Habs’ Montembeault, Barron Named to Team Canada Roster

Most of the Montreal Canadiens‘ brass are enjoying the warm weather and refreshing drinks, but the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) Ice Hockey World Championship is right around the corner. This year’s tournament will take place in Tampere, Finland, and Riga, Latvia, and will feature 16 teams in two groups to determine the best in the world.

Last year, Team Canada’s roster contained just one player from the Canadiens roster. Josh Anderson dressed with the country’s maple leaf on his chest, bringing back home a silver medal after a crushing overtime loss to host Finland in the final. Anderson’s performance was remarkable, as the winger completed the tournament with one goal and eight points in 10 games.

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The Canadian roster added two representatives from the Habs’ camp in this year’s tournament, shifting their focus to feature more youth and talent at all positions. As most of the city will already be cheering on Canada, it’s encouraging to see more players from the Montreal organization suiting up.

Justin Barron

In a season full of injuries, Justin Barron provided the Canadiens with stability on the back end. He arrived in Montreal via trade from the Colorado Avalanche in the Artturi Lehkonen deal but was one of the final cuts during the training camp ahead of the 2022-23 season. He eventually got into the lineup and consistently gave the team solid efforts without being the flashiest player on the ice.

Justin Barron Montreal Canadiens
Justin Barron, Montreal Canadiens (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Barron can easily fit in with any style of defender he’s paired with, whether it’s a stay-at-home defenseman or one that loves to rush the puck up the ice. He does all the little things right and, on most nights, will go unnoticed (in a good way). He had good chemistry with Michael Matheson towards the end of the season and got time on the penalty kill, so expect him to have a similar role with Canada.

Samuel Montembeault

The crease had mighty big shoes to fill with the absence of Carey Price, but Samuel Montembeault helped ease that pain amidst a forgettable season. He completed the season with a .901 save percentage despite a goals-against average of 3.42 and, on some nights, was the team’s best player. He shared the crease with Jake Allen but, by season’s end, earned the confidence of head coach Martin St. Louis.

Sam Montembeault Montreal Canadiens
Sam Montembeault, Montreal Canadiens (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

The goaltending tandem announced thus far of Montembeault and Devon Levi leaves uncertainty in the air. Canada can still name another netminder to complement the two, but neither Montembeault nor Levi are bonafide starters. Levi has experience at the international level, and Montembeault showcased stellar performances in the NHL, but who will get the nod is still up for debate.

How Does Canada Fare?

Canada has a unique blend of seasoned veterans and young up-and-comers. The blue line stars the likes of Mackenzie Weegar and Jake Walman yet has a steady flow of puck-moving defensemen such as Ethan Bear and Barron. Up front contains Calgary Flames’ forwards Tyler Toffoli and Milan Lucic, leading the charge of a pack of determined youngsters looking to spark the country’s chances of overtaking the tournament.

Team Canada Gold Medal 2023 World Junior Championship
Team Canada poses with their gold medals after defeating Team Czechia 3-2 in overtime at the 2023 IIHF World Junior Championship (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

There are still a few spots left to fill, leaving room to improve the grit and size on the bottom six, as well as a third goaltender to join Montembeault and Levi. Team USA has named (most of) its roster, which looks to match Canada’s skill and size, while the usual candidates to make a push for the final in Finland and Sweden have yet to announce their rosters. Expect Canada to be hungry for retribution, seeking out the gold medal that eluded them one year ago.

Montembeault should get his opportunity to play in a game and, should he perform to the quality in Montreal, pose a real challenge for the starting job. Barron will be a steady force on the back end, and playing with someone like Weegar or Bear could maximize his strengths. As the youngest defender announced to the team so far, he may be the one with the most to prove in this year’s tournament.

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