On Thursday, I previewed the Ontario Hockey League aspect of Hockey Canada’s 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship Preliminary Roster that was selected by head coach Tim Hunter on Monday afternoon in Calgary, AB.
Today, I examine the second of three stages, this time uncovering the lengthy and talented list of players that comes from none other than the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and it’s clubs. Before I begin however, it’s important to note that not all these players will be with the team come Opening Day, however, a large chunk of them will be as Canada seeks redemption following last year’s loss in Buffalo, New York.
This year’s competition is set to take place at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, B.C. as well as the Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre located in Victoria, B.C. With training camps having opened following each respective countries roster unveil announcement, we are officially less than three weeks away from puck drop on boxing day, Wednesday December 26th, 2018.
With that in mind, let’s get started and introduce to you the second of the three stages that make up Hockey Canada’s active roster for the upcoming 2019 World Junior Championships out west.
For obvious reasons, we begin with left-handed left-winger Alexis Lafreniére. Lafreniére, a native of St-Eustache, Quebec, has become a sensation in the QMJHL at just 17 years of age and is currently in his second season as a member of the league. It will be his first time taking part in the IIHF World Junior Championships, however, it will be his second time taking part in a Hockey Canada tournament.
Lafreniére took part in the Hlinka Gretzky Cup back in August, the inaugural competition for the U18 tournament run by Gretzky. The tournament was played at Rogers Place in Edmonton, AB where Canada came out claiming gold in front of a sold out crowd against the Swedes. Not only did Lafreniére make his name known across Canada throughout the course of this competition but it gave also him the opportunity to use the summer as extra training to play hard which goes alongside perfectly his work ethic on a night in and night out basis.
At this time, Lafreniére is in his second season as a member of the Rimouski Oceanic and will become NHL draft eligible for the first time when the 2021 regular season comes around. Lafreniére has plenty to offer Team Canada as the approach the competition as he has solid abilities all around both offensively and defensively. This in mind, you can certainly expect to see the youngster make the roster out of training camp while it is also worth mentioning that his red-hot production will be something to keep an eye on for the entire duration of the tournament.
Moving onwards from here, we now flip the page over to left-handed defensemen Jared McIsaac. McIsaac, a native of Truro, Nova Scotia, is in his third season in the QMJHL where he has only gone to prove that his skill is in-fact worthy of seeing it’s time in the NHL. Further to this point, McIsaac, 18, will be taking part in the IIHF World Junior Championships for the very first time, marking his first act of participation with Hockey Canada as well.
At this time, McIsaac is in his third season as a member of the Halifax Mooseheads as he awaits his first opportunity to be called up to the big league stage. That being said, McIsaac was drafted by the Detroit Red Wings in the second round (36th overall) of the 2018 NHL Entry Draft and will be key to the defensive core down the middle for Team Canada. While he is not as strong offensively, he still offers substantial talent off the stick and so it is worth keeping in mind that he is surely capable of producing with the puck on his stick as needed.
If he does well in this tournament, McIsaac could find himself getting a call-up from the Detroit Red Wings front office to both drive his skill to greater strengths while also giving him the chance to get the feel for professional level hockey action as well.
In taking a look now at what there is for Joe Veleno to offer, the native of Kirkland, Quebec, is in his fifth season in the QMJHL where he has only gone to prove as one of the both NHL’s top and upcoming prospects. Further to this point, Veleno, 18, will be taking part in the IIHF World Junior Championships for the very first time, much like McIsaac, marking his first act of participation with Hockey Canada as well.
At this time, Veleno is in his second season as a member of the Drummondville Voltigeurs after having been traded by the Saint John Sea Dogs back at the beginning of the 2017-18 season. The change however has not stopped Veleno in the slightest from proving his potential as he has plenty of both energy and production in store and now just waits like many others to get the call so he can display what he’s got on the international stage with the hopes of staying locked on a big league roster and for many years to come ahead.
Veleno, much like McIsaac, was drafted by the Detroit Red Wings but earlier on in the first round (30th overall) of the 2018 NHL Entry Draft and the hope is that his production will be a driving force for the Red Wings of the future. Until then, he will continue to guide the Voltigeurs towards a Memorial Cup Championship while also contributing to Team Canada if and when given the opportunity such as now to go ahead and do so. That said, his offensive skills will certainly be something to look out for when things officially get underway out west in just under three weeks time.
