, and will be looking to take the next step this year and turn silver into gold.
Guhle will be helped by the addition of 2021 first overall pick Owen Power. The Buffalo Sabres prospect missed last year’s tournament when the University of Michigan did not allow him to attend Canada’s extended training camp. He is a rare player to win the senior World Championship before playing in the World Juniors, and he will have the opportunity to win both before playing a single NHL game. He has three goals and 20 assists in 18 NCAA games this season.
Also keep an eye on Lukas Cormier. There’s no debating his offence game, but the defenceman is known to have some issues in his own end. He leads all Canadian defenders with 13 goals and 23 assists in 26 games with Charlottetown in the QMJHL.
It’s rare to see Canada bring draft eligible players to the tournament, and even more rare for them to bring multiple younger players. In Shane Wright, eligible for the 2022 Draft, and Connor Bedard, who won’t be eligible until 2023, they have two players who have skills that can break open any game.
Wright’s numbers don’t leap out the page. He has 11 goals and 19 assists in 22 games with the Kingston Frontenacs of the Ontario Hockey League, but he will be looking to show what makes him the projected top prospect in the upcoming NHL Draft.
Bedard, for his part has 24 points in 24 games and dominated the two exhibition games against the U Sports team at Canada’s camp.