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NHL Prospect Watch: World Junior Preview – Canada

Next Monday is Boxing Day in Canada. Monday also marks the opening faceoff of the 2016-17 WJC – also in Canada, incidentally enough, with the tournament being shared by Montreal and Toronto. With Team Canada all squared away (notwithstanding the potential for last minute injuries), now marks as good a time as any to provide you with a taste of what the Canadians can do on home ice.

With tremendous help from Craig Smith (QMJHL), Scott Crawford (OHL) and Kevin Olexson (WHL), what follows is a non-comprehensive look at many of the players who will be wearing the red and white over the next few weeks.


Carter Hart (Philadelphia, 2/48, 2016), G, Everett (WHL)

Connor Ingram (Tampa Bay, 3/88, 2016), G, Kamloops (WHL)

Carter Hart at the 2016 NHL Draft in Buffalo, NY on Saturday June 25, 2016. Photo by Aaron Bell/CHL Images
Carter Hart at the 2016 NHL Draft in Buffalo, NY on Saturday June 25, 2016. Photo by Aaron Bell/CHL Images

Carter Hart is likely the most exciting of Philadelphia’s 326 goaltenders currently in their pipeline. Now in his fourth year with Everett, his GAA was dropped every year (3.49 -> 2.29 -> 2.14 -> 1.85) while his save percentage has also steadily risen over that time (.893 -> .915 -> .918 -> .928). Largely expected to be Canada’s primary netminder, he is a butterfly netminder with impressive agility and positioning. He is patient, squares up very nicely to the shooters and does a commendable job cutting down angles. He tends to play low and is hard to beat from bottom part of the net. If shooter’s go high, Hart also has a quick glove to snuff out opportunities.

The expected backup is Tampa Bay (we’ll be reading that a lot here) prospect Connor Ingram. Not drafted in his first year of eligibility, even though he was already a starter, Ingram raised his save percentage from .904 to .922 and drew many scouts to Kamloops. Although Ingram’s numbers are not the equal of Hart’s his Kamloops team does not play as structured a defensive game as Everett does in front of Hart, leaving Ingram exposed for more shots. He is a very athletic netminder with excellent movements and great tenacity. As with Hart, Ingram is known for high end puck tracking, and plus agility allowing him to cover the lower part of the net. Whichever netminder Canada turns to on a given night, they should have a great chance of winning.


Jake Bean (Carolina, 1/13, 2016), D, Calgary (WHL)

Thomas Chabot (Ottawa, 1/18, 2015), D, Saint John (QMJHL)

Kale Clague (Los Angeles, 2/51, 2016), D, Brandon (WHL)

Dante Fabbro (Nashville, 1/17, 2016), D, Boston University (HE)

Noah Juulsen (Montreal, 1/26, 2015), D, Everett (WHL)

Jeremy Lauzon (Boston, 2/52, 2015), D, Rouyn-Noranda (QMJHL)

Philippe Myers (Philadelphia, UDFA/2015), D, Rouyn-Noranda (QMJHL)

The only returning WJC defender on Team Canada is Ottawa Senators’ first rounder Thomas Chabot, one of the better skaters you can find outside of an NHL arena. Nearly a point-per-game player last year with the Sea Dogs, Chabot has upped his game after a brief stay with Ottawa at the start of the year. He may only have gotten into one game with the Senators, but he returned to the Q a man possessed. Not only is he producing points at a ridiculous pace (20 points through 14 games), but he has also taken strides with his defensive game, and showing off a sneaky hip check that he utilizes to help break up zone entries. Physicality was his least effective trait last year. Chabot will wear an ‘A’ on his sweater for team Canada and is expected to be their top blueliner in this tournament.

Noah Juulsen, a teammate of netminder Hart with Everett, is also expected to take on a critical role in the red and white blueline. Another solid two-way defender, his offensive game seems to be rebounding nicely from what was a down year last year. He is a smooth skater, who moves the puck with confidence and poise. His point shot is hard and accurate, but his defensive play has been more impressive and he could take on a shut down role in the WJC.

