World Juniors 2024

Canada announces preliminary camp roster for 2024 World Juniors

Hockey Canada has unveiled their 30-player preliminary camp roster for the 2024 World Junior Hockey Championships, which are set to take place in Gothenburg, Sweden, from Dec. 26 to Jan. 5.

As with yesterday's roster unveil from USA Hockey, this isn't necessarily the group they'll bring to the tournament, though. They're going to have to whittle this roster down from 30 players to a cool 23, meaning there's about seven cuts on the horizon.

The selection camp is how they'll determine which players to keep and which ones to leave behind, and that's set to take place in Oakville, Ontario, between Dec. 10-13.

 "We are excited to name the 30 players who will embark on the journey through camp and eventually on to the World Juniors," said head coach Peter Anholt in Hockey Canada's press release. "Canada has an incredible talent pool of players, and there are always difficult decisions to narrow it down. We are expecting a highly competitive camp, and we look forward to naming our final roster that will wear the Maple Leaf with pride starting on Boxing Day."

The expectations for this group are the same as always: Gold or bust. That's just the way it goes for Canada at the World Juniors, especially after winning back-to-back gold coming into this year's tournament.

Now, let's take a look at the group tasked with keeping that streak alive:

Forwards: Owen Allard (2024 NHL Draft), Denver Barkey (Philadelphia Flyers), Owen Beck (Montréal Canadiens), Macklin Celebrini (2024 NHL Draft), Easton Cowan (Toronto Maple Leafs), Nate Danielson (Detroit Red Wings), Jordan Dumais (Columbus Blue Jackets), Jagger Firkus (Seattle Kraken), Conor Geekie (Arizona Coyotes), Paul Ludwinski (Chicago Blackhawks), Fraser Minten (Maple Leafs), Carson Rehkopf (Kraken), Matthew Savoie (Buffalo Sabres), Markus Vidicek (2024 NHL Draft), Matthew Wood (Nashville Predators), Brayden Yager (Pittsburgh Penguins)

Defencemen: Oliver Bonk (Flyers), Michael Buchinger (St. Louis Blues), Jorian Donovan (Ottawa Senators), Jake Furlong (San Jose Sharks), Maveric Lamoureux (Coyotes), Tristan Luneau (Anaheim Ducks), Denton Mateychuk (Blue Jackets), Tanner Molendyk (Predators), Ty Nelson (Kraken), Noah Warren (Ducks)

Goalies: Domenic DiVincentiis (Winnipeg Jets), Scott Ratzlaff (Sabres), Mathis Rousseau (2024 NHL Draft), Samuel St-Hilaire (2024 NHL Draft)

This was always going to be the case given the composition of last year's roster, but it's nonetheless striking to see Hockey Canada field such an inexperienced group. The only skater on this team with any prior World Juniors experience is Owen Beck, he of three relief games last year after Colton Dach left the tournament with an injury.

Beyond that, you're left with a group that is undoubtedly talented but doesn't necessarily jump off the page as the tournament favourites, by any stretch of the imagination. And when you're dealing with a talent pool as deep as Canada's, the logical conclusion from that point can only be that they've left a significant amount of talent behind in the pursuit of accommodating role players – the usual trap for Canada.

They've gotten away with it in the past, for the most part, but the goal shouldn't be to play the tournament on the highest difficulty setting when you have the most vast pool of talent in all the hockey world to draw from. Everyone has time for role players, but the pursuit of someone who can go out with the goalie pulled late in a hockey game or kill penalties almost exclusively seems too clever by half when the goal is, ultimately, to outscore your opponent.

This group has speed to burn up front, an almost equal assemblage of offensive and defensive defencemen on the blue line, and probably one of the deeper, more talented creases in recent memory. They can win gold, but they're certainly not the favourites on paper.

Pleasant surprises

It's always nice to see Canada find a spot for someone entering their second or third year of draft eligibility, and they've got four such players on this preliminary camp roster: Owen Allard, Markus Vidicek, Mathis Rousseau, and Samuel St-Hilaire. Both Allard and Vidicek profile as defensive centres, and Rousseau and St-Hilaire rank No. 1 and 3 in the QMJHL for save percentage as of this writing.

Then, of course, there's Macklin Celebrini, the favourite for first overall in this year's draft. Credit where it's due: Canada used to be a little reticent to bring first-time draft-eligible talent to this tournament, regardless of how talented the player is, but that hasn't been the case in recent years and won't be at this year's tournament. It won't surprise me in the slightest if Celebrini is Canada's leading scorer, too.

I'm not sure many of our scouts expected to see Paul Ludwinski get the call, but someone with his blazing speed can undoubtedly bring a lot to the table in a checking role at the bottom of Canada's lineup.

Not-so-pleasant omissions

The place to start is probably with Pittsburgh Penguins prospect and Swift Current Broncos defenceman Owen Pickering. I'm not even all that sure of how to make sense of this one. Pickering is a 6-foot-5 two-way defenceman who skates like the wind, can move the puck, shut down an opponent's top line, and get involved in the offence. Sounds like just the sort of player you'd want in a tournament that's being played on a bigger surface.

Staying out west, I'm not necessarily surprised to see them left off Canada's preliminary camp roster, but Riley Heidt and Andrew Cristall are two names that will be brought up if this team struggles to score at any point in the tournament. They are second and third in points per game among WHL skaters as of this writing, and each was a part of last year's bronze medal-winning group at the U18s in Switzerland.

The same is true of Maine forward and Carolina Hurricanes draft pick Bradly Nadeau, whose 19 points in 12 games with the University of Maine make him the seventh-most productive U19 skater on a per-game basis in college hockey this side of the millennia.

Then, of course, you can also make similar cases for Hunter Haight, Luca Cagnoni, Bryce McConnell-Barker, Colby Barlow, David Goyette, and on and on.

Elite Prospects Dir. of North American scouting Mitch Brown's thoughts on Canada's preliminary camp roster:

Defence could be Canada’s weakest point, but it won’t be because of their presumptive No. 1. Denton Matecyhuk, with his 21-game point streak and suffocating rush defence, has been the CHL’s best blue-liner this season, and it’s not especially close. Partnering him with activation-minded, rush defence stalwart Maveric Lamoureux should make a formidable top pairing. Versatility and secondary scoring will come from Tristan Luneau, Ty Nelson, Tanner Molendyk, and Oliver Bonk, even if each has their own flaws.

This will also be a less physical Team Canada than usual upfront. Owen Beck, Easton Cowan, and Fraser Minten will do their best to make ensure that’s not the case, but it’s fair to wonder about how the lines will shake out. The Conor Geekie-Matthew Savoie duo should keep on filling the net and should make up two-thirds of their top-line. Macklin Celebrini could easily claim that top spot, but it’ll depend on who plays on his flanks.

While the roster has yet to its final shape, this iteration of Team Canada appears to be its weakest in years. It’s an inexperienced squad, light on big names. Of course, that’s relative. This is still a loaded team from top to bottom, with enough talent to claim Gold.

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