Predicting Team Canada at the 2023 World Juniors
The 2022 World Juniors didn’t exactly go to plan. The tournament was cut short amid increasing COVID-19 cases amongst teams, leaving fans across the globe hungry for more World Juniors action.
While there is some discussion regarding holding the tournament in the spring or summer, we’re going to look a little bit further than that.
More specifically, Team Canada’s roster at the next edition of the best tournament in hockey.
The players named to Canada are always heavily scrutinized and there are always players that armchair general managers feel like should have been on the final roster. A year away from the 2023 World Juniors, I’ve gone ahead and put together the ‘way-too-early roster’ for Canada.
Team Canada tends to lean heavily on their older players (usually) and as always, a number of players from this year’s tournament are ageing out of eligibility for next year. Luckily for Canada, there seems to always be a plethora of players to pick from — including six returning players from the 2022 edition.
Of course, this is a long time out from the 2023 tournament. Players may emerge more worthy of a spot, some may make the jump to the NHL, and players may stagnate and not make the cut. But if we were to make the roster today, it might look a little something like this.
Connor Bedard, C, Regina Pats (WHL) – 2023 NHL Draft
After a remarkable performance through just two games for the 2022 World Juniors, it seems pretty safe to say that Conor Bedard is a lock for the 2023 lineup. The 2023 NHL Draft-eligible prospect is an exceptional talent that just put up five points (four goals, one assist) in the shortened tournament, getting his name mentioned with players like Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux. Heard of them? Look for him to be a top player in next year’s event.
Zachary Bolduc, C, Quebec Remparts (QMJHL) – St. Louis Blues
Zachary Bolduc hasn’t donned the Maple Leaf since 2019 at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, but that would likely not be the case if the QMJHL had allowed its players to go to the World Under-18 Hockey Championship in 2021. Bolduc is a goal-scorer that brings a promising two-way game with him that should be an intriguing package for Canada’s management.
Zach Dean, C, Gatineau Olympiques (QMJHL) – Vegas Golden Knights
Like Bolduc, Zach Dean‘s last Team Canada performance came in 2019 at the U17s, but he was on Canada’s Selection Camp roster for this year’s World Juniors. As one of the older players, expect him to be a lock for the roster. He’s a highly competitive, playmaking center. The only way I see him not on this roster is if he makes the jump to the NHL with the Vegas Golden Knights, which is not out of the question.
Conor Geekie, C, Winnipeg ICE (WHL) – 2022 NHL Draft
One of the younger players on this roster, Conor Geekie looks to be the third-best Canadian in the 2022 NHL Draft, behind two future stars also on this list. A 6-foot-4 presence with excellent hands, vision, and offensive ability, Geekie would likely be a player that sees limited ice time in the 2023 event — but could be a leader in 2024. He has yet to wear a Canada jersey, but that could change prior to the 2023 World Juniors.
Dylan Guenther, RW/LW, Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL) – Arizona Coyotes
Just our second returning player on this roster, Dylan Guenther could very well not be on this list if he makes the jump to the NHL. However, it could be another year before he makes that permanent jump, so chances are he will get one more chance at U20 gold. A player that seems to be a magnet for open ice with an excellent release, Guenther could be in consideration to captain this team or at least be a part of the leadership group.
Brett Harrison, C, Oshawa Generals (OHL) – Boston Bruins
Brett Harrison has twice played for Canada, at both the U17s and the U18s. It seems pretty obvious that the Canadian brass would have their eye on him for the U20 team in the near future. A very strong player that seems to win nearly every battle, Harrison could very well be a middle-six winger on this roster that becomes a key part of the lineup. He might not rack up the points, but he’ll be a player that competes hard every single shift.
Wyatt Johnston, C, Windsor Spitfires (OHL) – Dallas Stars
Wyatt Johnston is having a big year in the OHL, and since he already has a history with Canada it’s a pretty safe bet that that forward is on the World Junior radar. After losing his entire 2019-20 season, the Windsor Spitfires forward is already up to 46 points (18 goals, 28 assists) in 27 games. He could find himself in a similar role as Harrison, as a player that isn’t afraid to get into the gritty areas, while also bringing a strong playmaking ability.
