With November slowly coming to a close and the Christmas festivities already starting to begin, for certain hockey fans, that only means one thing. The annual World Juniors tournament, which usually opens up just after Christmas, is just around the corner!
After a thrilling tournament last season, which saw Connor Bedard lead Team Canada to gold, this year’s Team Canada will have to really come together if they want to repeat as champions. The United States roster looks like it could be the early favourite, but this potential Canadian team is no joke. Let’s take a look at my projected roster for the red and white next month!
Macklin Celebrini / Centre / Boston University
Macklin Celebrini is the early favourite to go first overall in the 2024 NHL Entry Draft. The 17-year-old forward has had an unreal start to his NCAA career, scoring nine goals and thirteen assists for twenty-two points in thirteen games with Boston University.
Zach Benson / Left-Wing / Buffalo Sabres
This is a bit of a gamble given the success Zach Benson has had early on this season with the Buffalo Sabres. However, if Buffalo decides to loan the promising young forward this would be an absolutely massive addition for this year’s Team Canada roster. So far in the NHL with the Sabres, Benson has one goal and four assists for five points in eleven games.
Zach Benson Leading the Rush (Photo Credit: Erica Perreaux / Lethbridge Hurricanes)
Conor Geekie / Centre / Wenatchee Wild
Wenatchee Wild centre Conor Geekie is who I project to lineup as the team’s first-line centre. The 19-year-old who is more known for his two-way game was selected eleventh overall in 2022 by the Arizona Coyotes. Conor Geekie has fourteen goals and twenty-two assists for thirty-six points in twenty-one games in the WHL so far this season.
Matthew Savoie / Right-Wing / Wenatchee Wild
Is this the year we finally see Matthew Savoie crack Team Canada at the World Juniors? The highly skilled winger is one of my favourite players to watch and has had an impressive start with the Wenatchee Wild early this season. Through six games with Wenatchee, Matthew Savoie has six goals and six assists for twelve points. Matthew Savoie was also selected ninth overall in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft by the Buffalo Sabres.
Carson Rehkopf / Centre / Kitchener Rangers
The Kitchener Rangers have had a stellar start to the 2023-24 OHL season, mainly driven off the backs of Carson Rehkopf and Hunter Brzustewicz. The 18-year-old forward is a versatile player that can play on the wing and down the middle in a pinch. Carson Rehkopf has a lethal release and strong vision in the offensive-zone, making him one of my favourite prospects from his draft class. Carson has twenty-six goals and nineteen assists for forty-five points in twenty-five games with Kitchener.
Owen Beck / Centre / Peterborough Petes
The Peterborough Petes are another team that has surprised early on this season in the OHL and Owen Beck has been a large factor in that. The 19-year-old forward is better suited playing down the middle but can play in various roles when needed. Owen Beck had an impressive 2022-23 season, in which Owen won gold with Team Canada at last year’s tournament and then went on to win the OHL championship with Peterborough.
Jordan Dumais / Right-Wing / Halifax Mooseheads
The Columbus Blue Jackets might’ve gotten a steal in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft draft. In the third round, Columbus drafted Jordan Dumais from the QMJHL. The 19-year-old forward has had an electric start so far with the Halifax Mooseheads, scoring thirteen goals and twenty-four assists for thirty-seven points in sixteen games.
David Goyette / Centre / Sudbury Wolves
I’ve been a fan of David Goyette’s game for a while now. The 19-year-old is a creative forward who’s more known for his playmaking ability, but what I like most about David Goyette’s game is his ability to play in the defensive-zone. So far through twenty-two games with Sudbury, Goyette has nine goals and twenty-four assists for thirty-three points.
Nate Danielson / Centre / Brandon Wheat Kings
If you’ve followed my work for a while now, you’d know that I was all in on Nate Danielson at last year’s NHL Entry Draft. The 19-year-old centre is one of my favourite players to watch and certainly impressed with the Detroit Red Wings in the team’s preseason in September. Nate Danielson has good size and mobility with lots of offensive upside, hopefully, we get to see him at the World Junior tournament in December.
