Armed with a ton of skill and the desire to redeem the 2021 team after a disappointing loss to the Americans in the Gold Medal Game, Team Canada’s 2022 World Junior Championship (WJC) roster looks as formidable as any team we’ve seen in the last decade. The roster has been finalized, and while there were some surprising omissions, this year’s squad still has the skill, size and depth to go toe-to-toe with any team in this year’s tournament.
The onus is now on head coach Dave Cameron to bring this team together and have them embrace a team mindset despite having players that will undoubtedly be playing lower in the lineup than they normally would on any other team. For a team that is always loaded with future NHL superstars, the Canadian teams that have had success in this tournament are the ones that have been able to not only outplay their opponents, but outlast them as well. This year’s squad, just like many before, has the pieces to do just that.
Cossa, Garand Lead the Way in Net
Team Canada Goaltenders: Brett Brochu, Sebastian Cossa, Dylan Garand
Dylan Garand, a New York Rangers prospect taken in the 2020 draft, returns after backing up Devon Levi at last year’s tournament. He’s having himself a strong season with the Kamloops Blazers of the Western Hockey League (WHL). He holds a record of 15-4-0, a goals-against average (GAA) of 1.85 and a save-percentage (SV%) of .932 all while backing up one of the best teams in the WHL. Considering his experience on last year’s team, it would be safe to assume that he has the opportunity to run with the starting role this time around. However, another WHL goaltender may have a thing or two to say about that.
Sebastian Cossa, taken 15th overall by the Detroit Red Wings in the 2021 draft, has had a strong season of his own playing for the Edmonton Oil Kings. He holds a 15-3-3 record, a 2.26 GAA and a .924 SV% while backstopping another contender in the WHL. While his base stats are not as impressive as Garand’s, his recent play may have been enough to earn the starting role.
There’s also the fact that Cossa is tall. I mean comically tall.
While size isn’t everything, there is a reason Cossa was drafted as high as he was. He is highly competitive and would surely relish the chance to shoulder the pressure of being Team Canada’s go-to guy in net. Garand is no slouch, though, so it will be very interesting to see how this situation plays out in the early going of the tournament.
Owen Power Headlines Team Canada’s Defense
Team Canada Defense: Lukas Cormier, Kaiden Guhle, Carson Lambos, Ryan O’Rourke, Owen Power, Donovan Sebrango, Ronan Seeley, Olen Zellweger
The top pick of the 2021 draft looks to play a big role for Team Canada in this year’s tournament. With 23 points in 18 games so far with the University of Michigan, Owen Power is having himself a successful sophomore season and is showing any doubters why the Buffalo Sabres were wise to take him with the first overall selection. Standing at 6-foot-5 and weighing in at 214 pounds, he has the size to play a physical game while also having the puck skills to make an impact in both the offensive and defensive zones. Like Bowen Byram on last year’s team, Power projects to play in all situations and play a huge role in determining Canada’s fate in this year’s tournament.
Joining Power on defense are a few other first round picks in Lukas Cormier, Kaiden Guhle, Carson Lambos and Ryan O’Rourke. Guhle, a prospect of the Montreal Canadiens (16th overall, 2020) returns from last year’s team where he posted two goals and three points in seven games. A native of Sherwood Park, Alberta, he’s having himself a nice season in the WHL, where he has 18 points through 20 games with the Prince Albert Raiders and the Oil Kings. He boasts a nice blend of size, skill and experience that could prove to be valuable to this year’s team.
If there is one oddity about this year’s edition of Team Canada, it’s that they enter this year’s WJC without a right-handed defender. Some observers were absolutely baffled that 2021 first round pick Brandt Clarke wasn’t even part of the preliminary roster, especially considering the group’s lack of right-handed defensemen. While having an even split of left and right-handed defensemen isn’t a necessity, it does tend to make transition a bit easier on the defense. It will be very interesting to see if the lack of righties on defense ever presents a problem for the Canadians.
Connor Bedard Makes His World Juniors Debut
Team Canada Forwards: Connor Bedard, Xavier Bourgault, Mavrik Bourque, Will Cuylle, Elliot Desnoyers, Ridley Greig, Dylan Guenther, Kent Johnson, Mason McTavish, Jake Neighbours, Cole Perfetti, Justin Sourdif, Logan Stankoven, Shane Wright
The intriguing thing about Team Canada’s forward group is that it likely features the future top picks from both the 2022 and 2023 drafts. Shane Wright is all the rage heading into the 2022 draft, as he boasts a strong, mature two-way game that seems destined to shine when the stakes are highest. The captain of the Kingston Frontenacs of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) has 11 goals and 30 points through 22 games this season. Last year as captain of Team Canada’s U-18 team, he had a staggering 14 points through just five games.
There was some debate heading into Team Canada’s roster selection as to whether or not Connor Bedard would ultimately make the team. At just 16 years old, he’s the youngest player on the team. The only player shorter than him (5-foot-9) is Logan Stankoven (5-foot-8). Yet the young phenom would not be denied a spot on the roster.
While the Canadians’ offense is highlighted by players that have yet to be drafted, they will ice a few players that already have some NHL experience under their belts. Mason McTavish (third overall, 2021) was impressive in a nine-game stint with the Anaheim Ducks this season before they returned him to the Peterborough Petes of the OHL. Jake Neighbours (26th overall, 2020) had two points in nine games with the St. Louis Blues before they returned him to the Oil Kings, where he has 18 points through 10 games. Cole Perfetti (10th overall, 2020) has spent most of this season with the Manitoba Moose of the American Hockey League (AHL), but even he saw two games of action with the Winnipeg Jets this season. Perfetti also represents the only forward to return from last year’s team (he recorded six points in seven games at last year’s tournament.)
Team Canada Has the Goods
The objective is as simple as it is every time the WJC rolls around: win the Gold. After coming painfully close in last year’s tournament, it will be up to returning players like Perfetti, Guhle and Garand to stress the importance of outplaying and outworking their opponents. While the Silver Medal tastes sweet by itself, it tastes bitter compared to the Gold, especially when you have to stand there and watch the winning team experience what Gold tastes like.
This team can go head-to-head against any team in this year’s tournament. There will be little to no excuses if this team falls short of their goal. It’s a ton of pressure to carry the hopes of an entire nation, but the players on this year’s edition of Team Canada are all built for that kind of pressure, and they likely even welcome it. Talk is cheap, though.
Victory is gold.
All Your THW 2022 World Junior Championship Coverage
I am a Western Michigan University alum whose passion for hockey knows no limits. Dr. Pepper enthusiast. Catch me and my fellow Red Wings writers’ YouTube show “The Hockey Writers Grind Line” which drops every Saturday.