World junior roster breakdown: Team Canada


Canada enters the 2021 world juniors in Edmonton as the defending champion and favorite to claim gold again. It brings back six members from last year’s championship outfit and features a remarkable 20 first-round picks.

The Canadians have medalled 11 of 12 times when hosting the event, including six golds. The only time they failed to secure a spot on the podium was in 2019.

Below, we break down each position for a Canadian team looking to claim the country’s 19th gold medal at the event.

Forwards

Vaughn Ridley / Getty Images Sport / Getty
Player Age NHL draft
Connor Zary 19 No. 24 in 2020 (CGY)
Dylan Holloway 19 No. 14 in 2020 (EDM)
Cole Perfetti 18 No. 10 in 2020 (WPG)
Jakob Pelletier 19 No. 26 in 2019 (CGY)
Alex Newhook 19 No. 16 in 2019 (COL)
Ryan Suzuki 19 No. 28 in 2019 (CAR)
Connor McMichael* 19 No. 25 in 2019 (WSH)
Peyton Krebs 19 No. 17 in 2019 (VGK)
Quinton Byfield* 18 No. 2 in 2020 (LA)
Dawson Mercer* 19 No. 18 in 2020 (NJ)
Dylan Cozens* 19 No. 7 in 2019 (BUF)
Philip Tomasino 19 No. 24 in 2019 (NSH)
Jack Quinn 19 No. 8 in 2020 (BUF)

*Denotes returning player
All ages are as of the start of the tournament

Top talents

Canada’s forward corps consists solely of first-round picks, all of whom are high-end NHL prospects. But a couple stand above the rest.

After earning a limited role as a 17-year-old last tournament, all eyes will be on an older, stronger Byfield. This year’s No. 2 overall pick is set to be heavily featured in Canada’s attack and has a great chance to show the world what he can do while gaining some confidence and momentum before diving into his debut NHL campaign.

X-factors

Zary is a talented scoring forward whom many felt slid too far to the Calgary Flames in the draft. The Kamloops Blazers product put up 86 points in 57 WHL games last season and projects to play on a line with Byfield. Zary is primed to establish a bigger name for himself on a grand stage.

Another player who brings an important skill set to Canada’s potential success is Quinn. He’s a pure goal-scorer – he netted a whopping 52 tallies in 62 games in the OHL in 2019-20 – who can make a significant impact with his shot at even strength and on the power play. Canada has an embarrassment of riches up front but every team needs a finisher. Quinn could very well be that guy.

Biggest strength/weakness

The unmatchable depth of Canada’s forward group is its greatest strength. Andre Tourigny’s attack can roll four speedy, skilled lines capable of filling the net and dominating puck possession. It’s nearly impossible to identify any weaknesses within this group.

Defense

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Player Age NHL rights
Braden Schneider 19 No. 19 in 2020 (NYR)
Kaedan Korczak 19 No. 41 in 2019 (VGK)
Bowen Byram* 19 No. 4 in 2019 (COL)
Thomas Harley 19 No. 18 in 2019 (DAL)
Jamie Drysdale* 18 No. 6 in 2020 (ANA)
Jordan Spence 19 No. 95 in 2019 (LA)
Kaiden Guhle 18 No. 16 in 2020 (MTL)
Justin Barron 19 No. 25 in 2020 (COL)

Top talents

Canada has a pair of dynamic, mobile, high-profile blue-liners in Byram and Drysdale. The duo has been paired together in practice, and both players should be able to establish their dominance by pushing the pace offensively with strong first passes. Each is capable of quarterbacking the power play, too, and likely to shine even brighter with another year of experience under their belts.

X-factors

Harley is much less talked about compared to Byram and Drysdale, but he’s a player of a similar ilk who can make a considerable difference in any given game. He missed out on the team last year but didn’t let the setback slow down his development, posting 57 points in 59 games with OHL Mississauga before being called up to the Dallas Stars for the NHL’s return to play. He appeared in only one game, but that’s valuable experience for a player set to compete against peers his own age.

Biggest strength/weakness

Much like the forward group, the blue line is a star-studded unit. The players assigned with big minutes should be up to the task and feature a combination of size, mobility, and game-breaking talents.

If there is one negative about Canada’s back end, it’s that the group features five right shots and three left shots. That could create some imbalance if Canada runs into injury trouble, but it hardly seems like a real disadvantage for a club poised to challenge for gold.

Goalies

Marissa Baecker / Getty Images Sport / Getty
Player Age NHL rights
Dylan Garand 18 No. 103 in 2020 (NYR)
Devon Levi 18 No. 212 in 2020 (FLA)
Taylor Gauthier 19 2021 eligible

If Canada’s roster has a weakness, it’s between the pipes. None of the three goaltenders are highly touted prospects, but one of them will need to rise to the occasion in a pressure-packed environment. Gauthier, who posted a .917 save percentage in 50 games with WHL Prince George last season, appears to have earned the starting job to open the tournament.

On the bright side, it’s unlikely any of them will have to steal games. Canada’s skaters are so strong that its goalies will just need to come up with timely saves for the club to find success.



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