The youngest blueliner on a stacked Boston University roster, and one of six with NHL draft pedigree, Dante Fabbro has been having a solid, if unspectacular freshman season with the Terriers. He plays a sound game and has outstanding potential as a puck mover. I expect Fabbro to be given a more sheltered role in the WJC  as Canada is going with a relatively young blueline. He could take a regular third pairing role and perhaps help out on the penalty kill.

Jake Bean may be a bit of a wild card on the Canadian blueline, as he has missed much of the first half of the WHL season to injury. Although a leader with the Calgary Hitmen, I expect him to take more of a secondary role here, and be put in positions where his puck moving skills and great point shot and offensive instincts can stick out.

Kale Clague should also take part in the 5-6-7 rotation, as yet another 18 year old. Although his Brandon Wheat Kings are having a down year, Clague has stepped up his role on the team, trying to fill in the enormous shoes left over by Ivan Provorov. He plays a strong transition game and has plus passing skills. His strong play reading may allow him to take shifts against opponents top lines as well.

Philippe Myers is the only player on Team Canada who has never been drafted, but he does not need to be. After being passed over in his first year of eligibility, as 8 points in 60 games did not make up for his 6-5” frame and plus skating, especially considering his size. Nonetheless, he earned an invitation to Flyers’ rookie camp and impressed enough to earn an entry level contract. His point total jumped from eight to 45 in only three more games, which he followed up with a lead role in Rouyn-Noranda’s run to the Memorial Cup. So far this year, he is close to one point per game. Myers is a puck moving protection  with phenomenal reach. His transition game is fantastic as he skated like a player six inches shorter. He may be the best prospect in the game acquired as an undrafted free agent. Expect Myers to take on a top four role.

HELSINKI, FINLAND - DECEMBER 26: Canada's Dylan Strome #9 celebrates after scoring Team Canada's second goal of the game during preliminary round action at the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship. (Photo by Matt Zambonin/HHOF-IIHF Images)
HELSINKI, FINLAND - DECEMBER 26: Canada's Dylan Strome #9 celebrates after scoring Team Canada's second goal of the game during preliminary round action at the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship. (Photo by Matt Zambonin/HHOF-IIHF Images)

Mathew Barzal (NY Islanders, 1/16, 2015), C, Seattle (WHL)

Anthony Cirelli (Tampa Bay, 3/72, 2015), C, Oshawa (OHL)

Dillon Dube (Calgary, 2/56, 2016), C, Kelowna (WHL)

Pierre-Luc Dubois (Columbus, 1/3, 2016), C/LW, Cape Breton (QMJHL)

Julien Gauthier (Carolina, 1/21, 2016), RW, Val d’Or (QMJHL)

Mathieu Joseph (Tampa Bay, 4/120, 2015), RW, Saint John (QMJHL)

Tyson Jost (Colorado, 1/10, 2016), C, North Dakota (NCHC)

Michael McLeod (New Jersey, 1/12, 2016), C, Mississauga (OHL)

Taylor Raddysh (Tampa Bay, 2/58, 2016), RW, Erie (OHL)

Nicolas Roy (Carolina, 4/96, 2015), C, Chicoutimi (QMJHL)

Blake Speers (New Jersey, 3/67, 2016), RW, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)

Mitchell Stephens (Tampa Bay, 2/33, 2015), C, Saginaw (OHL)

Dylan Strome (Arizona, 1/3, 2015), C, Erie (OHL)

In Strome and Dubois, Team Canada has the two highest drafted players in the tournament, both of whom were selected third overall in their respective draft years. While Dubois was not expected to stick in the NHL this year – although he probably should have received more of a chance, many, myself included were shocked at how Strome was used by Arizona. He played in seven games for the Coyotes, but spent just as much time in the press box and was only sent back to Erie of the OHL in late November. Strome picked up right where he left off last year, with 16 points in his first seven OHL games, fitting for a player who led the CHL in points in his draft year. Dubois, on the other hand, has disappointed since being returned to junior hockey, scoring roughly 50% less this year than last season. He has recently been rumored to be on the trading block, with Blainville-Boisbriand looking to secure his services. Strome may never be more than average as a skater, but his hockey IQ, shot and puck skills are all at or near elite levels for a junior aged player. He scored four goals in last year’s WJC tournament and Canada is counting on more of the same this time. Dubois, in spite of his relatively low point totals this year with Cape Breton, is still showing the excellent vision that convinced the Blue Jackets to use the third overall pick on him last June. Unfortunately, his skills have not stuck out as much this year. Focusing only on his primary points (goals and first assists), his production has reverted of his age 16 season. He has the skills and overall game to be a big time contributor for Canada, and a good tournament may revitalize his season.

