(Gothenburg) In his life, Macklin Celebrini was not often considered neglected.

The same goes for Canada, every time the country takes the ice to compete in an international tournament.

However, as the World Junior Hockey Championship approaches, the representatives of the maple leaf are not the favorites in the eyes of many.

And it suits the group perfectly.

“We don’t really focus on that,” said Celebrini, a 17-year-old center who could be the top pick in the upcoming NHL draft. These are just opinions. We can’t wait to get out there and prove who we are. »

This is a team that is currently missing a few players in the NHL, but showed what it could do in its last preseason game.

Canada trailed 5-3 after two periods against the United States, which has several players returning to the tournament and is considered the country to beat, before coming back strong in the third period. He still lost 6-5 in overtime.

“The energy and liveliness of that third period sparked something,” said head coach Alan Letang after Monday’s training at the Scandinavium Arena in Gothenburg. There was a moment in the second half where the bench was a little quiet. The players came out with that energy and passion that we needed. »

Letang will be looking for that energy and more when Canada faces Finland in the tournament opener on Tuesday.

Celebrini said the final period against the Americans showed what the group is capable of at this annual showcase.

“That’s something we’re going to focus on and try to replicate,” he said. But even when things don’t go your way, you have to find a way to win. We have the group to do it. »

Canada captain Fraser Minten said his team had not paid attention to outside predictions.

“I don’t think we’re too worried about it,” the Toronto Maple Leafs prospect expressed.

Mathis Rousseau won the battle for the title of number one goalkeeper in the first match, ahead of Scott Ratzlaff and Samuel St-Hilaire.

The Boisbriand goaltender, who was ignored in seven rounds of the last two NHL drafts, is looking forward to the opportunity to be in the spotlight.

“You don’t really expect to be here when you’re younger,” Rousseau noted. Now that you’re there, you don’t fully understand the moment, but it’s pretty incredible. »

Canada’s group includes the Finns, tournament host Sweden, Latvia and Germany. In the other group, the United States, Czechia, Slovakia, Switzerland and Norway are vying for the top.

The Canadiens must be without junior-aged players still in the NHL, including Connor Bedard, Adam Fantilli and Zach Benson, but they have obtained reinforcement from the Boston Bruins, who loaned center Matthew Poitras.

“There’s a lot of enthusiasm,” said the 19-year-old from Brooklin, Ontario. Hopefully I’ll go to bed and not think too much about the game. »

Minten, who played four games with the Maple Leafs before returning to the junior level, was named captain Sunday night.

“It’s nice to be recognized as a leader,” he said. I am very proud and honored to wear the “C” here for Canada. »

Celebrini said the group has grown closer since their trip to Europe after the selection camp in Oakville, Ont.

“That’s what happens when you spend the holidays together,” he said. We had to form a little family. We bonded and created a great team. »

Letang said defenseman Tristan Luneau, an Anaheim Ducks prospect who was expected to be a key player on the blue line before contracting a viral infection, is still in the hospital.

“It’s not an ideal situation,” the head coach said.

Members of Luneau’s family are expected in Sweden soon, but Letang added that he is in good spirits and should be released from the hospital within a day or two.

“He’s in our thoughts. He will encourage us,” Letang concluded.