Jagger Firkus / Right-Wing / Moose Jaw Warriors
Jagger Firkus has had an absolutely stellar start for the Moose Jaw Warriors early on this season. The highly skilled winger is so fun to watch in the offensive zone and can create dangerous opportunities out of nothing. So far this season with Moose Jaw, Jagger Firkus has scored twenty-two goals and twenty-two assists for forty-four points in twenty-three games in the WHL.
Fraser Minten / Centre / Saskatoon Blades
I don’t think having now Saskatoon Blade forward Fraser Minten on Team Canada’s projected roster is a hot take after his promising preseason with the Maple Leafs. The Maple Leafs second-round pick in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft is having a productive season in the WHL that saw the Saskatoon Blades get aggressive and trade for the Leafs prospect. So far Fraser Minten has four goals and seven assists for eleven points in eight games.
Fraser Minten at Maple Leafs Practice (Photo Credit: Maple Leafs Twitter)
Easton Cowan / Left-Wing / London Knights
Back-to-back Maple Leafs? Well after what the Maple Leafs first-round pick in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft has shown, it’s almost more expected than not that Easton Cowan will get the opportunity to play for Team Canada at the World Juniors. After an impressive preseason with the Maple Leafs as well, Easton Cowan has been on fire with the London Knights of the OHL. What I think pushes the Maple Leafs prospect onto the team isn’t just his offensive flare; he’s also been ridiculously good on the penalty-kill.
Brayden Yager / Centre / Moose Jaw Warriors
Brayden Yager was another player I was super high on coming into last year’s NHL Entry Draft. The Pittsburgh Penguins prospect is extremely versatile and certainly has the tools to play up or down in the lineup. More known for his elite wrist-shot, Yager has the ability to both find the back of the net and make plays for his linemates. So far this season with the Moose Jaw Warriors, Brayden Yager has twelve goals and eighteen assists for thirty points in twenty-two games.
Denton Mateychuk / Defenseman / Moose Jaw Warriors
The first defenseman on this list shouldn’t be much of a surprise. Denton Mateychuk of the Moose Jaw Warriors is one of hockey’s most promising prospects when it comes to offensive-defenseman. So far this season Denton Mateychuk has scored six goals and twenty assists for twenty-six points in eighteen games. The 19-year-old defenseman was selected twelfth overall by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft.
Tristan Luneau / Defenseman / Anaheim Ducks
This one might be interesting because it depends what the Anaheim Ducks decide to do here, but Tristan Luneau would be a significant addition to Team Canada if it happens. The 19-year-old right-handed defenseman has spent time with both the San Diego Gulls of the AHL and NHL’s Anaheim Ducks this season.
Owen Pickering / Defenseman / Swift Current Broncos
The Pittsburgh Penguins first-round selection in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft has had an interesting development process. The 19-year-old left-handed defenseman has strong mobility for a player of his size. The Swift Current Broncos 6’5″ defenseman uses his long reach to interrupt the opposition’s attack, making him a unique prospect with tons of upside. So far this season Owen Pickering has three goals and nine assists for twelve points in seventeen games.
Ty Nelson / Defenseman / North Bay Battalion
A potential Owen Pickering and Ty Nelson defensive pairing is really intriguing to me when I look at this potential Team Canada roster. The balance of size and defensive play with the skillset of North Bay Battalion’s Ty Nelson could be lots of fun. The 19-year-old defenseman is strong fast, and has a heavy shot that should give Team Canada an offensive boost from the backend. So far this season with North Bay, Ty Nelson has ten goals and fifteen assists for twenty-five points in twenty-three games.
Michael Buchinger / Defenseman / Guelph Strom
Michael Buchinger is a really interesting name to keep an eye on as we get closer to the actual selection of this year’s roster. I got the chance to catch Michael play recently with the Guelph Storm and was really impressed with his play in both ends of the ice and his poise. The 19-year-old left-handed defenseman has certainly been a big factor for the Guelph Storm early on this season and is someone I’d like to see get a chance with Team Canada this December. Michael Buchinger was selected third-round in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft by the St.Louis Blues.
