With a late goal against Sweden from Tyler Steenbergen, Team Canada took home the gold medal at the World Junior Hockey Championship on Friday night in Buffalo. Team Canada won the gold this year after losing to the United States in a shootout in last year’s tournament. It was a very close game between Canada and Sweden, the game was only won by Canada with less then two minutes to go in the game. After Steenbergen tipped in a beautiful pass from defensemen Connor Timmins to put Canada up 2-1, the 18-year-old winger Alex Formenton, who was drafted in the second round at 47th overall by Ottawa in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft last summer, scored an empty netter assisted by defensemen Victor Mete to seal the game away at 3-1. The lone goal for Sweden came short-handed by Tim Soderlund who was drafted by the Blackhawks in the fourth round in the 2017 draft. Going into the tournament, Canada was considered to one of the teams most likely to win the tournament if not the most likely. Throughout the tournament, we saw Canada show brilliance on the ice with dominant performances such as their 7-2 win in the semifinals against the Czech Republic, 8-0 over Denmark, and the 8-2 win over Switzerland in the Quarter finals. Canada only lost one game the entire tournament and they did not lose in regulation. It took the US until the shootout to beat Canada in the outdoor game. This Canada team had a phenomenal tournament but what is it that made them so good? They were able to beat a team filled with some of the top prospects in the world in their win over Sweden but what is it that made this team the best?
Canada owes a lot of their success in the tournament to their depth. Canada had a lot of depth in their lineup, their defence depth especially was full of high class prospects. Before the tournament, many people thought that team Canada had one of the best defensive lineups in years. Once the tournament began, their depth on the blue line really showed as top prospects began to really prove why they were chosen for this tournament. Two of the defensemen who shined most in the tournament for Canada were Connor Timmins and Cale Makar, who were both drafted by Colorado in the 2017 NHL draft. They led Canada’s defence in scoring and really took charge on the ice. Connor Timmins had an amazing tournament. Not only did he score 5 points in 7 games for Canada, he also had a team high plus 15 rating. Cale Makar also had a great tournament by scoring 3 goals and 5 assists for 8 points to go along with a plus 5 rating.
Canada’s defence played a key role in each and every game. Not only did their defence put up points in every game, but they were also the players who were navigating the plays. The defence was always seen passing the puck into the offensive zone and making smart intelligent plays. Canada played very successful offensive hockey. They did not seem to be individually selfish with the puck, they passed the puck a lot and played the best situation they thought possible. Canada was not perfect in every play they made, like all teams they were prone to errors, but it was how they were able to react to these errors and bounce back that helped make them the top team in the tournament.
Although Canada’s blue line had tremendous depth, Canada’s offence was a crucial part in winning the gold medal as well. In 7 games, Canada scored a total of 39 goals, the highest amount scored in the entire tournament. The silver medal winning team Sweden scored 28 goals in the 7 games they played while the U.S.A team scored 35. Overall Canada has a goal differential of 28, which was also the highest in the tournament. Canada had an amazing tournament in regards to their offence. Their offence was led by the 35th overall St. Louis Blues second round pick in 2016 Jordan Kyrou. Kyrou came into the tournament as the leading scorer in the OHL, he had 19 goals and 39 assists for a total of 58 points in 30 games for the Sarnia Sting. In seven games for Team Canada, he led the team offensively with 10 points in that span. He ran the power play for Team Canada that was by far the best in the tournament. Canada’s power play was 44.83 percent which was almost 10 percent higher then the second best power play which belonged to the Czech’s. However, it was not Kyrou alone running Canada’s offence. Sam Steel was also a big producer for Team Canada. Steel, who was picked 30th overall by the Anaheim Ducks in the 2016 NHL draft, scored 4 goals and added 5 assists for 9 points. Steel was the second highest scoring forward for Team Canada. He was only one point away from tying Jordan Kyrou for the lead. Kyrou and Steel were the two top forwards for Canada in terms of scoring but players like Drake Batherson and Brett Howden, who each recorded 7 points, were and integral part of Team Canada’s offence. Canada’s offensive depth propelled them late over Sweden to win the gold but they were apart of every game.
Goalies are the backbone of every hockey team and lets just say Canada had a very strong backbone. Canada had two strong goalies in their roster in Philadelphia Flyers prospect Carter Hart and Dallas Stars prospect Colton Point. Carter Hart has had an exceptional season in the WHL playing for the Everett Silver tips. He has a goals against average of 1.32 and a save percentage .961 in 17 games. He continued his terrific performance from the Western Hockey League to the World Junior Hockey Championship. At the tournament, he recorded a 1.81 goals against average and a save percentage of .930 in 6 games played. Hart was after the gold medal after loosing in a shootout to the USA in the gold medal game at the tournament last year. Although Colton Point was only in net for one game, he played very well for Team Canada. He saved all 20 shots he faced against Slovakia to earn the shutout to keep Canada unbeaten to start the tournament. Canada picked great goalies for the tournament and Hart and Point were phenomenal for Team Canada and without them Canada would not have done as well in the tournament.
Another player who was a key part of team Canada’s gold medal triumph was Victor Mete. Mete played in a way that it did not seem as if getting points up on the board was his biggest concern. Mete played in the tournament with defence on his mind, he made the plays that were the best defensively, he was always making plays using his speed to get past opposing players in order to pass the puck up towards the offence that would not only get the puck out of the defensive zone, but would also try and gift Canada’s offence with a pass that would steer the offence in the best position possible to get the offence in the positioning that would make them play successful offence. He was given first line duties and logged heavy minutes on the ice. Mete was considered to be one of the key parts of Team Canada’s roster and he proved to be an instrumental part of their roster.
Overall, Canada picked a great team with strong depth in all positions which is why they were able to win the gold medal over Sweden at the World Juniors. They scored more then any other team and had the top power play in the tournament. The team seemed to have strong chemistry and played the puck well in all positions while all the players on the team seemed to be confident in their play and not one player looked to be out of place. Canada surely redeemed themselves from last year’s shootout loss this year by taking home the gold medal. A hearty congrats to head coach Dominique Ducharme and Hockey Canada.