Zachary L’Heureux, LW, Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL) – Nashville Predators
Zachary L’Heureux likely should have at least been invited to the Canadian camp for the 2022 World Juniors, but he will be invited for 2023 and he’ll be looking to make an impression. L’Heureux brings a combination of physicality and offensive ability to this lineup that could be used up and down the lineup. He’s a player that could start the tournament on the fourth line and steal the love of the coaches and work his way up if he brings his best work ethic with him.
Brennan Othmann, LW, Flint Firebirds (OHL) – New York Rangers
Speaking of players that should have been invited to this past Canada Selection Camp, Brennan Othmann could very well have been on Canada this year. The forward is a clutch winger with the ability to pull off highlight-reel players that can put a game away. He plays at an extremely high pace that can lay you out in open ice or burn you on the scoreboard. Look for him to be a top player for Canada next year as they hunt for gold.
Francesco Pinelli, C, Kitchener Rangers (OHL) – Los Angeles Kings
Francesco Pinelli is another that could have been worth a look at camp, but the Los Angeles Kings prospect will be looking for redemption for that heading into the next tournament. The Kitchener Rangers captain isn’t having as big a year as some others on this list, but he brings an impressive intelligence and a much-needed leadership ability to this lineup.
Joshua Roy, C, Sherbrooke Phoenix (QMJHL) – Montreal Canadiens
Joshua Roy was invited to Canada’s selection camp this year and was cut from the final roster despite a strong showing. Based on that and his big season so far in the QMJHL, he’s a strong candidate to crack this roster. Roy’s long been known as a shoot-first player, but he stepped up his playmaking game in a big way this season, making him a well-rounded threat in the offensive end. He’ll be a key player in providing some secondary scoring.
Matthew Savoie, C, Winnipeg ICE (WHL) – 2022 NHL Draft
Matthew Savoie was deserving of a look at this year’s selection camp and already seems like a lock to attend next year. Not only will he make this roster, but Savoie should be a focal point of offense for this group. He’s an elite talent that oozes creativity and can make things happen offensively in so many different ways, making him extremely hard to defend. He could very well be the No. 2 center of this group.
Logan Stankoven, C, Kamloops Blazers (WHL) – Dallas Stars
Logan Stankoven was admittedly surprised he made the cut of this year’s World Juniors roster, but hockey pundits sure weren’t. What he lacks in size, he makes up for in his competitiveness and pace of play, showing an ability to go up against anyone in a battle and win. He’s absolutely fearless and that shows in every shift. He never lets off the gas, helping him get into high-danger positions, where his strong shot has the velocity to surprise goaltenders.
Shane Wright, C, Kingston Frontenacs (OHL) – 2022 NHL Draft
Shane Wright, who will return to be Canada’s No. 1 center, is an elite talent that has a ridiculously high ceiling. Being referred to as the next Patrice Bergeron is no small comparison. He should be a leader on this team, something he’s very used to at his young age. Wright is a lock for this team unless he makes the direct jump to the NHL as the No. 1 pick in the 2022 draft. He’s on this team and donning the captaincy otherwise.
Honourable Mentions: Adam Fantilli (2023 eligible), Ayrton Martino (Dallas Stars), Chase Stillman (New Jersey Devils)
Nolan Allan, D, Prince Albert Raiders (WHL) – Chicago Blackhawks
Nolan Allan kicks off the defensive corps of this group, an excellent puck-moving group. He brings that as well, thanks to his exceptional skating. He’s a strong transitional defender stemming from this skating ability. On this roster, he would be relied on fairly heavily in his own end, given the number of offensive-minded defenders. Allan will be more than up for this task and should pair well with one of the forward-thinking rearguards.
Corson Ceulemans, D, University of Wisconsin (NCAA) – Columbus Blue Jackets
The lone NCAA player on this roster, Corson Ceulemans’ defensive game has improved greatly over the last season or two while still maintaining an exceptional offensive instinct. Ceulemans has already played for Canada at the U17, U18, and U19 levels, so it only seems right that he’ll get a chance at the U20 level. He could very well be one of Canada’s top defenders by the time the tournament ends.
Brandt Clarke, D, Barrie Colts (OHL) – Los Angeles Kings
One of the biggest omissions from Canada’s selection camp this year, Brandt Clarke is one of the top defenders of this age group and could have been a part of the 2022 World Juniors roster. The offensive defender may have his shortcomings defensively – as do many defenders at this level/age – but makes up for it in his strong transition and puck-moving ability. He should be a top-four defender in this lineup.
