2023 World Junior Preview: Canada

Peter Harling

2022-12-17

Canada – 2015 World Junior Champions (Terry Wilson/OHL Images)

The World Junior are the most wonderful time of year. The Holiday tradition of the best junior tournament in the word has a special kind of magic.

Each year the tournament has breakout players that use the tournament to propel their careers towards stardom. In turn, that raises the fantasy value of prospects as well. Just the prestige of making the team for Canada, USA, Russia, Finland, or Sweden can help raise a player’s fantasy stock and ownership.

Indeed, the WJC is a must watch tournament for many reasons. The entertainment value is always a 10/10, the hockey is excellent, and it is an opportunity to watch, scout your fantasy hockey prospects.

With that in mind lets get ready by reviewing the players that will be in this tournament.

Team Canada

22 players will look to repeat as Gold Medal Champions with Team Canada, with eight returning players. Here is my projection for how the lines could look for Canada.

Forwards

Brennan Othmann – Shane Wright – Dylan Guenther

Connor Bedard – Adam Fantilli – Logan Stankoven

Zach Ostapchuk – Zach Dean – Joshua Roy

Reid Schaefer – Nathan Gaucher – Caedan Bankier

Colton Dach –

Defense

Ethan Del Mastro – Olen Zellweger

Tyson Hinds – Brandt Clarke

Kevin Korchinski – Jack Matier

Nolan Allan

Goal

Ben Gaudreau

Thomas Milic

Canada is a perennial Gold Medal favorite let alone contender and this year is no different. With three returning players from last tournaments top five scoring, as well as three players on loan from the NHL the Canadian offense is scary good.

Shane Wright and Brennan Othmann are projected to play together reuniting the pair from their time with the Don Mills Flyers where they won a Championship in the OJHL. The pair also played together with Canada at the U-18 and had Dylan Guenther on the right side, look for Canada to roll those three as the top line.

When the tournament ends, where will Shane Wright play? That is the question on the minds of all who own him in fantasy hockey. He can return to the OHL and keep the first year of his contract intact, or he can return to the NHL and burn the first year of his contract in the press box. The fact is, he is not NHL ready so look for Kingston Frontenacs who own his CHL rights to announce a trade during or after the tournament.

The same argument can be made for defenseman Brandt Clark, who make his long-awaited debut with Team Canada at the WJC. For more on Clarke listen to the 32 Thoughts Podcast where Friedman and Marek interview LA Kings Head Coach Todd McLellan as he sheds some insight on the subject.

On the second line Canada may feature the two top prospects battling it out for the first overall selection in the 2023 NHL Draft in Nashville. Connor Bedard is currently the consensus number one ranked player, but Adam Fantilli has passed Russian phenom Matvei Michkov on many lists. Playing together, if Fantilli can outperform Bedard he could begin to entertain the debate as to who is the number one prospect in the 2023 Draft.

Let’s take a closer look at the players on Team Canada

Goalies

Ben Gaudreau, Sarnia Sting, (OHL) – San Jose Sharks

Gaudreau comes with OHL draft pedigree as the Sarnia Stings seventh overall selection. His rookie season as a back-up was good, but Sarnia struggled. He won Gold with Canada at the U-18 and was named Best Goalie of the Tournament. His regular season play has been underwhelming but he was solid in his post season performance. This will be an important tournament for his development and his fantasy stock. He could get a major boost from backstopping Canada to a Gold Medal and with only 8% Fantrax ownership you may want to buy in before he is picked up.

Thomas Milic, Seattle Thunderbirds, (WHL) – Undrafted

The 19-year-old has superior numbers to Gaudreau in the regular season but at six feet tall he is short for NHL teams liking. If Milic wins the starting job for Canada and continues to play well in Seattle, he could earn an NHL contract as a free agent.

Defense

Nolan Allan, Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL) – Chicago Blackhawks

The last pick in the first round of the 2021 NHL draft has a Gold with Canada from the U-18 tournament. He was traded to Seattle recently in the WHL from Prince Albert where he was the captain.

Brandt Clarke, Los Angeles Kings (NHL)

Started the year in the NHL as the Kings had some injuries. Played a five-game conditioning tour in the AHL but is likely OHL bound after the tournament.

Ethan Del Mastro, Mississauga Steelheads (OHL) – Chicago Blackhawks

The 6-4 defender returns for his second tour with Canada and will pair with Zellweger again. Del Mastro is an excellent compliment as the physical and defensive presence. He has better NHL value than fantasy value and could be a good “sell high” prospect

Tyson Hinds, Sherbrook Phoenix (QMJHL) – Anaheim Ducks

Excellent sleeper potential here! Hinds is a 6-3 left shot defender. Only Zellweger has out pointed him this season. He is physical, offensive, defensive, and only 1% Fantrax owned. Add him to your roster now while you can. I just did!

Kevin Korchinski, Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL) – Chicago Blackhawks

Big riser in his draft year, is more reliable for offense than defense and as such may be a bottom pairing or extra player for Canada.