Maveric Lamoureux / Defenseman / Drummondville Voltigeurs
Drummondville Voltigeurs defenseman Maveric Lamoureux is a player I’d certainly expect to make this year’s Team Canada roster. The Arizona Coyotes prospect is another potential Team Canada defenseman who brings a good mix of size and mobility. The 6 ‘7” right-handed defenseman can play in both ends of the ice and could potentially lineup on the top pairing with Denton Mateychuk. So far this season in the QMJHL, Maveric has four goals and fifteen assists for nineteen points in nineteen games.
Extra Defenseman Ideas?
Noah Warren / Defenseman / Victoriaville Tigres
Noah Warren is another name to keep an eye on when it comes to potential defenseman for Team Canada. The 19-year-old defenseman was drafted by the Anaheim Ducks in the second round of the 2022 NHL Entry Draft. Noah Warren is a strong skating defenseman with size, coming in at 6’5″ this is another potential defenseman for Team Canada with a similar profile.
Jackson Edward / Defenseman / London Knights
Can Boston Bruins prospect Jackson Edward be a potential Team Canada candidate? Of course, it’s always tricky predicting Team Canada’s roster given the preference for more experienced players, but Jackson Edward checks off almost all the boxes Team Canada looks for. The 19-year-old defenseman is versatile and can play on either side as a defenseman while having the ability to make plays in all three zones.
Tanner Molendyk / Defenseman / Saskatoon Blades
Tanner Molendyk is a fun name to watch for as a potential extra defenseman. The Nashville Predators prospect is a tremendous skater with lots of offensive upside. So far this season with the Saskatoon Blades, Tanner has four goals and twenty-one assists for twenty-five points in twenty-one games. It could be a stretch to project the 18-year-old defenseman on Team Canada’s roster as early as this season, but Molendyk’s skillset is so impressive that I think there’s a possibility.
Dom DiVincentiis / Goaltender / North Bay Battalion
North Bay Battalion goaltender Dom DiVincentiis should be a name Canadian hockey fans get familiar with. After a really promising season last year with the North Bay Battalion that saw Dom post a 2.33 goals against average and 9.19 save percentage, this year hasn’t gone the way the Winnipeg Jets prospect has wanted, but it’s clear the upside is certainly there. After coming back from an injury earlier on this season, I think it’s only a matter of time before we see Dom DiVincentiis stealing games once again.
Dom DiVincentiis Awaiting Face-off (Photo Credit: NHL.com)
Mathis Rousseau / Goaltender / Halifax Mooseheads
Mathis Rousseau has had a really strong season with the Halifax Mooseheads so far this season. So far in the 2023-24 season, Rousseau has a 1.92 goals against average and a 9.37 save percentage. In my viewings of the 19-year-old goaltender, I’ve been quite impressed with his mobility and rebound control. It’ll be interesting to see who wins the starting job if Dom and Mathis both crack the roster.
Scott Ratzlaff / Goaltender / Seattle Thunderbirds
When it comes to predicting Team Canada’s third goaltender, Scott Ratzlaff is my clear favourite. The Seattle Thunderbirds goaltender has had an impressive stretch recently, posting a .922 save percentage in the team’s last nine games, according to Eliteprospects.com. The 18-year-old goaltender has impressive reflexes and is extremely quick when in the blue paint. With a potential trio of Dom DiVincentiis, Mathis Rousseau, and Scott Ratzlaff, I’m confident in Team Canada’s potential goaltending this year.
As I mentioned earlier it’s usually pretty difficult to predict Team Canada’s roster for the World Juniors. However, given off what Team Canada management usually looks for I’ve decided to release my best guess on what this team could potentially look like next month.
The World Juniors tournament is one of my personal favourites, and I can’t wait for this year’s tournament. The talent from the United States, Sweden, and Finland are quite strong this year, which should make up for a fun competition. Can draft-eligible forward Macklin Celebrini lead Team Canada to gold like Connor Bedard did just last season? Stay tuned to find out as I’ll be covering the entire tournament for Inside The Rink.
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