Aside from the Holiday season, when December comes around the one thing that is on the mind of every hockey fan is the World Junior Hockey Championship.
There’s something about the annual tournament that kicks off on Boxing Day that brings everyone together. It creates a sense of national pride when we see the best of the best go against each other, as we saw with the World Cup of Hockey. In addition, it’s a present for everyone. With Canada taking that tournament, the attention shifts to those who might dawn the red and white at the senior level for years to come.
This year, the top Canadian Junior players will be playing their round robin games in Toronto, while the rest of the tournament will be played in Montreal.
There’s a lot of buzz surrounding this year’s team. Once again, Canada is going into the tournament as a favourite. After a very disappointing finish to the tournament last year where they finished sixth, it makes it that much more meaningful to give Canada a reason to cheer on home soil. Hopefully a similar reaction like in the 2014-15 tournament that took place in Toronto and Montreal.
Dylan Strome, Mathew Barzal, Julien Gauthier, Mitchell Stephens and Thomas Chabot are the five returnees from last year’s tournament. While Canada will be missing the likes of Mitch Marner, Travis Konecny and Lawson Crouse, there’s still an abundance of skill that’ll be on display at the tournament.
It would be a different story if these returning players plus Connor McDavid, Jakob Chychrun and Anthony Beauvillier were made available. But that’ll be determined closer to the start of the tournament. Canada still has the job of putting together a strong lineup to fight for a gold medal. (Note: No way the Oilers are going to loan McDavid).
Every year, I like to have fun predicting Team Canada’s roster. I set a goal of 75% or better to see how my prediction fairs with the roster that is finalized. This year, might be a bit challenging in regards to the team’s defense and bottom six forwards, as a number of players will be battling to prove their worth to the scouts, management and coaching staff.
Here is my 22- man roster for Team Canada:
|Tyson Jost||Dylan Strome||Julien Gauthier|
|Pierre- Luc Dubois||Mathew Barzal||Mitchell Stephens|
|Sam Steel||Michael McLeod||Anthony Cirelli|
|Mathieu Joseph||Brett Howden||Zach Senyshyn|
Line One: Tyson Jost was dominant at the Under- 18 Championships and proved to have great chemistry with Dylan Strome at the summer camp, who will be Canada’s number one centre. Throw Julien Gauthier into the mix and Canada’s first line has a very potent offensive line. Jost is averaging a point per game in his first season at the University of North Dakota and Strome has 16 points in seven games since being sent back to Erie. After scoring 41 goals the year before, Gauthier has only managed to score seven this year, but has surpassed his assist totals from last year with 20.
Line Two: The high-end skill of Dubois, the play making abilities of Barzal and the two-way presence of Mitchell Stephens will provide the secondary scoring for Canada. A good balance on this line rounds up the top-six depth that Canada has.
Line Three: Speed, skill and vision describes this line perfectly. Steel, McLeod and Cirelli provide an excellent mix of two-way play and great awareness in all three zones. Not only that, all three are excellent puck movers and can make quick effective passes, which is a huge plus in getting in quickly and setting up in the offensive zone.
Fourth Line: This has the makings of a great fourth line with a mixture of physicality and offensive production. Mathieu Joseph has 24 goals this year after scoring 33 last year. He can put up the offensive numbers but isn’t afraid to go hard into the corners and be physical. Howden has the makings of an excellent two-way centre and was heavily relied on at the U18 Championships. Senyshyn has a great scoring touch that’ll round up the fourth line.
Originally, I had projected 2017 first- overall pick Nolan Patrick making the roster as the 13th forward. But after recent news that he hasn’t been cleared to play after sustaining an upper body injury earlier this year, I had to make an adjustment. Nicolas Roy will fill the void as he is a major offensive threat on the ice, tallying 37 points in 24 games for the Chicoutimi Sagueneens this year.
|Thomas Chabot||Noah Juulsen|
|Jake Bean||Dante Fabbro|
|Samuel Girard||Victor Mete|
|Carter Hart||Connor Ingram|
Chabot is the only returning defenseman from last year’s team. While he couldn’t manage to crack the Ottawa Senators lineup on a consistent basis, Chabot has found his game after being sent back to the Saint John Sea Dogs. Noah Juulsen was cut from last year’s team and is looking to prove his worth to be a top pairing defenseman for Canada.
Jake Bean and Dante Fabbro will provide a strong offensive zone presence while managing to be solid defensively in their own zone. Bean dealt with a hand injury early this season, but has managed to score two goals and earn seven assists in seven games with the Calgary Hitmen. Fabbro is playing well in his first year at Boston University scoring three goals and adding three assists.
Samuel Girard and Victor Mete will be another pairing that can be able to provide a scoring touch when needed to. Girard has 35 points with the Shawinigan Cataractes, while Mete has tallied 24 points with the London Knights. Both are also able to provide a strong defensive presence, managing to shut down the opposition as they enter the zone.
Lauzon will look to be the seventh defenseman for Canada. While he put up 50 points last year and 11 in 12 games this year for the Rouyn- Noranda Huskies, Lauzon has a defense first mentality. He’s very gritty and isn’t afraid to lay the body. He will fit in well with Canada’s defense that is gifted offensively and has the ability to play strong defense.
There are only two spots in net and three goaltenders.
Carter Hart is sporting the best goals against average (1.76) and is second in save percentage to Connor Ingram (only slightly) in the Western Hockey League, while managing to win 15 games. In my opinion, he is the starter for Canada and will look to provide the solid, consistent goaltending that has been a big question mark for this team in the previous years.
Connor Ingram will serve as the back up as he has the third best goals against (2.12) in the WHL. He’s got great vision and is always square with the shooter. Should Hart have a bad game, Ingram will no doubt do a great job in relief.
That’s my roster for Canada’s 2016/17 World Junior team. Who do you think should be on the team?