Sense of optimism
by Chris Jurewicz|05 DEC 2021
Cole Perfetti could be one of the returnees at the 2022 IIHF World Junior Championship.
photo: Andrea Cardin / HHOF-IIHF Images
share
No one can predict what’s next when it comes to the seemingly never-ending global pandemic.

Alan Millar, though, is hopeful and optimistic. This week, Hockey Canada named a roster of 35 players for its National Junior Team selection camp, a roster that will be trimmed to 25 players for the 2022 IIHF World Junior Championship in Red Deer and Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

Millar was an advisor for Team Canada in the lead up to, and during, the 2021 World Juniors in the bubble in Edmonton. That team, which ended up winning the silver medal, went through a host of challenges due to Covid-19, including having to pause its selection camp when two players tested positive for the virus. The Canadians, along with the rest of the teams at that 2021 event, played in an empty Rogers Place in Edmonton for the course of the tournament. 

Exciting... yes, on the ice. But, really, it’s not the same without fans.

“I was part of the group a year ago and we all realize the trials and tribulations of Covid protocols and isolation and everything that team went through,” says Millar, who on 1 March 2021 officially became the director of player personnel within the Program of Excellence at Hockey Canada. “And then playing in an empty building... it was exciting but, at the same time, we understand that the atmosphere in the building at World Juniors when the tournament is played in Canada is certainly a home-ice advantage for us. It’s one of the best atmospheres – not only in hockey – but in sport and we can’t wait for that atmosphere on Boxing Day in Edmonton.”

Yes, the fans are coming back. The World Juniors are going to look a little closer to normal for the 2022 event. Not completely normal, of course. Hockey players, staff, managers are no different than the rest of us. They have lived through the pandemic and have seen the ups and downs and quick changes. 

On Friday additional tickets were released at worldjuniors.hockey. It isn’t yet clear how many fans will be in the rinks in Red Deer and Edmonton but it is safe to say that it’s going to be better than empty arenas of one year ago. The atmosphere that Millar talks about will be back in some fashion.

“As we prepare and we look at getting together in Calgary Dec. 9 for selection camp, getting our team together and getting ready for pre-competition and then getting to Edmonton, it’s nice to be thinking about some normalcies, in particular having fans in the building,” says Millar.

Group A, comprising Austria, Canada, Czech Republic, Finland, and Germany, will play its round-robin games at Rogers Place in Edmonton, the house that Connor McDavid built. Group B (Russia, Slovakia, Sweden, Switzerland, and defending-champion USA) will hit the ice at Peavey Mart Centrium, home to the WHL’s Red Deer Rebels. The tournament opens 26 December and runs to the gold medal game on 5 January.

The road to this point has been anything but normal. Sure, the junior hockey leagues in Canada hit the ice in the fall, allowing for more in-person scouting. But there was no typical Canada-Russia junior showcase, which would have given Millar and his staff a chance to see the top stars from each of the three major junior leagues (the Western Hockey League, Ontario and Quebec major junior hockey leagues).

Despite this, Millar, James Boyd of Canada’s management group and Dave Cameron, who returns as the team’s head coach, like the mix of 35 players who will battle for a spot on the final list of 25. The players include three goaltenders, 11 defencemen and 21 forwards.

“When we break it down as a management group, there are two layers we look at,” says Millar. “We look to identify the best talent for our National Junior Team. We respect the fact that there are a number of very good players not named today. Those players, down the road, hopefully get an opportunity to play on the junior team. From there, we then talk a lot about building a team. James and our coaches talk about the fact that this is not an all-star team. This process starts with talent and skills but, off and on the ice, we look for intangibles, playing the right way, overcoming adversity, character and leadership.”

Cameron, the witty former NHL head coach who currently is bench boss of the junior Ottawa 67s, provides a great analogy of what it takes to win the world juniors.

“The roster is like a world-class golfer,” he says. “The bag is full of difference clubs. Sometimes you drive down the middle. When the games get tight, the short game will win it, the intangibles. You drive for show, putt for dough. We have a roster that encompasses all of that.”

Canada will attempt to win its third gold medal in the past five years.

Preliminary Roster

Goalkeepers:
Brett Brochu, OHL London
Sebastian Cossa, WHL Edmonton
Dylan Garand, WHL Kamloops 

Defenders:
Lukas Cormier, QMJHL Charlottetown
Kaiden Guhle, WHL Edmonton
Daemon Hunt, WHL Moose Jaw
Vincent Iorio, WHL Brandon
Carson Lambos, WHL Winnipeg
Ryan O’Rourke, OHL Sault Ste. Marie
Owen Power, University of Michigan (Big Ten)
Donovan Sebrango, AHL Grand Rapids
Ronan Seeley, WHL Everett
Jack Thompson, OHL Sudbury
Olen Zellweger, WHL Everett

Forwards:
Connor Bedard, WHL Regina
Xavier Bourgault, QMJHL Shawinigan
Mavrik Bourque, QMJHL Shawinigan
Will Cuylle, OHL Windsor
Zach Dean, QMJHL Gatineau
Elliot Desnoyers, QMJHL Halifax
William Dufour, QMJHL Saint John
Luke Evangelista, OHL London
Jack Finley, WHL Spokane
Ridley Greig, WHL Brandon
Dylan Guenther, WHL Edmonton
Kent Johnson, University of Michigan (Big Ten)
Hendrix Lapierre, QMJHL, Acadie-Bathurst
Mason McTavish, OHL Peterborough
Jake Neighbours, WHL Edmonton
Cole Perfetti, AHL Manitoba
Joshua Roy, QMJHL Sherbrooke
Justin Sourdif, WHL Vancouver
Logan Stankoven, WHL Kamloops
Ryan Tverberg, University of Connecticut (Hockey East)
Shane Wright, OHL Kingston