Projecting Team Canada’s World Junior Roster

Photo by Matt Zambonin/IIHF

Introduction

To kick off what looks to be another fascinating World Juniors season, I’m projecting Team Canada’s 25 man roster for the tournament. 

Normally, teams are only allowed to bring 20 skaters and 3 goalies, but this year they are allowed 22 skaters and 3 goalies, giving each team the chance to bring 14 forwards and 8 defensemen.

Once again, Canada has a magnificently talented roster that will be favoured for the gold medal. The biggest question they have right now is the status of New York Ranger forward Alexis Lafreniere. If he plays for Canada, they will be the uncontested top team in the tournament. Without him, they will have competition from the likes of USA, Sweden, and Russia.

Canada invited 46 players to their month-long camp. I’ve categorized each player into four categories based on their likelihood of making the final 25 man roster:

  1. Locks
  2. Near-Locks
  3. Candidates
  4. Longshots

Here’s how the 46 players break down in my opinion…

The Locks

F

Quinton Byfield

Dylan Cozens

Kirby Dach

Connor McMichael

Dawson Mercer

D

Bowen Byram

Jamie Drysdale

 

The Near-Locks

F

Peyton Krebs

Alex Newhook

Cole Perfetti

D

Braden Schneider

 

The Candidates

F

Dylan Holloway

Seth Jarvis

Jakob Pelletier

Samuel Poulin

Jack Quinn

Jamieson Rees

Philip Tomasino

Shane Wright

Connor Zary

D

Justin Barron

Thomas Harley

Kaedan Korczak

Matthew Robertson

Ryan O’Rourke

Jordan Spence

G

Brett Brochu

Dylan Garand

Taylor Gauthier

Tristan Lennox

Devon Levi

 

The Longshots

F

Adam Beckman

Mavrik Bourque

Graeme Clarke

Tyson Foerster

Gage Goncalves

Ridly Greig

Hendrix Lapierre

Cole Schwindt

Xavier Simoneau

Ryan Suzuki

D

Lukas Cormier

Daemon Hunt

Mason Millman

Donovan Sebrango

 

Building the Forwards: The Longshots

Adam Beckman

Mavrik Bourque

Graeme Clarke

Tyson Foerster

Gage Goncalves

Ridly Greig

Hendrix Lapierre

Cole Schwindt

Xavier Simoneau

Ryan Suzuki

I’m not sure any of these players have a legit chance of making the roster with all the talent and experience in front of them. With an impressive camp, any of these players could work their way into a certain role, but I don’t expect any to be key contributors in any capacity.

I’ve seen Ridly Greig’s name thrown out as a candidate for the roster– if I had to choose one player from this list to be on the team, it would be him, but he just turned eighteen and weighs in at only 162 pounds, which is something to consider for a player destined for a role in bottom of the lineup.

Adam Beckman lit up the WHL last season. He’s exceptional at making plays but his lack of speed will prevent him from earning a role in the bottom-six and I don’t see him as a fit for a prime scoring role.

The remaining group of Bourque, Clarke, Foerster, Goncalves, Lapierre, Schwindt, Simoneau, and Suzuki either are a little-too one dimensional for the bottom of the lineup or aren’t quite talented enough to be on the team.

Building the Forwards: Locks and Near-Locks

Locks

Quinton Byfield

Dylan Cozens

Kirby Dach

Connor McMichael

Dawson Mercer

Near locks

Peyton Krebs

Alex Newhook

Cole Perfetti

Of this current list of the eight forwards I have deemed most likely to make the team, everyone has played centre at some point. However, none of these players outside of Mercer can be justifiably placed on the fourth line, so only three of these players can be chosen as the top-nine centres.

Quinton Byfield tried to play left wing at last year’s tournament but wasn’t successful there. As a player who stands 6’5″ and likes to take the inside lane, he should be a centre for Team Canada, and most likely on one of the top two lines.

Peyton Krebs is a pure playmaker and consummate two-way player– playing him at the wing is a possibility, but I feel his value is maximized from centre ice. He will be the ideal third-line centre for Canada’s roster.

Alex Newhook has shown success playing from the wing and the elite speed and energy he brings from that position will have him slotting in at left wing with the versatility to move to centre ice if the situation calls for it.

