Let the online debates begin.
Hockey Canada has released its 29-player camp roster for the Canadian U-20 squad with returning players such as Connor Bedard, Olen Zellweger and Brennan Othmann highlighting the list. Overall, the Canadians have 10 returning players on their camp roster, all of which will likely secure a role with the team throughout camp.
Canada will be looking to defend their gold medal from last summer’s event on the back of those returnees as well as some high-profile newcomers to the squad.
There were also a number of names that very easily could have been at the camp in an effort to throw their hat in the ring for a roster spot, but as always with a deep Canadian field, good players were left at home.
Let’s look at the team’s X-factor as well as the snubs and surprises on the Canadian camp roster.
The draft-eligible duo of Connor Bedard and Adam Fantilli are going to provide the Canadians with a one-two punch up front. The Canadians rarely lack offensive firepower and this year is no different, but having two players with such elite yet very different skill sets could make the team truly special.
Bedard and Fantilli could provide a thunder-and-lightning element to the Canadians’ game. The advantage could be massive for Team Canada as they run Bedard out to push opponents back on their heels on one shift with his speed and skill and then throw Fantilli over the boards to play a power-oriented game that blends skill and strength unlike many other players at the U-20 level.
Despite being two of the youngest players on the team, yet to be drafted, and still very much developing as players in their own right, the Bedard-Fantilli duo could be Canada’s biggest advantage.
Matthew Savoie not being named to this camp roster seems like a typo, but he has indeed been left off the roster. The ninth overall pick in the 2022 NHL draft has had a bit of a slow start, but he remains one of the most lethal offensive players in this age group. Savoie uses his speed and quickness in combination with high-level hands to evade pressure and get himself into space. He is a highly touted playmaker who certainly could have been at this camp with a chance to earn his spot.
Corson Ceulemans and Denton Mateychuk are two defenders that very well could have been invited to camp, especially considering the fact that Canada’s back end is noticeably lacking high-end puck-moving ability beyond Olen Zellweger. They won gold last year with a defense group that wasn’t highly skilled, and they seem to be looking to replicate that again this year.
Conor Geekie, Cedrick Guindon, David Goyette, Andrew Cristall and Zach Benson among others all could have easily warranted spots on this roster as well. Canada’s surplus of talent leaves a large group of highly talented players off the roster.
With players like Savoie, Ceulemans, Goyette, et al left off the roster, the Canadian team was clearly looking to find players that may end up filling very specific roles on the roster.
Colton Dach is an interesting name to bring to camp, as the Kelowna Rockets captain is a bottom-six option for the team who can chip in offensively at times if put in a position to ride shotgun with a skilled playmaker. He plays with energy and zest, but he’s likely limited to a bottom-six role on this squad.
Ryan Greene is a bit of a surprise up front as well. After failing to reach a point-per-game level in the USHL before this season, the highly skilled 6-foot-1 forward has 14 points in 14 games with Boston University this year. He isn’t the most fleet of foot, and his offensive ability is predicated on whether his puck skill can beat defenders to open up space for himself, but he could be a sneaky good add in the Canadian bottom six.
As noted, Canada has chosen to angle their defensive group towards being big and stout in their own end, and Ethan Samson is the perfect example of that. The 6-foot-1 Samson plays with a physical edge and good defensive tendencies.
Tyson Hinds is another surprise on the blueline, albeit one with an underrated ability to move the puck and contribute offensively. Hinds is confident with the puck and shows some nifty evasion along the blueline. He is scoring at a good rate in the QMJHL but doesn’t quite have the upper-echelon skill that it would require to play on Canada’s power-play units.
Possibilities from the NHL
Defenseman Brandt Clarke and center Shane Wright were two names that were expected to be named as well, but they are currently with their NHL clubs and could be loaned at a later date.
If one or both of these players are loaned to the team, the Canadian squad would very easily be the favorite at the tournament. Wright could take on a role as the No. 1 center and alleviate some of the pressure from Bedard, who could play on Wright’s wing.
Clarke’s addition would create a one-two punch of offensive firepower from the back end with Zellweger that wouldn’t be matched by any nation. Clarke was notably left off the team last year as well despite a lack of right-shot defenders, a problem that seems to be prevalent on this year’s roster as well.
Wyatt Johnston, Dylan Guenther and Mason McTavish are all technically eligible as well, but they’re much less likely to be loaned to the Canadian U-20 squad as they have been playing pivotal roles in the NHL this season.
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