Most experts agree: the Canadian team is not offering a great vintage this year at the World Junior Championship.
We can’t do without Connor Bedard, Adam Fantilli, Shane Wright, Zach Benson and defender Kevin Korchinski, retained in the professional ranks, without suffering.
As if Canada wasn’t already handicapped enough by these major losses, two of the team’s best defenders, Tristan Luneau and Tanner Molendyk, withdrew at the dawn of the tournament due to injuries. Luneau was invaluable due to his experience over the last few months in the NHL with the Anaheim Ducks.
Canada nevertheless won 5-2 against the Finns in its opening match on Tuesday in Sweden, in a match that was closer than the score indicated, due in part to two goals scored into an empty net. by Canadian training.
Finland is generally synonymous with power. With the exception of Canada and the United States, it is the only nation to have won this tournament in the last ten years. She did it three times.
But the Finns have been experiencing a slump for two years. They finished fifth last year. Only Slovakia, Latvia, Germany, Switzerland and Austria had done worse and their training is even more depleted this year, with the loss of their leader Joakim Kemell, retained in the American League by the Nashville Predators and Topi Ronni, under investigation for rape.
We will therefore have to wait until Friday, during the match against the powerful Swedes – favorites with the Americans – to measure the value of Canada’s team.
Connor Bedard’s 23 points in seven games in last year’s tournament in his NHL draft eligibility year, at just 17 years old, made us lose all sense of measurement.
Players of this age, even the most gifted, rarely earn a spot with the Canadian team and when they do, generally have a modest impact against opposition made up of mostly 19-year-olds.
Nathan MacKinnon, for example, had just one assist in six games on a fourth line in his only tournament with Canada, in 2013.
The consensus first overall pick in the next draft, Macklin Celebrini, 25 points in 16 games at Boston University this season, began the tournament on the fourth line. In addition to showing some good offensive flashes, Celebrini scored the winning goal in the third period. Here is a young center destined for a bright future.
Center Owen Beck is the only Canadian representative on the Canadian team. Beck, an early second-round pick in 2022, impressed at his first training camp with the CH last year, to the point where some wondered if he wouldn’t be retained in the NHL at 18 only.
Beck is an efficient, intelligent, fast and defensively responsible player. However, we do not expect great offensive production from him in the National Hockey League.
He was also given a defensive role with Canada in a third trio. With six numerical inferiorities, Beck was busy against Finland, although he was in the penalty box in the first following a check that was a little too sustained during the initial period.
His trio, completed by the Detroit Red Wings’ 2023 first-round pick (9th overall) Nate Danielson and undrafted Owen Allard, was the best on Tuesday. They produced two of their club’s three goals.
Next match Wednesday against the Latvians, in principle one of the weak teams in the tournament.