Projecting Team Canada’s Final Roster for the World Juniors

Flag of Canada - Wikipedia

35 players are currently battling for spots on Canada’s selection camp roster that started December 9th. As with every year, the naming of the players invited to camp caused some controversy. Some high-profile players were left off the roster in surprising fashion.

For the 35 players who did make the camp, the thought of winning gold with Team Canada will have them battling hard for limited spots on the final roster.

In this article, I assemble what Team Canada could look like and what my lineup would be if I were Head Coach Dave Cameron.

Biggest Camp Snubs

Brennan Othmann

Brennan Othmann was a key player for Team Canada at the U18’s in May, was drafted 16th overall by the Rangers, has shown significant development since last season and plays a hard-nosed game. I really cannot understand why they would choose to leave him off the camp roster. He was a player I had slotted in as a key bottom-six contributor. As a 2003-born player, Othmann will almost certainly be on next year’s roster.

Brandt Clarke

Brandt Clarke was the camp exclusion that caused the most stir online. It’s certainly a surprise for the most recent 8th overall pick to be left off the camp roster, especially when considering Clarke’s high-flying offensive season and Canada’s non-existent depth on the right-side. I understand the concerns about some aspects of Clarke’s game– after all, he’s a long-term NHL prospect, but to not bring him to camp doesn’t make much sense to me. I thought he played well enough at the U18’s in May to earn the nod.

Zach L’Heureux

Zach L’Heureux is the third and final surprise for me. He has taken his offensive game to another level while maintaining his hard-nosed, strong puck-possession game. Given his ability to play in the corners and in front of the net, he seemed like a natural fit in the bottom-six.

With these snubs, I suspect Canada was really trying to go for an older roster, especially with Bedard and Wright potentially in the fold. These three players are all 2003-born and will get another chance next season.

Forwards

My Selections (14)

Connor Bedard

Connor Bedard hasn’t put up the production I expected this year but he has been fantastic otherwise. Suffering from poor shooting luck and a lack of talent around him in Regina shouldn’t prevent him from making this roster. To put it simply, he is the most dynamic player in the CHL– on a better team with just average shooting luck, he would have at least 40 points through 24 games, instead of the 24 he currently has. I’ve watched about half of his games this season and every time, he is the best player on the ice, generating a high number of high-danger scoring chances per game.

On a camp roster that looks short on elite right-wingers, Bedard slots in extremely well as a top-six RW. In that role, he won’t need to play a stand-out two-way game and with his renowned scoring ability, placing him alongside elite playmakers such as Perfetti, Johnson, and Lapierre could be a winning formula. If Canada doesn’t give Bedard a chance in this tournament, it would be a huge mistake. Even if he starts the tournament as the 13th or 14th forward, I’d place money on him rising up the lineup quickly. He is the best player to come through the draft since Connor McDavid (sorry, Michkov) and if they send him home to Regina they will regret seeing him pop up in the box score with three and four point games as they struggle to score in the medal rounds.

Mavrik Bourque

Mavrik Bourque has dealt with injuries and inconsistency since being drafted by Dallas in the first round. Bourque had the offensive abilities of a top-15 player but fell to 30th due to his smaller stature (5’10”) and average skating ability. His D+1 season for me, was just okay– for a minute, it looked like Oilers’ first rounder Xavier Bourgault had surpassed him as the superior Shawinigan player.

This year I have found Bourque to be much improved. Through 10 games, he has racked up 20 points and is showing more of an all-around game. While his skating is still not great, he works hard enough and has enough skill to overcome it. Bourque is a versatile forward who can slot in as a complementary player on any line and add a boost. On the powerplay, Bourque will be one of the best playmakers at Canada’s disposal. They would be smart to use him there.

Elliot Desnoyers

Elliot Desnoyers has continued to develop at an impressive rate since his round five selection at the hands of the Philadelphia Flyers. Desnoyers can drive possession with his two-way play and ability to successfully transition the puck as well as possews it in the offensive zone. Desnoyers is a natural fit on Canada’s fourth line with his style of play. As the captain of the Halifax Mooseheads and an exemplary hard-working player, Desnoyers brings added value in that department.

Desnoyers has produced very efficiently at even strength this season, scoring 1.17 even strength points per game, a number that puts him in the top tier amongst some of the bubble players.

William Dufour

William Dufour has been a favourite prospect of mine going back to the 2019-20 season. I thought the Islanders made an excellent value selection when they took him 152nd overall in 2020. Since then, Dufour has blown by even my expectations and has developed into a QMJHL star. For the Saint John Sea Dogs this year, Dufour is leading the team in scoring by nine points and has scored 1.23 points-per-game at even strength, one of the highest figures at Canada’s camp.