Cole Perfetti is better in a pure scoring role from the wing than he is at centre and should be played accordingly.

Connor McMichael played wing for Team Canada last season and thrived there. As a player who focuses on goal-scoring, it’s a no-brainer to place him on the wing.

Dawson Mercer is a better winger than a centre and he can fill a fourth-line grinder role from the right side exceptionally well.

This leaves a top-six centre opening for either Kirby Dach or Dylan Cozens. Both are right-handed players who would be able to get by at right wing but I feel Cozens is the more likely candidate to switch over. Dach is more trustworthy in transition and plays as more of a playmaker than a goal scorer. His size, skating, reach, and puckhandling make him an elite threat from the centre lane while Cozens’ top talents like pure speed and goal-scoring can be transferred to the wing quite easily.

With all that hammered out, here’s how the roster might look after plugging in the eight locks and near-locks at forward:

  • Line 1: McMichael-Dach-Cozens
  • Line 2: Perfetti-Byfield-Blank
  • Line 3: Newhook-Krebs-Blank
  • Line 4: Blank-Blank-Mercer

Extras: Blank, Blank

The first line gives Dach two wingers who can fill the net and play smart hockey alongside him. The Perfetti-Byfield combination on the 2nd line gives Team Canada two top 10 picks with plenty of skill. The third line with Newhook and Krebs is already shaping up as the top third line in the tournament. That’s just incredible skill and quickness to go along with elite puck pursuit. Mercer finds himself alone on the fourth line for now.

Building the Forwards: The Candidates

Dylan Holloway

Seth Jarvis

Jakob Pelletier

Samuel Poulin

Jack Quinn

Jamieson Rees

Philip Tomasino

Shane Wright

Connor Zary

These are my top remaining candidates to make the team at forward. With six spots available, three of these nine players will have to be cut. Those are some tough cuts to make given the skill at hand.

First, we look at the lineup and see there are spots available at 2RW and 3RW which must be filled to complete the offensive core of the team. The first obvious choice for one of those positions is Jack Quinn. With an incredible shot and an underrated two-way ability, Quinn can slot right in along elite forwards Perfetti and Byfield on line two, or perhaps next to Newhook and Krebs on line three.

For the other top-nine right wing position we can consider Seth Jarvis, Philip Tomasino, and Shane Wright. As a natural centre and only 16 years old, I’m not sure it makes much sense to move Wright to the wing, so Jarvis and Tomasino are the best options here. Both players play a very similar style but Tomasino is a year older and I believe him to be the likelier candidate. Tomasino has also played very well with Dach in camp and could be moved up to the first line if Andre Tourigny desires.

With that set, we can now complete the entire top-nine forward group:

  • Line 1: McMichael-Dach-Cozens
  • Line 2: Perfetti-Byfield-Quinn
  • Line 3: Newhook-Krebs-Tomasino
  • Line 4: Blank-Blank-Mercer

Extras: Blank, Blank

This leaves the fourth line LW and C positions open along with the two extra forward spots. There are seven very talented players left competing for those spots:

Dylan Holloway

Seth Jarvis

Jakob Pelletier

Samuel Poulin

Jamieson Rees

Shane Wright

Connor Zary

Let’s start with figuring out the fourth-line centre position. Of the group, Dylan Holloway, Shane Wright, and Connor Zary are the only real options at centre. Wright is incredibly talented but I simply don’t see Team Canada plugging him into a fourth-line centre role at this stage in his career. This leaves Holloway and Zary as the most viable options for the fourth-line centre role. Both these players are ideal fourth-line players who can bring an all-round presence. Since Zary is a steadier player than Holloway and only an option if he plays centre, I think he makes a lot of sense for this role while Holloway can compete for the 4LW spot or even an extra forward spot.

To fill the 4LW slot, the options include Holloway, Poulin, Rees, Jarvis, Wright and Pelletier. The talent there is incredible for 4LW options. First, I don’t think Jarvis or Wright would be considered here as LW is a very foreign position for them. This leaves Holloway, Poulin, Rees and Pelletier as 4LW candidates. In my estimation, this player will be Dylan Holloway. He skates like the wind, plays a power game and has untapped offensive potential as well.