If Strome is not the offensive catalyst for this team, Seattle’s Mathew Barzal will be. One of the returnees from last year’s WJC entry, he has something to prove after being cut from the Islanders, used even less than Strome was in Arizona. A great skater who plays a high tempo game, Barzal has exceptional vision and puck skills and is perhaps the purest playmaker on the squad. While he has only scored two goals in 13 games since being returned to the WHL, his 17 assists speak volumes about how he can contribute. I expect a much bigger output from Barzal this year than the three points he added to last year’s team.

One of five Tampa Bay Lightning prospects to make the final roster, Mathieu Joseph was an intriguing flyer in his draft year. Since then, he has emerged as one of the deadliest and most consistent snipers in the QMJHL, where he is a teammate of Chabot’s in Saint John. He scored 33 goals last year in 58 games and already lit the lamps 25 times in 29 games this year for the Sea Dogs. Joseph s a big, strong winger with plus acceleration who loves to drive the net. He has improved his ability to create offense for himself such as by finding new ways to create space in the high danger areas of the ice. He has a fast release and does not give goalies much time to adjust to his shots.

Sticking with goal scoring teenagers in the Lightning pipeline, Taylor Raddysh, an Erie teammate of Strome’s as well, is the current OHL points leader. Known going into the draft as a sluggish skater, he is now faster, particularly in his first two strides. He plays an aggressive, shoot first game and generates a ton of rebounds. Raddysh provides Canada with much needed versatility as well, with his plus hockey IQ letting him play all over the ice.

Tampa has two other forwards on the team who are expected to provide more jam and hustle than flash in Mitchell Stephens and Anthony Cirelli. Stephens, the captain of the Saginaw Spirit, is a do-it-all player for his junior club and was a member of last year’s ill-fated Canada WJC squad. Although his size is roughly average, his physical game has improved and he can be a terror on the forecheck. His slap shot is also looking harder to handle than in the past. Although seemingly better suited to a bottom six role, Stephens could also make his presence felt as an agitator creating space in a higher line. Cirelli, who went undrafted as a bantam, walked on to the Oshawa Generals team and finished his rookie season by scoring both of his team’s goals in the Memorial Cup Final, including the overtime winner. One of the hardest working forwards in the OHL, he is both faster and stronger this year, especially as it pertains to his upper body. More of an East-West player than most of his ilk, he adds a heart-and-soul dimension to the team, with the type of leadership expected of a player in his second season captaining his junior squad.

Another player on the team who has missed a large chunk of the first half to injury is Dillon Dube, a Calgary draft pick with Kelowna of the WHL. A versatile and dynamic player, he can play at any forward spot and in any manpower situation. He engages physically, but can also beat you with speed, solid puck skills and a good shot. If he is able to add offense from the bottom six, things will be looking rosy for Canada.

Tyson Jost was a teammate of Dante Fabbro’s last season with Penticton of the BCHL and will be reacquainted with his childhood friend over the next few weeks. The University of North Dakota freshman has made quick work of the NCAA, scoring over one point per game as a freshman with the defending NCAA champs. His experience in the NCAA, playing with and against much older players should help him in this tournament. His combination of skating, puck skills and hockey sense fit the description of a front line player at any level. He should be penciled into the top six here.

Drafted two picks after Jost last June, Michael McLeod has perhaps been this season’s most disappointing prospect in the OHL. Drafted as a speed demon with a nose for the net, he returned to the OHL from a long run at cam with New Jersey with perhaps too much confidence and not enough attention to detail. He has made more egregious and more frequent mistakes, at both ends of the ice. Focusing only on his skills set, he could find a good role with this team, and is an accomplished penalty killer. But he will need to be better for Team Canada than he has been this year with the Steelheads to earn a steady shift.