By Frankie Benvenuti | OSJ Staff
It’s that time of year once again, and my personal favourite hockey tournament of the season is rapidly approaching. The world juniors are not only a great event that unites the country in its love of hockey, but its a showcase for some of the young players that'll be high picks in the next NHL draft. The roster has been made official and there are some serious storylines out there so let's take a look at some of them.
Alexis Lafreniere Lafreniere is the consensus first overall pick in the upcoming draft, and one of the best players on the Canada roster. Through 32 games with the QMJHL’s Rimouski Oceanic, Lafreniere has scored 23 goals and set up another 47. For Canada to experience any kind of success, Lafreniere will need to play a big role. Should Lafreniere be able to have a good tournament, he should be able to cement his stop as the number one pick in the summer - barring something short of a miracle by another player.
Barrett Hayton Hayton has been with the Arizona Coyotes for the duration of the season. Despite this, Hayton has only played in only 14 games scoring only 4 points in this time. Hayton is one of Canada’s returning players and scored 4 points in last season's tournament. In his last OHL season with the Greyhounds, Hayton scored 66 points in 39 games. He should bring a pro-level mindset to the team this year, and help the team - not just on the ice - but in the locker room as a leader.
One of the many OHL players to make the team this season, Byfield is also projected to be a high pick in the draft next summer. Through 30 games with the Wolves, Byfield has scored 22 goals and has racked up 35 assists for a very good Wolves squad. Senators fans should pay close attention to this kid as there is a very good chance he ends up in Ottawa. I am no Sens fan, but a Quinton Byfield + Brady Tkchuck combination would be something to behold.
Being in Ottawa, I need to talk about Senators' prospect, Jacob Bernard-Docker. Bernard-Docker isn’t going to wow you on the stats sheet in this tournament, but Sens fans should be excited to watch this kid play. He has 14 points in 17 games with the University of North Dakota this season (good for a defenceman), and seeing this kid play is going to be exciting.
You won’t miss the only member of the Ottawa 67’s when he’s on the ice in this tournament. Kevin Bahl, the 6’6” towering defenceman was recently traded to the New Jersey Devils in the Taylor Hall trade. There is plenty of reason for Ottawa hockey fans to keep an eye on the young players at this tournament and, for 67's fans, Kevin Bahl is the biggest reason.
Nico Daws looks as if he is going to be the starter for Team Canada. Not only is Nico playing for Canada for the first time, but he is also in his first season as the starting goaltender for the Guelph Storm. In 20 games for the Storm, Daws boasts a 2.06 goals against average and a .939 save percentage. Daws has been one of the main reasons the Gulph Storm are in second in the West despite losing elite-level talent over the summer.
What should we expect?
There is plenty of talent on the Canada roster as normal, but the division is also very talented. Canada is going to see the Americans, the Russians, the Germans, and the Czechs before they ever get out of the round-robin. There is no question that Canada is in tough, but they have all the talent in the world to beat the better teams. If I were to make a guess at how Canada will fare, I would put money on Canada losing to the Americans and winning the remaining games in the round-robin.
Canada will need to beat the Americans at some point if they hope to win Gold this year. To beat the Americans, Connor McMichael and/or Ty Dellandrea will need to step up and play a critical role offensively. McMichael can put the puck in the net with the best of ‘em, and Canada will look a lot better if he can continue what he has been doing with the London Knights this season. This 2020 World Junior Hockey Championship form the Czech Republic will begin on Boxing Day, where Canada will take on Team U.S.A. at 1 p.m.
Enjoy the tournament and Happy Holidays!