Hope all of you folks have gotten over your Christmas Day hangovers (turkey related, or otherwise), because it’s just about time for World Junior Hockey. Facing off tonight at 8:00pm ET/5:00pm PT, Team Canada will kick off their tournament against Team Slovakia at the Bell Centre in Montreal.
As such, here’s your Team Canada Game Day:
We’ve already seen this team broken down a hundred times over since the final cuts were announced. Leading the charge will be 2015 top prospect Connor McDavid of the OHL’s Erie Otters, a supremely talented offensive player. While a great amount of buzz has been surrounding McDavid for weeks, he’ll have plenty of help scoring goals. Curtis Lazar (OTT), Anthony Duclair (NYR), Sam Reinhart (BUF), Max Domi (ARI), and Rob Fabbri (STL) will also play major roles in Canada’s offence, with any of them capable of taking over a game by themselves.
Canada’s supporting cast, which is pretty impressive in and of itself, will include Jake Virtanen (VAN), Nick Ritchie (ANA), Lawson Crouse (2015 Eligible), Nic Petan (WPG), Brayden Point (TBL), Nick Paul (DAL) and Frederik Gauthier (TOR).
On the backend, Darnell Nurse (EDM), Josh Morrissey (WPG), Shea Theodore (ANA), Samuel Morin (PHI), Madison Bowey (WSH), Dillon Heatherington (CLB) and Joe Hicketts (DET) will be tasked with shutting down the Slovakian offence.
No announcements yet as to who will be scratched.
Slovakia’s team is lead by Montreal Canadiens prospect Martin Reway, drafted in the 4th round in 2013. Reway, a left winger, played two seasons and was an impact player for the Gatineau Olympiques of the QMJHL before jumping to the pros this season with HC Sparta Praha of the Czech Extraliga. He’s doing just fine in his new environment, with 21 points in 23 games.
Reway will be joined by Boston Bruins prospect Peter Cehlarik and 2015 draft eligible defenceman Christian Jaros, both of whom have been developing their games with Lulea HF in the Swedish Hockey League. It’s these three players who Team Canada will focus on shutting down.
The rest of Team Slovakia is made up largely of HK Orange 20 players. Founded in 2007, HK Orange 20 was created to bring together Slovakia’s best under-20 players and allow them to develop against the best competition the country has to offer. HK Orange 20 competes in the Slovak Extraliga, Slovakia’s top men’s league.
As expected, Montreal Canadiens prospect Zach Fucale will be in goal for Team Canada. In 24 games for the Halifax Moosehead prior to Team Canada’s selection camp, Fucale posted a 3.20 GAA and .890 SV%. Those are hardly impressive numbers, but he likely won’t need to be anything more than average for Canada.
At the other end of the ice, Slovakia will answer with 19-year old Denis Godla. The 5’10, 176lb netminder plays for HK Orange 20 and has a 3.19 GAA and .915 SV% in 16 games this season.
What to Watch For
- A whole bunch of goals for Canada (and perhaps an uneasy amount for Slovakia as well)
- Nick Ritchie getting a two-minute penalty for “Hitting Too Hard”
- A lot of talk about McDavid vs. Eichel, even though Jack Eichel isn’t playing in this game
- Sentimental stories about Team Canada players and the small towns they grew up in
- Fredrik Gauthier killin’ mad penalties, yo