The last time the Canadian juniors won gold, they were led by John Tavares, Jordan Eberle, and Jamie Benn in 2009. This championship drought has left many unsatisfied, but this year’s home ice advantage could tilt the ice in Canada’s favour.
Being compared to the 2005 Canadian superstar team that featured Sidney Crosby, Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, Dion Phaneuf and Shea Weber, the 2014 juniors are poised to return to championship form.
In three exhibition games Canada went 2-0-1 outscoring their opponents 12 to 4, while forwards Max Domi (4G, 2A) and Anthony Duclair (1G, 4A) have combined for eleven points. In goal, Montréal Canadiens prospect Zach Fucale stopped 14 shots against Switzerland in a 6-0 win, and will start for Canada tonight against Slovakia.
Consisting of 11 first-round picks and five second-round selections, the Canadians are projected to compete with the Americans for first place. Only three players, including the long awaited phenom Connor McDavid, are undrafted on Canada’s roster. Below are tables (not showing finalized lines or pairings) to illustrate Canada’s depth.
|Max Domi (2013 – 12th)||Curtis Lazar (2013 – 17th)||Sam Reinhart (2014 – 2nd)|
|Jake Virtanen (2014 – 6th)||Nick Ritchie (2014 – 10th)||Robby Fabbri (2014 – 21st)|
|Frederik Gauthier (2013 – 21st)||Connor McDavid (2015 Draft)||Brayden Point (2014 – 79)|
|Nic Petan (2013 – 43)||Anthony Duclair (2013 – 80)||Nick Paul (2013 – 101)|
|Lawson Crouse (2015 Draft)|
|Darnell Nurse (2013 – 7th)||Samuel Morin (2013 – 11th)|
|Josh Morrissey (2013 – 13th)||Shea Theodore (2013 – 26th)|
|Dillon Heatherington (2013 – 50th)||Madison Bowey (2013 – 53rd)|
|Joe Hicketts (2014 Draft)|
On defense, the Philadelphia Flyers’ Samuel Morin is expected to make a strong impact. Morin came close to making the Flyers’ roster out of training camp, but was sent to Rimouski Oceanic where he played five games before sustaining a serious jaw injury. Playing with a full face shield, the six-foot, 210-pound defenseman compares himself to Dion Phaneuf, and is prepared to be the muscle along Canada’s blue line.
“Even though [Phaneuf] was not fighting, he was hitting everything,” Morin said. “I don’t want to hit everything and get out of the play because I want to hit, but I think I can finish all my checks.”
The remaining defenseman are all strong, puck-moving athletes capable playing big minutes, and head coach Benoit Groulx is satisfied with his defensive core.
“In a tournament like that, you need size, you need strength, you need speed,” he said. “We like the balance we have with our defensemen. I think they’re all big, they can skate well, they’re pretty strong. Sam brings that element.”
On Team Canada the pressure to perform is almost unfair, but this is the reality of Canadian hockey stars. Canada finished fourth the past two years, though the expectation is always a first place finish. Fortunately, this seems to be the year where Canada once again has the depth to see it through.
“You need to have balanced scoring throughout the lineup and the last couple of years there hasn’t been; it’s been the old, traditional model of top-two scoring lines, a two-way third line and a fourth line of grinders,” said Ryan Jankowski, Hockey Canada’s chief scout. “When you score two goals in two years at [the semi-final in] this event, changes need to be made.”
The nation will be watching as Team Canada looks to turn things around tonight when the puck drops at 8 p.m. at the Bell Centre in Montréal.
“This is our year,” said team Captain Curtis Lazar. “We have the most talent out of a lot of countries out there… Why not [win] on home soil?”