NHL Prospect Notebook: Thoughts on Team Canada's WJC camp roster

Canada's Owen Power (L) and Finland's Iiro Pakarinen in their 2021 IIHF World Championship Group B ice hockey match at Arena Riga. (Natalia Fedosenko/TASS )

Hockey Canada announced a 35-player selection camp roster for the 2022 world juniors on Wednesday. Due to COVID protocols, camp will be shortened to allow for the final roster to move into quarantine before transitioning to the Edmonton bubble for the duration of the tournament. There will be two days of practice and two games against a USports team from Dec. 9-12 before final decisions are made on the 25-man roster.

NHL Content
Four players on this roster have already played NHL games in Cole Perfetti, Jake Neigbours, Hendrix Lapierre and Mason McTavish, the last three of whom have already scored their first NHL goals.

No. 1 in 2022
Kingston’s Shane Wright, the projected first overall pick in the 2022 NHL draft, will get his second crack at making the team after a disappointing camp last year where he simply couldn’t find his stride. Wright lead Canada to gold at the U18 worlds and is up over a point per game for the OHL's Frontenacs, despite being fourth in team scoring.

No. 1 in 2023?
Connor Bedard will attempt to become one of a handful of 16-year-olds in history to make Team Canada's WJC squad and join a list that includes Wayne Gretzky, Eric Lindros and Connor McDavid. Bedard has 17 points in 21 games for a Regina team that has endured a coaching change. Canada's Director of Player Personnel, Alan Millar, knows the player well. With Millar having worked previously as GM for the WHL's Moose Jaw Warriors, he not only got to see plenty of Bedard in the Regina bubble last season, but was quick to point out that Bedard produced 10 of his team-leading 14 points when it counted most for Canada in the medal round of the 2021 U18 worlds.

Canada will employ a roster composition of three goalies, eight defencemen, and 14 forwards. Typically, IIHF rules allow for 22-man rosters, but COVID protocols have made a concession for an additional three players. This was also the case last year.

Three Back
There are three returnees from last year’s silver medal-winning Canadian team in Perfetti, defenceman Kaiden Guhle and goaltender Dylan Garand. Guhle was traded from Prince Albert to Edmonton on Wednesday.

Quinton Byfield of the L.A. Kings remains on the sidelines with an injury, as do Flyers prospects Tyson Foerster and Zayde Wisdom.

Stay in the Show
In terms of WJC eligible players still in the NHL, Jamie Drysdale is playing over 20 minutes per game for Anaheim. Columbus' Cole Sillinger, who has nine points in 20 games, is centreing Columbus’ second line. And Carolina’s Seth Jarvis has seen time on the Canes’ top line while putting up seven points in 14 games played.

Maize and Blue in the Red and White
University of Michigan’s Owen Power, the first overall pick by Buffalo in the 2021 NHL draft, will participate. Due to the time he would’ve missed last year to come to the WJC, he along with Michigan head coach Mel Pearson, decided it would be best to stay the course in his freshman season and not miss the 51 days it would have required to participate (including quarantine). Power currently sits tied for second in NCAA play with 23 points in 16 games. He won a World Championship gold with Canada last summer and now looks to become the first player ever to win a men's senior world and a world junior gold before competing in an NHL game.

Power's Michigan teammate, and Columbus first-rounder Kent Johnson, also earned an invite to Canada's camp. He’s tied with Power at 23 points on the season.

Who Dat?
The two biggest surprises in Canada's camp have to be Ryan Tverberg of UConn and Eliot Desnoyers of QMJHL Halifax. Tverberg is a seventh-round pick of the Toronto Maple Leafs' from 2020 and leads the Huskies in scoring. Desnoyers is an Arizona fifth-rounder, also from 2020. As of Wednesday, he was fifth in league scoring with 34 points, only eight of which have come on the power play.

Three’s Company
The only competition in goal will be for the starter's job as all three names to camp will be on the final team. Garand is the returnee and will be joined by Detroit first-rounder Sebastian Cossa and former Junior C netminder Brett Brochu, currently with the London Knights.

A few surprising omissions include WHL leading scorer Matthew Savoie, Anaheim first-rounder Jacob Perreault, Blainville-Boisbriand defenceman Miguel Tourigny, who leads all CHL defencemen with 16 goals, Barrie defenceman Brandt Clarke (who leads the OHL in defencemen scoring) and Sudbury centre Chase Stillman, who played a role Canada head coach Dave Cameron would admire with Canada’s U18 gold medal team.

Cameron last coached Canada at the world juniors in Buffalo in 2011. Canada led the gold medal game 3-0 going into the third period that year before dropping a 5-3 decision to Russia.

Boydy Boy
Nobody knows Cameron like James Boyd. The two spent years together working in Toronto and Mississauga and it’s clear the management team had a vision in coming up with the 35-player list. “This is not an All-star team, hard skill over soft skill, details, being able to overcome challenges and adversity,” were small bits of the messaging from Wednesday’s presser. The point was stressed that this team will be composed to handle playing in a variety of ways and to face a number of challenges and adversity. The final roster will be constructed as such.