Ethan Del Mastro, D, Mississauga Steelheads (OHL) – Chicago Blackhawks
Ethan Del Mastro is a player that Canada is likely to add to their roster, especially given that he’s already dressed for their U17 and U18 teams. Del Mastro shows strong four-way mobility and is one of the most physical players on this roster, including the most physical defender. He could find himself in and out of games, but when it comes down to medal games, Canada would use him to wear down opponents.
Carson Lambos, D, Winnipeg ICE (WHL) – Minnesota Wild
Carson Lambos is one of the older players on this roster and could be a part of the leadership group. The defender had a rough draft year, especially given that he missed the majority of it. This year though, he’s showing why he was once considered a top prospect in the 2021 draft. He’s at nearly a point-per-game pace on the high-flying ICE team and shows no signs of slowing down. One of a handful of potential returnees, Lambos’s spot on this roster is his to lose.
Denton Mateychuk, D, Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL) – 2022 NHL Draft
The only 2022-eligible defender on this roster, Denton Mateychuk is absolutely playing his way onto this roster. He was one of the younger players on the 2021 U18s roster and will be one of the younger players with this group too. He looks poised to be one of the top players on the 2024 World Juniors radar and what better way is there to get him ready for that than getting him a taste in 2023. He’ll likely be in and out of this lineup in favour of the older players, but that is just what he needs in his first taste of the World Juniors.
Jack Matier, D, Ottawa 67’s (OHL) – Nashville Predators
With the number of offensive players on the Canadian’s back end, Jack Matier could be the shut-down player on this roster. He has a long reach, is fearless in his shot-blocking, he angles out well and he can keep up with opponents on the rush. He’d be a key player for Canada on the penalty kill and could be relied on to help shut down the opponent’s top players. He won’t be a points machine like the other defenders on this roster, but he’ll be equally important.
Olen Zellweger, D, Everett Silvertips (WHL) – Anaheim Ducks
The last defender is the last returning player on this roster from this year’s World Juniors group. Olen Zellweger should be a top-two defender on this team, playing with Lambos. One of Canada’s top defenders in the 2021 U18s, letting Zellweger run free could result in him being one of the top defenders of the tournament. He’s a point machine wherever he plays and that should be no different as he gets one last crack at World Juniors gold.
Honourable Mentions: Tristan Luneau (2022-eligible), Evan Nause (Florida Panthers), Guillaume Richard (Columbus Blue Jackets)
Tyler Brennan, G, Prince George Cougars (WHL) – 2022 NHL Draft
While the next goaltender on this list is the likely starter, Tyler Brennan is a strong contender to be the backup. This trio of goaltenders are the same group from the 2021 U18s, where Brennan was the No. 3. That may be the case again here, but he could challenge for that No. 2 spot. He’s a big body that moves well in the crease. Don’t let his 2021-22 regular season stats fool you, he’s one of the top goalies of the 2022 draft class.
Benjamin Gaudreau, G, Sarnia Sting (OHL) – San Jose Sharks
One of the top goaltenders for the 2021 NHL Draft, Benjamin Gaudreau should be the Canadian starter for this tournament. Gaudreau stole the No. 1 job at the 2021 U18s and looks poised to hold that with this same goaltending group from that tournament. He was named Best Goaltender of that tournament and could be in consideration for the award at this one as well. This will be his one shot at this tournament, expect him to make it count.
Thomas Milic, G, Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL) – 2022 NHL Draft
Thomas Milic looked excellent in his two 2021 U18s starts and is having a pretty solid regular season in the WHL. He went undrafted in the 2021 draft but I wouldn’t be surprised to hear his name called this time around. At this point, I’d assume he’d be the No. 2 to Gaudreau, barring a strong push from Brennan.
Honourable Mentions: Mason Beaupit (2022 eligible)
2023 World Juniors: Team Canada’s Lineup
Conor Bedard — Shane Wright — Dylan Guenther
Brennan Othmann — Matthew Savoie — Logan Stankoven
Zachary Bolduc — Francesco Pinelli — Brett Harrison
Joshua Roy — Zach Dean — Wyatt Johnston
Extra: Conor Geekie, Zachary L’Heureux
Olen Zellweger — Carson Lambos
Nolan Allan — Brandt Clarke
Jack Matier — Corson Ceulemans
Extra: Ethan Del Mastro, Denton Mateychuk
Extra: Tyler Brennan