Connor Bedard and Shane Wright headline Canada’s roster for the upcoming world junior hockey championship.
Hockey Canada announced its cuts Monday following two practice days and two exhibition games as part of the national program’s selection camp in Moncton, N.B.
Bedard and Wright were virtual locks to make the group of 20 skaters and two goaltenders that includes eight returnees from the team that won August’s pandemic-delayed 2022 tournament.
Canada is looking to add a 20th gold medal at the under-20 event, which opens Dec. 26 in Halifax and Moncton.
Bedard, a slick forward from North Vancouver, B.C., is viewed as the consensus No. 1 pick at the 2023 NHL draft.
Wright, meanwhile, went fourth overall to the Seattle Kraken in July, but the centre was loaned to Hockey Canada for the world juniors.
Two other NHLers are also part of the Canadian setup – Arizona Coyotes forward Dylan Guenther and Los Angeles Kings defenceman Brandt Clarke.
Wright and Guenther both made the team at this time last year before the tournament in Edmonton and Red Deer, Alta., was shuttered after two games because of COVID-19 outbreaks.
Their inclusion gives Canada 10 players with world junior experience.
While the big names were all but assured a spot, two players from the summer – defenceman Carson Lambos and forward Riley Kidney – were cut along with eight others.
Bedard, Wright and Guenther will be joined up front by University of Michigan freshman Adam Fantilli, who’s also in the conversation at the top of the 2023 draft.
The rest of the forward group includes Caedan Bankier, Colton Dach, Zach Dean, Nathan Gaucher, Zack Ostapchuk, Brennan Othmann, Joshua Roy, Reid Schaefer and Logan Stankoven.
Injured in Saturday’s exhibition game against a team of university players, Kidney was cut along with Owen Beck, Zachary Bolduc, Jordan Dumais and Ryan Greene.
Apart from Clarke – cut last year and not invited to tryout in the summer – Canada’s defence will consist of Nolan Allen, Ethan Del Mastro, Tyson Hinds, Kevin Korchinski, Jack Matier and Olen Zellweger. Evan Nause and Ethan Samson were the blue-line cuts along with Lambos.
Bedard, Del Mastro, Gaucher, Ostapchuk, Othmann, Roy, Stankoven and Zellweger all won gold in August.
Canada’s goaltenders will be Ben Gaudreau and Thomas Milic, who combined to backstop the program to gold at the under-18 world championships in 2021.
The duo beat out Tyler Brennan and William Rousseau.
Canada, which features seven first-round NHL picks along with Bedard and Fantilli, will play exhibition games against Switzerland (Dec. 19), Slovakia (Dec. 21) and Finland (Dec. 23) before opening the tournament Boxing Day against Czechia, the country commonly known as the Czech Republic.
—Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press