With that decided, here’s what Canada’s four-line unit would look like:

  • Line 1: McMichael-Dach-Cozens
  • Line 2: Perfetti-Byfield-Quinn
  • Line 3: Newhook-Krebs-Tomasino
  • Line 4: Holloway-Zary-Mercer

Extras: Blank, Blank

Now, we just need to find Canada’s two extra forwards from a group of Poulin, Rees, Wright, Pelletier, and Jarvis. I think this is a position where Canada will really reach for versatility and upside to plug into the top of the lineup in case of injuries. My picks for the two extra spots are Wright and Poulin but it’s ever so close and incredibly difficult to leave players like Jarvis, Pelletier, and Rees off the roster. 

Final Forward Group (Without Lafreniere)

  • Line 1: McMichael-Dach-Cozens
  • Line 2: Perfetti-Byfield-Quinn
  • Line 3: Newhook-Krebs-Tomasino
  • Line 4: Holloway-Zary-Mercer

Extras: Poulin, Wright

I absolutely love this lineup for Team Canada. This is a very elite group all-around. They might not have Lafreniere but those first three lines are well-balanced and chock-full of speed, skill, and size. The fourth line has the potential to be an elite shutdown line as well.

Final Forward Group (With Alexis Lafreniere)

  • Line 1: Lafreniere-Dach-McMichael
  • Line 2: Perfetti-Cozens-Quinn
  • Line 3: Newhook-Byfield-Krebs
  • Line 4: Holloway-Zary-Mercer

Extras: Tomasino, Poulin

If Alexis Lafreniere is allowed to play for Team Canada, he would immediately slot in as their best forward and play LW. A re-configuration of the lineup would have to occur to make this work. I didn’t want to change that perfect fourth line, so one player from the top nine would have to move to an extra forward position. I moved Tomasino to the extra forward, switched McMichael to right wing, Cozens to the 2C spot and moved Byfield down a spot. Krebs has been playing RW to Byfield in camp, so I can see him fulfilling that role here. 

That is a flat-out phenomenal forward group if Lafreniere goes. I hope to see it happen.

Building the Defense: Longshots

Lukas Cormier

Daemon Hunt

Mason Millman

Donovan Sebrango

If any of these players make the final roster it will be seen as a surprise. 

I love Lukas Cormier as a player but I don’t see him suiting up for Team Canada. Hunt, Millman, or Sebrango would be a major surprise for Team Canada IMO but Sebrango and Hunt will have strong opportunities to make the squad in 2022.

With the longshots removed from contention and out of the way, we can start to build the defense around the locks and near-locks.

Building the Defense: Locks and Near-Locks

Locks

Bowen Byram

Jamie Drysdale

Near-locks

Braden Schneider

As the two returnees on defense, there is no question about Byram or Drysdale’s roster spots on this team. Hockey Canada might choose to spread out the wealth and have Byram and Drysdale on separate pairings, but a top pairing consisting of the two of them would be remarkable fun and potentially the most dominant pairing in the tournament.

Braden Schneider is very close to being a lock. He has played very well at past tournaments for Canada and is the best defensive defenseman of anyone at camp. He can play pretty much any role and can slot beside a more offensive defenseman on any pairing.

Building the Defense: The Candidates

Justin Barron

Kaiden Guhle

Thomas Harley

Kaedan Korczak

Matthew Robertson

Ryan O’Rourke

Jordan Spence

This is an impressively deep pool of defensemen Hockey Canada can choose from. With the expanded rosters, they can choose eight defensemen this year. Given his talent and repertoire, I have a tough time not seeing Thomas Harley playing a role with Team Canada in some capacity. He’s a very risky defenseman but with eight spots you have to factor him in.

Let’s say Canada decides to pair Byram and Drysdale together. We now have a roster shaping up like this:

  • Pairing 1: Byram-Drysdale
  • Pairing 2: Harley-Schneider
  • Pairing 3: Blank-Blank

Extras: Blank, Blank

The options to fill those remaining four spots are Barron, Guhle, Korczak, Robertson, O’Rourke, and Spence. As well as Jordan Spence has played at times, I just don’t think he will end up on the final roster with better offensive and defensive players in front of him. That means Hockey Canada now only has to cut one of Barron, Guhle, Korczak, Robertson, and O’Rourke to get down to eight defensemen.