At 6’3″, Dufour is one of a few tall players at Canada’s camp. Compared to Will Cuylle and Jack Finley, he brings significantly more talent. With a proven ability to score at even strength, how do you leave Dufour off the roster? He controls the puck effectively, has elite playmaking instincts, and can also put the puck in the net.

Luke Evangelista

Luke Evangelista has done serious damage to the OHL this year. Through 21 games, he has 20 goals and 20 assists for the London Knights. Evangelista is such a do-it-all player who plays smart hockey– he will be able to contribute in a variety of ways. Coincidently, he reminds me much of former London Knight Connor McMichael and his style of play– if he can come close to what McMichael brought in 2020 and 2021, Team Canada will be ecstatic. Evangelista, the now-captain of the London Knights has developed consistently since recording 2 points in 27 games his first OHL season.

Ridly Greig

Ridly Greig came very close to cracking Team Canada’s roster last year before coming down with COVID-19. A pesty player who plays much bigger than his 170-pound frame, Greig also brings an elite offensive skillset. In a third-line role, Greig is the ideal player Canada should be looking for. Team Canada staff already said they plan to have Greig playing against other teams’ top units, which sounds to me like he already has locked in his spot on the roster and that they plan on using him at centre.

Dylan Guenther

Guenther hasn’t had an overly impressive streak since the U18’s in April. Most were disappointed with his performance there, citing his lack of ability to impact the game in any meaningful way. The U18’s was enough for him to slide to 9th overall at the draft, where the Coyotes selected him with the pick acquired from Vancouver. In addition to that, Guenther hasn’t had a great start to the WHL season with 32 points in 25 games– it’s not bad, but more is usually expected from a top-10 pick.

With the being said, Guenther has started to find his game of let, especially since the return of Jake Neighbours to the Oil Kings’ roster. He also brings an offensive package that excels in the cycle. His play along the boards is a skill that will allow him to succeed in the NHL. If he can be a facilitator in the cycle alongside premium playmaking talents, I think that makes him a player worth keeping on Canada’s top-six. Add in some goal-scoring ability and Guenther could prove to be a top player for Team Canada.

Kent Johnson

Kent Johnson, while missing Canada’s camp due to illness (non-COVID), is already a lock for the roster, as stated by Hockey Canada’s Scott Salmond. He will be heavily relied upon as a producer in this tournament. Johnson will play on the top-six as well as the first powerplay unit, where his creativity and offensive IQ will be a valuable asset.

Through 17 games at the University of Michigan, Johnson has scored 23 points, tied with Canada teammate Owen Power and three ahead of 2nd overall pick and USA’s projected #1 centre Matthew Beniers. Kent Johnson is Canada’s third highest drafted player after Owen Power and Mason McTavish, having been drafted 5th overall by Columbus last year.

Hendrix Lapierre

Hendrix Lapierre is one of the most skilled players Canada has to work with. He’s a typical playmaking centre who blends speed, puckhandling, and vision to be an elite distributor from centre ice. If he plays with strong wingers, I bet we will see Lapierre shine in this tournament. Sometimes, he struggles to produce without elite wingers due to his hesitancy to shoot the puck. If he plays with players like Bedard or Guenther, that won’t be a problem.

Lapierre started the season with the Washington Capitals but was sent down so his contract could slide a season. The best I have seen Lapierre play came the last time he suited up for Team Canada, at the 2019 Hlinka Gretzky Cup. Just ask Craig Button- he was a dominant playmaker at that tournament along with Cole Perfetti, where the two of them were Canada’s best forwards by a large margin. Surround Lapierre with talent in an international tournament and he will excel.

Mason McTavish

Mason McTavish is going to be an absolute force for Team Canada. He is my darkhorse for winning World Juniors MVP. He was good enough to stay up with Anaheim the whole season, so watching him a couple times against OHL competiton this year has been incredible. McTavish is about five physical levels too good for junior (68.2% on faceoffs this year) and thinks the game about four levels better than most in the OHL. His off-puck movement is excellent and his ability to play in the inside of the ice will be valuable for Team Canada.

McTavish’s scoring abilities are also top-notch. He has an excellent shot and even better positioning around the net– few players are better at cashing in rebounds. When he has the puck, McTavish makes smart plays and manages risk appropriately. He’s not a natural playmaker but moves the puck effectively. He will also be able to add a two-way game for Team Canada and a physical game that many others on this roster are lacking. I see no reason why he won’t succeed as Canada’s #1 centre in this tournament.

