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Dec 12A Russian trend – three forwards headed for the first round?
Dec 12Deep Russian squad looks to extend medal streak 
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December 05, 2017

Canada no longer dominates the WJC like they used to 

In the 2000s, Canada had an incredible run of dominance at the World Junior Championships. 

They had a streak of five gold medals in a row between 2005 and 2009, featuring spectacular moments like Jordan Eberle’s last-second tying goal against Russia in 2009, Jonathan Toews’ shootout magic against the United States in 2007, and Matt Halischuk’s surprising overtime goal against Sweden to win gold in 2008. 

Between 2000 and 2010, Canada medaled in every single tournament, winning gold five times, silver three times, and bronze twice. But since the turn of the decade, Canada’s run of dominance has dried up. 

Last year, Canada dropped a heartbreaking gold medal game in Montreal to their bitter rivals from below the 49th parallel. Canada blew two different two-goals leads and ended up losing in a shootout to the Americans, who have dominated the rivalry over the past couple years. With the United States beating Canada in a World Junior Summer Showcase game back in August, the Americans have now beaten Canada in five-consecutive full-squad U20 games dating back to a Boxing Day victory at the 2016 tournament in Helsinki. 

That tournament in Helsinki was a nightmare for the Canadians. Canada went 1-1-2 in the group stage, losing games to both Sweden and the United States before getting dropped in the quarterfinal by Finland, who went on to win the tournament in front of their home fans. Canada’s sixth-place finish in Helsinki was the country’s worst result since 1998 when the team finished eighth. That was the year the team suffered its infamous, embarrassing loss to a Kazakstan team in which players were apparently wearing skates that didn’t match in the placement game. 

The 2016 sixth-place finish is certainly the low point for Team Canada recently, but the 2010s have been nowhere near as kind to them as the previous decade. After their aforementioned streak in the 2000s in which they medalled in every single tournament, Canada has won just four medals, one gold, two silvers, and one bronze, in the last seven tournaments. 


Connor McDavid celebrates in 2015. Photo: Bildbyrån/Joel Marklund

This year in Buffalo, Canada will look for its first gold medal win since 2015, when the team featured a generational talent in Connor McDavid and a loaded roster of first-round picks like Sam Reinhart, Max Domi, Josh Morrissey, and Darnell Nurse. 

The team rolling into Buffalo will be built around a decent yet unspectacular core of returning players. Carter Hart is set to play in goal again, Jake Bean, Kale Clague, and Dante Fabbro are poised to man the blueline, while only Taylor Raddysh and Dillon Dubé appear to be the team’s only returning forwards. Of course, there are a also handful of Canadians from last year’s squad currently on NHL rosters who could add some major firepower to the roster.

Nolan Patrick, 2017’s second-overall pick by the Philadelphia Flyers, certainly won’t be back at the tournament this winter. Pierre-Luc Dubois, the third overall pick from the 2016 draft, has had a strong rookie season with the Columbus Blue Jackets. While general manager Jarmo Kekalainen has advocated for the use the tournament has in a player’s development, it seems unlikely the Jackets will let Dubois go for a few weeks in the middle of a contending season. Victor Mete is enjoying a breakout season with the Montreal Canadiens and, like with Dubois, it seems unlikely the team will let him go. 

The Colorado Avalanche have both Tyson Jost and Samuel Girard as possibilities for Canada’s roster. Jost turned pro this season from the NCAA and has only played nine games this year for Colorado due largely to a couple of knee injuries. Girard, a defenceman drafted by the Nashville Predators involved in the blockbuster Matt Duchene trade, has played in 11 games with the Avalanche. Given that Colorado isn’t on any kind of playoff push this season, it seems sensible to send both players to the tournament.


Samuel Girard. Photo: Getty Images/Matthew Stockman

The list is rounded out by Michael McLeod and Gabe Vilardi. McLeod had off-season surgery on his knee and has only played eight games with the Mississauga Steelheads. Vilardi has yet to play this season as he underwent surgery to fix multiple ailments he played through at last year’s Memorial Cup with the Windsor Spitfires. McLeod is a strong bet to be on the team, while Vilardi will almost certainly be forced to sit out. 