Let’s say they want to even things out in terms of LHD and RHD. That keeps the two right-handed players, Barron and Korczak, on the roster. Barron seems to have improved his play over last year’s dismal performance and Korczak is an elite two-way defenseman who is about as steady as it gets. 

Between the final three LHD, I think Ryan O’Rourke will make the team with his dependable play and can form a solid defensive third pairing with Korczak. That brings us down to Kaiden Guhle Vs. Matthew Robertson for the final roster spot at LD. I like Guhle’s skating but Robertson is the more enticing player to me. He maintains better positioning, has more experience, and is a better offensive catalyst.

Final Defense Group

  • Pairing 1: Byram-Drysdale
  • Pairing 2: Harley-Schneider
  • Pairing 3: O’Rourke-Korczak

Extras: Robertson, Barron

This is a very well-balanced defense corps for Canada. That top pair will be dominant at 5v5, especially in transition and offensive zone play. Byram and Drysdale could play upwards of 25 minutes a night. The middle pairing has a nice blend of offense and defense and the bottom pairing is a complete shutdown line with two very dependable players. Robertson and Barron can fill in for injuries and take up some ice time so the top guys to rest.

Goaltending

Candidates

Brett Brochu

Dylan Garand

Taylor Gauthier

Tristan Lennox

Devon Levi

I listed all five goalie as “candidates” because I really don’t know what direction Canada will lean.

Goaltending is very likely to be Canada’s biggest weakness at this event. They brought in a mixed bag of five goalies, hoping a couple of them would arise as viable candidates for the team. It’s anyone’s guess as to who makes the final cut but with three goalies on the roster, Canada should be able to find a hot hand to ride with throughout the tournament.

If I had to be the judge, I don’t see Lennox making it and I also don’t see Team Canada bringing two 2002 born goalies. Brochu has been undeniably good as of late but for my money, Garand is the best goalie at camp and should be the lone 2002-born. Gauthier should be on the team with his experience and near-dominant play for Prince George last season. Levi is the other 2001 goalie and he’s been hyped up by a lot of pundits. I think they both make the final cut. Here’s how I see it shaking down for Team Canada’s goalies, although I could be royally wrong here.

  • Goalie 1: Dylan Garand
  • Goalie 2:Taylor Gauthier

Extra: Devon Levi

I’ve heard lots of good things about Levi. Gauthier and Garand might not be elite NHL prospects but they’ve played well for Hockey Canada in the past.

Goaltending may be team Canada’s biggest weakness, but they should be able to rely on at least one of these three goalies to lead them to success.

Final Projection

As seen on my Twitter account yesterday, here’s my final roster projection without Alexis Lafreniere:

  • Line 1: McMichael-Dach-Cozens
  • Line 2: Perfetti-Byfield-Quinn
  • Line 3: Newhook-Krebs-Tomasino
  • Line 4: Holloway-Zary-Mercer

Extras: Poulin, Wright

  • Pairing 1: Byram-Drysdale
  • Pairing 2: Harley-Schneider
  • Pairing 3: O’Rourke-Korczak

Extras: Robertson, Barron

  • Goalie 1: Dylan Garand
  • Goalie 2: Taylor Gauthier

Extra: Devon Levi

And here’s the final roster if Alexis Lafreniere is allowed to play:

  • Line 1: Lafreniere-Dach-McMichael
  • Line 2: Perfetti-Cozens-Quinn
  • Line 3: Newhook-Byfield-Krebs
  • Line 4: Holloway-Zary-Mercer

Extras: Tomasino, Poulin

  • Pairing 1: Byram-Drysdale
  • Pairing 2: Harley-Schneider
  • Pairing 3: O’Rourke-Korczak

Extras: Robertson, Barron

  • Goalie 1: Dylan Garand
  • Goalie 2: Taylor Gauthier

Extra: Devon Levi

Thanks for reading!

Follow me on Twitter: @BBMHockey

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