Canada has won gold in two of the last three World Junior Championship tournaments in the Czech Republic.
Searching for gold medal number 18, Team Canada will have stiff competition in Group B, as they’re set to face Russia, USA, Czech Rep and Germany in round-robin play.
The 2020 squad won’t feature the likes of Kirby Dach, so goal scoring and quality leadership will be the keys to a successful tournament. With the additions of Barrett Hayton and Joe Veleno, the two true pros will be leaned upon heavily if Canada wants to avoid a second straight embarrassing quarterfinal exit.
Alexis Lafrenière and Quinton Byfield will have all the eyes on them being 2020 draft eligibles, but two players upfront that could be real game-changers are Dylan Cozens and Nolan Foote. Cozens has the ability to take control of the game by himself and Foote has the potential to score at a goal-a-game pace, even on the brightest stages.
Canada’s defence should be a strong point for this team. Picking the weakest link between Jamie Drysdale, Calen Addison, Kevin Bahl, Bowen Byram, Ty Smith, Jacob Bernard-Docker and Jared McIsaac is a near impossible task. Most, if not all, have the potential to hop on the first powerplay unit, while also filling in to kill off a penalty in the final minute of a game.
Team Canada has a history of burying college hockey players (like Cale Makar), but Bernard-Docker could be one of the best defenceman in the tournament and I really hope they don’t try staple him to the bench.
Between the pipes you might as well roll a dice to see who starts. You’ve got Hockey Canada’s golden boy Olivier Rodrigue who has been just alright on Moncton this season. Joel Hofer has been one of the best and most impressive WHL goalies over the last couple years and is just now starting to get recognition from his country. And last but certainly not least is Nico Daws, whose numbers are stupendous with a .939 SV% and a 2.06 GAA in the OHL. My gut tells me the depth chart goes Rodrigue-Daws-Hofer, but my goaltending senses make me think that Hofer could turn some heads with his big frame and athletic ability.
To open up the tournament in Boxing Day, Canada will face USA in Ostrava. I’ve only got two keys to this game and Canada should/will win:
- Have a better powerplay percentage
- Have a better save percentage
If the red and white get that, I don’t see why they wouldn’t be able to knock off the stars and stripes to open up the tourney.
- December 26: CAN vs USA
- December 28: RUS vs CAN
- December 30: GER vs CAN
- December 31: CAN vs CZE
It’s almost the greatest time of the year, enjoy it!
Photo credit Hockey Canada (Twitter).