Canada also has a strong crop of players who weren’t on last year’s team to choose from. 2017 top NHL draft picks like Cale Makar, Owen Tippett, Michael Rasmussen, Nick Suzuki, and Cal Foote seem poised to crack the roster for the first time, giving Canada a strong blend of talent. 

We won’t know yet who will ultimately make Canada’s roster for a couple of weeks, but there’s definitely the framework for a competitive team that should again challenge for a gold medal. As we’ve seen the past few years, Canada is no longer a surefire bet to take home gold at this tournament. Still, what we also know from the past few years of mediocrity, anything short of a gold for the Canadians will be viewed as a failure.   

Cam Lewis – @cooom



12 December, 2017

A Russian trend – three forwards headed for the first round?

It has been almost a decade since it happened the last time. To be specific, the year was 2010 and the players were Alexander Burmistrov, Vladimir Tarasenko and...

12 December, 2017

Deep Russian squad looks to extend medal streak 

Though Russia hasn?t had many household names on their World Junior rosters recently, they?ve seen major success at the tournament.  Last year, Russia went 2-2 ...

11 December, 2017

The 2018 WJC underdog that could win it all

Everyone loves an underdog. Be it professional sports, fictional stories or real life tales ? there are few things quite as stirring as watching an unlikely her...

11 December, 2017

The World Junior Championships – an audition for the Olympics

There will be more than medals at stake during the World Juniors in Buffalo later this month. The NHL’s decision to stop their players from participating ...

10 December, 2017

Sweden’s elite talent looks to end cycle of WJC mediocrity

 Sweden has had an underwhelming run at the World Juniors the last few years. But this year, things could change.  In each of the past three tournaments, Sweden...

10 December, 2017

Lukas Vejdemo – taking the patient route to the NHL

It’s a hockey debate that always seem to be raging in Sweden. On one hand, you have the people that feel it’s better for a prospect to stay on home ...

09 December, 2017

Nicklas Lidström on Rasmus Dahlin: “He looks like Brian Leetch”

There’s been no shortage of homages for Rasmus Dahlin this season. The projected first overall pick in the 2018 NHL entry draft has taken the hockey world...

09 December, 2017

Where are they now? – Three forgotten WJC stars

Whenever you come across a story entitled ?where are they now?, it is usually a foregone conclusion that the story will feature individuals who at one time perf...

08 December, 2017

Breaking down Team Canada’s roster snubs

On Wednesday, Canada announced its preliminary roster for the World Junior Hockey tournament via an extravagant ceremony in St. Catharines, Ontario. For the 32 ...

08 December, 2017

Finland on the rebound after disastrous showing at last year’s WJC 

It was nothing short of a disaster for Finland at last year?s World Juniors in Toronto and Montreal.  The Finns won just one game in the group stage and finishe...

07 December, 2017

Away from the spotlight

In the quaint little ski resort of Méribel, nestled deep in the French Alps, hockey isn?t exactly on the everyday agenda. Replace skates with skis and hockey ti...

07 December, 2017

Why Adam Boqvist wasn’t picked for the Swedish WJC camp

An abundance of riches? Well, Team Sweden will certainly have some quality on the backend at this year’s WJC in Buffalo. So much so that coach Tomas Monté...

07 December, 2017

Sabres faithful may get chance to see Mittelstadt shine

Drafted eighth in the first round this past June by the Buffalo Sabres, it?s looking more and more likely that Minnesota native Casey Mittelstadt has a rare opp...

06 December, 2017

Aleksi Heponiemi – Poised for success

While much will be made of the seven first-round picks Finland plan to bring to the 2018 World Junior Championships in Buffalo, it is an undersized second-round...

06 December, 2017

The hunt for the next Erik Karlsson

Potential. Like a mining corporation on the lookout for the next great vein of minerals or an oil company scrambling to find another untapped oil well, NHL orga...