Home Ice
Canada last won on home ice when the tournament was hosted jointly by Montreal and Toronto in 2015.

In the Pool
Canada, Finland, Germany, Czech Republic and Austria compose Group A. Reigning gold medalists USA will play in a pool with Russia, Sweden, Slovakia and Switzerland.

“We’re not building a team for Boxing Day, we’re building a team for January 5th,” said Director of Player Personnel Alan Millar.

USA, the reigning gold medalists, feature six first-round NHL draft picks and will participate in camp in Plymouth, Mich., from December 13-15.

The US has never won back-to-back tournaments, but has three gold medals in the past nine years.

Maize and Blue in the Red, White and Blue
The Wolverines feature four players on USA's roster in Luke Hughes (New Jersey pick), Jacob Truscott (Vancouver), Thomas Bordeleau (San Jose) and Mackie Samoskevich (Florida).

Back Again
They US returns three defencemen in L.A. Kings prospect Brock Faber and Ottawa draft picks Ty Kleven and Jake Sanderson. Up front, Seattle’s first ever draft pick, Matty Beniers, is one of three returnees. Chicago’s Landon Slaggert and Ranger pick Brett Berard are the others.

The Americans have called upon just two first-year draft eligibles, goalie Dylan Silverstein and winger Logan Cooley.

Wolves and COVID
With 12 positive test results for COVID-19, the Sudbury Wolves were forced to cease operations for at least 10 days. Team officials spent Wednesday delivering workout gear to billet homes. Players, if feeling up to it, will participate in daily workouts.

While in isolation, players will also be subject to personal meetings with coaches, team building and individual video sessions over Zoom.

Unfortunately, some of the billet families have been forced to self-isolate as well.

As of Wednesday afternoon, all who tested positive were either asymptomatic or experiencing mild symptoms.

One player of particular note is defenceman Jack Thompson. The Tampa Bay prospect was selected to participate in Hockey Canada’s U20 selection camp. Thompson is working with the Wolves, the Lightning and Hockey Canada to make sure he’s able to participate in camp, which begins Dec. 9. It is unknown as to whether or not Thompson is one of the 12 players who tested positive, but even with the mandatory 10-day waiting period, Thompson would be eligible to participate in the full camp.

Team members will re-test after seven days and if results are negative, will be able to get back to business after the mandatory 10 days.

By all accounts, local health authorities and league officials have been extremely supportive in Sudbury’s time of need.

Capital City Challenge Gold Game
This tournament, featuring three U17 teams and the women's national team, concluded Wednesday. In a back and forth affair for the gold medal game, Riley Heidt of Prince George put Team Red ahead 5-4 with 29 seconds left only to have Team Black tie it with a goal from Winnipeg’s Zach Benson at 19:59. Oshawa’s Calum Ritchie won it for Team Black at the 9:19 mark of overtime, his 11th point of the tourney.

Team Black was led by Benson, who put up 12 points over five games, while Team Red received seven-point performances from Victoria Grizzlies (BCHL) Matthew Wood and Moose Jaw’s (WHL) Brayden Yager.

Team White defeated the National Women’s team 6-1 to capture the bronze medal.

The Women’s National team was lead by Marie-Philip Poulin with four points in three games. Seven players accumulated two points apiece .

Team White was lead by Ethan Gauthier of Sherbrooke, who put up nine points in five games, including an assist on Ty Peddle’s game-winner.

Leading scorers
Team Black was led by Winnipeg’s Zach Benson, who finished the tournament with 11 points in four games. Oshawa’s Calum Ritchie finished second with nine points.

My good pal, and Flames radio analyst Peter Loubardias couldn’t stop raving about Yager, whom many have already compared to Nathan MacKinnon.

Petes New Coach
In case you haven’t seen this, it's unreal. Peterborough Petes head coach Rob Wilson is currently with the U17s in Ottawa for the tournament that just wrapped. His Petes hosted Ottawa on Sunday, and so a new coach took the reins while Wilson was away.

By the way, the Petes won 3-2.

You can purchase t-shirts here, with all proceeds going to the Canadian Cancer Society.

Speaking of the Petes, when the third overall pick from the 2021 draft, Mason McTavish, was sent back to Peterborough, it was in the hopes he would participate in the world juniors and give the Petes a big lift. He had a hat trick in his first game back, a 5-3 win versus North Bay, and opened the scoring in aforementioned Cal Wilson’s coaching debut.

Teddy Time
It’s Teddy Bear toss season in the CHL. If you feel comfortable enough to attend a game, be sure to check your local team’s schedule and try to attend on Teddy Bear toss night. It’s a blast and it will go a long way in making a child’s holidays.

Gone Way too Soon
Deepest condolences to the Swaby family. Former Tri-City Americans and Edmonton Oil Kings defenceman Matt Swaby left us way too soon. He leaves behind wife Carla and three kids. A GoFundMe page has been set up for Carla and the children.

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