Saturday, February 24, 2024

Regardless of lacking NHL stars, ’relentless’ Canada able to defend gold at world juniors

Owen Beck — a Montreal Canadiens prospect — is the one returning participant from 2023.

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Alan Letang isn’t centered on the absences.

It doesn’t do Canada’s head coach any good.

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“We’re lacking what we miss,” Letang mentioned. “There’s nothing we will do about that.”

The under-20 males’s nationwide crew will likely be with out a handful of mouth-watering eligible NHLers when it opens the world junior hockey championship Tuesday towards Finland.

Letang, nonetheless, is solely centered on the gamers within the fold as Canada appears to safe a 3rd consecutive gold medal — and the event’s first three-peat because the nation topped the rostrum 5 straight occasions between 2005 and 2009.

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“We’ve obtained the group now we have,” Letang continued. “If we win with 4 strains, there’s nothing unsuitable with that. If you happen to don’t have the celebrity, everybody will get to contribute.

“Canada’s depth is the massive benefit.”

Gamers within the execs skipping the annual vacation showcase embrace potential returnees Connor Bedard — who rewrote Canada’s file e-book final 12 months in Halifax and was at all times extremely unlikely to play in 2024 — Adam Fantilli, Shane Wright and Kevin Korchinski, whereas Zach Benson might have additionally been within the combine.

Regardless of lacking these huge names, the group set to hit the ice in Gothenburg, Sweden, on Boxing Day nonetheless has lots to supply.

“A crew that’s over the boards,” Letang mentioned. “A crew by committee the place everybody’s chipping in.”

Macklin Celebrini, the presumptive No. 1 choose on the coming NHL draft, leads the ahead group together with Conor Geekie, Matthew Savoie and Owen Beck — a Montreal Canadiens prospect and the one returning participant from 2023 — whereas the defence corps is anchored by Denton Mateychuk and Maveric Lamoureux.

“You may’t disguise away from the truth that there’s some guys that could possibly be right here that aren’t, however now we have an excellent group,” mentioned Celebrini, a 17-year-old standout at Boston College this season. “Quite a lot of particular gamers in that locker room.”

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The goaltending stays the same old query mark, with Scott Ratzlaff, Mathis Rousseau and Samuel St-Hilaire all trying to stake their crease declare, however the squad obtained a lift when the Boston Bruins loaned centre Matthew Poitras, who has 13 factors in 27 video games this season, to Canada at some stage in the event.

Beck, Fraser Minten and Matthew Savoie, in the meantime, have performed six mixed NHL contests.

“The entire nation’s riveted on Boxing Day,” mentioned Letang, who was an assistant when Canada received gold in 2020 and 2023. “These youngsters haven’t gone by that but. There’ll be nerves, there’ll be some studying curve.

“They’re excited to get their second.”

An skilled United States roster and hosts Sweden are considered as favourites on the surface, however that doesn’t trouble Canada.

“Completely an excellent honour,” Mateychuk mentioned of pulling on the purple Maple Leaf. “Simply going to the camps up to now, they at all times present you these world junior objectives, these huge moments.”

One phrase is persistently getting thrown round by gamers and workers alike when requested what stands concerning the roster.

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“Relentless,” Geekie mentioned.

“Relentless and resilient,” Letang added. “That’s obtained to be our group and that’s obtained to be our mindset. All of us have one thing to show to one another, and to everyone.”

Hockey Canada government Scott Salmond chipped in with a pair extra adjectives.

“Aggressive, tenacious, relentless,” he mentioned. “With out these star gamers, everyone’s obtained to do extra.

“We’re going to come back at groups in waves.”

Canada is in Group A with Finland, Sweden, Latvia and Germany. The medal spherical begins Jan. 2, with the ultimate set for Jan. 5 at Gothenburg’s Scandinavium enviornment.

A mid-tournament damage substitute final 12 months, Beck has handed on as a lot info as he can from the expertise in Halifax.

“I understand how vital each play is, each second of the sport is,” he mentioned. “Each little second actually issues. It might not look like it, however each blocked shot, each backcheck, each faceoff issues … each little second counts.”

Letang mentioned staying in these moments — and coping with the troublesome ones with a stage head — will likely be key.

“We all know what we’re going to come back up towards,” he mentioned. “We all know the groups we’re going to face, we all know it’s in Europe, we all know the depth, we all know how vital these little moments are.

“If we simply keep centered and keep true to that id, we’ll be wonderful.”

An id, no less than in accordance with everybody inside Canada’s setup, that begins with being relentless.

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