Jake Neighbours

Jake Neighbours played well in his short stint with the St. Louis Blues earlier this season. General Manager Doug Armstrong said he could have easily played the whole season in St. Louis but that they felt it would be better for his development to play in a league where isn’t merely surviving. Since going back to Edmonton of the WHL, Neighbours has dominated with 18 points in 10 games, scoring a highlight reel goal in the process:

Neighbours brings an elite puck possession game, top-notch hockey IQ, strong two-way play, and an excellent motor. He thrives in tough areas of the ice and knows how to facilitate a cycle. He may not be a key player leaned upon for offense but he will be able to do the dirty work to get the puck to others.

Cole Perfetti

Cole Perfetti is the lone returning forward for Team Canada barring an unlikely return for Quinton Byfield. While he was an effective offensive player in last year’s tournament, this year he will look to be the primary puck carrier on his line, run the first powerplay unit, and be the potential MVP for Team Canada. With 49 games of AHL experience and 41 professional points under his belt, it’s easy to see Perfetti being one of the top offensive players in the tournament.

Cole Perfetti’s hockey IQ is his most noticeable trait; he will be able to create fantastic scoring opportunities from nothing. Perfetti is without a doubt the favourite to lead Team Canada in scoring this tournament.

Justin Sourdif

Justin Sourdif is a play-driver with a relentless work ethic. He has shown massive improvements since his draft year and is a natural fit for a bottom-six role on Team Canada. While he is known more as a spark-plug than an offensive player, his 63 points in 43 games over the last two seasons show he knows how to produce as well.

He isn’t the biggest or fastest player Canada has to choose from, but they can’t go wrong bringing players who have the desire to play hard every night. For all the hype Fabian Lysell gets as a top offensive player, Sourdif has actually outscored him on the Vancouver Giants this season, lending more insight to his underrated offensive game.

Shane Wright

One look at the stat sheet tells you Shane Wright has not had the prettiest season, or at least not for someone projected to be the number one pick. However, Wright missed an entire season of hockey due to COVID-19 and has showed an improved two-way game this season. It would be a major miss for Team Canada not to bring Wright aboard as his skillset would really help this team.

If he does make the team, it makes the most sense for Wright to stay at centre. While he could play higher in the lineup, having him lock down a bottom-six centre role will make Canada very deep at the centre position, something I advocate for as a winning strategy. A play-driving two-way centre like Wright as your third or fourth line centre is not a luxury other teams can afford.

Defense

My Selections (8)

Lukas Cormier

Lukas Cormier was one of my favourite players of the 2020 Draft. I thought there was a case to be made for him as the third best defenseman in the entire draft. Perhaps that was a bit lofty, but what has Cormier done since he fell to 68th overall to prove that wrong? In the 65 games he has played since his draft, Cormier has scored 90 points. As a defenseman. He has been incredible this year, showing he is the best overall player in the entire QMJHL.

Cormier loves to get himself involved in the offense and never passes up an opportunity to take a one-timer. He moves the puck very well in the offensive zone and would be my top candidate to play on the second powerplay, assuming Owen Power quarterbacks the first unit. He brings more than offense though– he is an intelligent player who while lacking elite physical tools, plays solid defense, transitions effectively, and knows how to get the job done.

Kaiden Guhle

Kaiden Guhle is the lone returning defenseman to Team Canada’s roster. As a physical player with a steady two-way game, Guhle is receiving some consideration for the captaincy and it is easy to understand why. Watching Kaiden Guhle in the WHL this year, I have really liked the improvements in his game. He is much more careful and precise with the puck, jumps into the offense more, and has better offensive capabilities.

Any pairing that Guhle is on will likely be relied upon to hold down the fort and prevent zone entries against, an area where Guhle excels. Putting him on the top pairing with Owen Power can form a super pair that could play between 25 and 30 minutes a night. If they don’t go in that direction, having Guhle play with a more offensive defenseman like Cormier or Zellweger makes sense.

Daemon Hunt

Daemon Hunt has long been a Hockey Canada favourite, so I’m just going to assume he makes this team. I do think he deserves it though. Hunt plays a complete game, works hard, and can mix in some offense too. Team Canada will likely be drawn in by his versatility on a defensive group that needs it. Based on their roster selections for the defense, it is apparent Canada is looking for complete defensemen to fill out their roster. Daemon Hunt is exactly that.

Vincent Iorio

As the only right-shot defenseman in camp, it’s hard to see Canada overlooking Vincent Iorio. He’s not as known as some of the other defensemen but a breakout campaign in 2020-21 saw the Capitals attain his services with the 55th overall pick in last year’s draft.

Iorio is a two-way defenseman who brings the size Canada will likely covet for defenders. He has played a big part in helping the Brandon Wheat Kings fill the void left by Braden Schneider. Iorio is a player that many people don’t know about but should; he is a fantastic player who can help Team Canada win gold.