We close it all out with left-handed defensemen Nicolas Beaudin who is a native of Chateauguay, Quebec. In taking a look at what there is for Beaudin to offer to Team Canada, he is a force to be reckoned with and has become one of the best offensive defensemen in the league. Furthermore, as noted by Ben Kerr of Last Word On Hockey, he is a big reason for what was largely seen as a successful season for the Drummondville Voltigeurs.
Speaking of which, it is well worth noting the fact of which the Voltigeurs finished fifth in the QMJHL Standings with 92 points recorded on the year. however, once they reached the postseason, unfortunately things did not go exactly as planned in the playoffs with the club falling out and ending their season with a loss in the second round.
In looking at Beaudin’s performance now and doing so in greater lengths, the 19-year-old Canadian led the offence from the blue line with 12 goals and 57 assists, making for 69 points registered in a total of 68 games played this year. When the playoffs came around, it by no means slowed him down as he scored three goals and eight assists, making for 11 points registered in 10 playoff games played this season. Of course as you would expect, that effort was rewarded as Beaudin was named a second-team QMJHL all-star this past season as a result.
Beaudin is now in his fifth season in the QMJHL, all seasons of which have been played with the Drummondville Voltigeurs. If he keeps up his production which has only gone to increase per year, like many others, there is a possibility that he could find his way to the NHL sooner rather than later.
Further to this point, Beaudin joins the long list of many others that will be taking part in the IIHF World Junior Championships for the very first time, marking his first act of participation with the Hockey Canada organization as well. It is likely that Beaudin will be spotted all over the ice for Team Canada as he is a dominant offensive leader that both can and will guide the way. Of course this all goes so far to say that he’s got plenty in the bank to prove as he looks onwards to the future where he can be an asset with offensive skills to any National Hockey League organization.
Beaudin was drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks in the first round (27th overall) of the 2018 NHL Entry Draft and the hope is that he will only continue to add on to the all-star lineup that is on the come up which includes the likes of both Henri Jokiharju as well as defensemen Adam Boqvist. As for the current time being, that all star lineup consists of Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, while on the youngster side of things, it includes the likes of both Dylan Strome and Alex DeBrincat. In sum up, Beaudin’s offensive abilities will be something worth looking out for as he looks to help guide Tim Hunter’s club to a come from behind gold medal victory.
Head coach Tim Hunter has been training with players in British Columbia since July when they came over to put in some work with him at the Sandman Centre located in Kamloops. During that time, the head coach said in a statement to CTV News Vancouver Island, “You want competition at positions and you want lots of players that you have to make decisions on. It’s going to be a lot of fun and it’s going to be a real challenge.”
Moving forward a month to August, Hunter said in a statement to TSN, “Any time you’re involved with Hockey Canada, it’s a real honour and a real thrill. I want to make sure that we give ourselves the best chance to be in a medal game in January, and play and compete and show the pride of the country in the way we play.”
Following the announcement that took place on Monday afternoon, Tim Hunter said in a statement to the TSN Hockey Panel, “It’s a deep group, a skilled group, a high hockey IQ group, a fast group and a group that can play and think the game fast as well. You can never have too much skill.”
It is to that degree that he is right as he has a roster stacked of talent to sift through and sort into tournament keeps and cuts. Furthermore, it appears as if he is ready to do just that these next few weeks with the puck scheduled for drop for the first time come Boxing Day 2018. This of course will take place throughout the course of training camp and into exhibition games which are set to get underway starting on Wednesday December 19th. The first of two games will take place against Team Switzerland when they meet face-to-face for the first time at 5:00pmPT in Southern Vancouver.
Until then, we will have to wait and see who stays and who is sent home through the process that will look to get Team Canada going strong when the competition officially begins. The World Juniors get underway on Wednesday December 26th with two games scheduled at Rogers Arena followed by another two in Victoria, B.C.
First it’s Czech Republic against Team Switzerland at 1:00pm which will be followed by the U.S. when they square off against Slovakia. The night portion opens up with Team Canada against Team Denmark which will be followed by the Swedes who will close it all out against the Finns at 7:30pmPT. All coverage will be held across the TSN Sports Network while it can all be heard LIVE on Sirius XM NHL Network Radio.