Jack Matier, Ottawa 67’s (OHL) – Nashville Predators

Big 6-5 defensive defenseman is starting to show signs of offensive upside in his final year of junior on the top team in the OHL. It will be interesting to see how he handles the pace in this tournament as that will be a good indicator of his NHL potential. He has better value in bangers leagues with his limited offensive upside.

Olen Zellweger, Everett Silvertips (WHL) – Anaheim Ducks

The returning top Defender from last years tournament really has little room for improvement. He is too good for junior, too good for this tournament and will be a top pairing NHL defenseman in the near future. His 26% Fantrax ownership will rise significantly after this tournament.

Forwards

Caedan Bankier, Kamloops Blazers (WHL) – Minnesota Wild

Another super sleeper prospect here at 2% Fantrax owned. Bankier has size at 6-2 and has been underrated for too long. A WHL third round pick, NHL third round pick but has 33 points in 24 games in the WHL with Kamloops as the top center. You will know his name by the end of the tournament!

Connor Bedard, Regina Pats (WHL) – 2023 Draft.

The Best player since Connor McDavid, he is so good that at 17-years-old he could set scoring records in this tournament. For context the leaders are Markus Naslund (13 goals) and Peter Forsberg (31 points)

Colton Dach, Kelowna Rockets (WHL) – Chicago Blackhawks

The little brother of Montreal’s Kirby Dach and often considered to be a lesser prospect. Colton is making a name for himself outscoring his brothers 18-year-old season and he is the bigger of the two at 6-4. Colton is very underrated at 6% Fantrax ownership. Don’t sleep on him.

Zach Dean, Gatineau Olympique (QMJHL) – Vegas Golden Knights

A solid two-way center with good offensive upside. Dean lacks the hulking size for a fourth line energy player, but he can fill the net and is great in his own end as well. He will soon compete with Brendan Brisson for the Knights top prospect.

Adam Fantilli, University of Michigan (NCAA) – 2023 Draft.

Fantilli is setting records in the NCAA as a freshman and in the conversation with elite company the likes of Jack Eichel and Paul Kariya. Fantilli is the whole package, he is a center, has size at 6-2, skates very well, has excellent hockey sense and offensive vision as a playmaker, has elite level skill and can shoot with NHL accuracy. He is a franchise player.

Nathan Gaucher, Quebec Ramparts (QMJHL) – Anaheim Ducks

Gaucher is returning to play the defensive, shut down center role. At 6-3 he has a physical presence and will take plenty of defensive zone draws. His fantasy upside is limited outside of bangers leagues, and he will be a better NHL player than a fantasy one. He reminds me of fellow Anaheim prospect B-O Groulx

Dylan Guenther, Arizona Coyotes (NHL)

Wright and Clarke may be going to the OHL after this tournament but not Guenther. He missed the Memorial Cup to injury in his final year in the WHL and will look to win a WJC to fill out his trophy cabinet. The Coyotes are happy to loan him as it will help their plan to win a lottery ticket for the 2023 Draft.

Zack Ostapchuk, Vancouver Giants (WHL) – Ottawa Senators

Like Gaucher, Ostapchuk is a returning player to play a depth role for Canada on the shut down, physical line. Also, at 6-3 he has a physical presence but has limited offensive upside. Another player to target in bangers leagues.

Brennan Othmann, Peterborough Petes (OHL) – New York Rangers

Canadas top left winger is a fun and exciting player to watch. He plays with pace, is physical and is a goal scorer. Since his trade from Flint to Peterborough his point production has dipped, but he remains a point per game player. He is a sure-fire NHL player that you will want to own in any format.

Joshua Roy, Sherbrook Phoenix (QMJHL) – Montreal Canadiens

One of eight returning players he led the QMJHL in scoring last year and is a dynamic offensive player. He beat out fellow Montreal prospect Owen Beck which was a surprise to some. Roy needs to improve his skating to become an elite prospect, watch how he handles the pace of this tournament to gauge if his offense can translate to higher levels.

Reid Schaefer, Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL) – Edmonton Oilers

The final first round pick in 2022 is one of the biggest rising prospects. Schaefer has size, speed, and skill. He plays physical and a two-way game. He could have a breakout performance here and see his Fantrax ownership explode from 12%

 

Logan Stankoven, Kamloops Blazers (WHL) – Dallas Stars

Despite all the fire-power Canada has, don’t be surprised if Logan Stankoven is leading the team in either goals or points or both. Dallas has done an outstanding job of finding draft gems with Jason Robertson and Roope Hintz in the second round. Stankoven is the latest.

Shane Wright, Seattle Kraken (NHL)

Wright has proven to not be NHL ready at this time. The addition of Eeli Tolvanen in Seattle via the waiver wire will make it even harder for Wright to Crack the Kraken. Wright was dominant for Canada at the U-18 in his D-1 year, the only hockey he played that year, and was very good in Kingston in his draft year, but not dominant. Returning to the OHL to dominate would not be the worst thing for him, regardless how well he shows for Canada at the WJC.

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