Ryan O’Rourke

Ryan O’Rourke brings a reliable, physical, hard-nosed game. While he might have a reputation as a defense-first player, he is a brilliant puck mover. I’ve watched him plenty of times over the past few seasons and have very rarely seen him make a mistake in the breakout. O’Rourke was also named captain of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds at just 17 years old, so it’s easy to see Canada liking the leadership attributes he brings.

His skating ability doesn’t shine as bright as some other players on the roster, but O’Rourke is quietly an effective defenseman. He is hard to beat off the rush and he will punish you in the corners if you aren’t careful. O’Rourke could be an unsung hero for Team Canada by the time the tournament is done.

Owen Power

There isn’t much more to say about Owen Power that hasn’t been said already. He will be Canada’s #1 defenseman in this tournament by a longshot. He will play in all situations and be relied upon heavily in all three zones. With experience winning a gold medal with the men’s team in May, Power makes the unusual jump from the World Championships to the World Juniors.

On that Team Canada, Power was one of the best defensemen on the team, earning more and more ice time as the tournament went on. This year, he has added another level to his offensive game and has emerged as the best player in college hockey. The #1 pick of the Buffalo Sabres will be expected to be the best defenseman in the tournament.

Donovan Sebrango

Donovan Sebrango is the only Canadian defenseman who is currently playing professional hockey. Watching a couple of his AHL games this year, it’s clear Sebrango isn’t a highly skilled player, but he is one who gets the job done, especially defensively. I was impressed by his ability to keep up with the pace and physical demands of the AHL at his age.

Sebrango won’t be an offensive player for Team Canada but he will be a rock on one of the pairings and perhaps act as a safety net for a more offensively-inclined player like Cormier or Zellweger to jump up into the play.

Olen Zellweger

Olen Zellweger was the Lukas Cormier of the 2021 NHL Draft. The fascinating thing about Zellweger is that he only misses the cutoff for the 2022 draft by six days. With 27 points in 22 games this year and showing an elite all-around package, Zellweger would likely be getting top-15 buzz if were eligible.

Zellweger is a high-motor player who is always all over the ice. He never passes up the opportunity to get himself involved in the play. He lacks the size that teams are looking for but makes up for it and more with his mobility, hockey IQ, and offensive prowess. Going back to the U18’s in April, Zellweger was arguably Canada’s top defenseman there. Even if he starts as an extra role in favour of more defense-focused players, Team Canada would be foolish not to bring him. He has the potential to be a standout here.

Goalies

The goalies are already set, so there’s nothing to discuss in terms of who makes the team and who doesn’t. However, the order of goaltending is yet to be settled, though Cossa is the clear favourite. Given he was drafted 15th overall last year and has put up awesome numbers in the WHL, I see no reason why Sebastian Cossa won’t be Canada’s starter come Boxing Day.

As a returning player, Garand has the leg up on Brochu for the backup spot. Garand has played extremely well for the Kamloops Blazers this season and should be able to jump in just fine if Cossa struggles.

The undrafted Brett Brochu will likely end up as the third goalie. Brochu is a smaller goalie at 5’11” but does nothing but put up results for the London Knights. It’s unlikely he gets any playing time in this tournament, but the way these things go, you never know.

Final Roster

These is the lineup I would go with if I’m head coach Dave Cameron. I am not saying this is what it is going to look like, this is simply what I would do.

Forwards

Perfetti-McTavish-Guenther

Johnson-Lapierre-Bedard

Neighbours-Greig-Evangelista

Desnoyers-Wright-Sourdif

Bourque, Dufour

Defense

Power-Guhle

Sebrango-Cormier

O’Rourke-Iorio

Zellweger-Hunt

Goalies

Cossa

Garand

Brochu

Conclusion

Although the name recognition on this roster may not be as high as normal years, I can’t help but grow more and more impressed by this group as time goes on. They have the skill necessary to win (if they choose to take it), and they have a group of complete players who can contribute to a gold medal win.

A main strength with this team is their depth down the middle. Having a centre like McTavish, Lapierre, Greig, or Wright on the ice at all times will go a long way in driving play and making sure every line is contributing positively.

Outside of Power and Guhle the defense is sort of a mix and match of second rounders. However, many of these players are elite two-way players who play a reliable game. I would go as far to say this defensive corps is extremely underrated based on the discourse I am seeing online. Players like Sebrango, O’Rourke, Iorio, Hunt don’t mess around with the puck and know how to prevent chances against. Olen Zellweger and Lukas Cormier are incredibly gifted, smart, players who will contribute at both ends of the ice. And that’s just behind an elite top pairing of Owen Power and Kaiden Guhle.

As for goaltending? Canada is looking unusually strong in this department compared to normal years. Sebastian Cossa is Canada’s highest drafted goaltender in many, many years and brings the elite size (6’7″) that the Canadian coaches will covet.

Thanks for reading!

Leave a Reply