WJC PREVIEW | Meet Team Canada’s Forwards


by Christopher Nardella, Staff Writer, All Habs Hockey Magazine

Mitch Marner (Photo by Getty Images)
Mitch Marner (Photo by Getty Images)

POINTE CLAIRE, QC. — The 2016 encarnation of team Canada’s World Junior team has a debilitated forward core, comparable to last year’s Gold Medal winning edition, however a skilled one nonetheless.

Matthew Barzal C/RW (Seattle Thunderbirds, drafted 16th overall by the Islanders in 2015)

Matthew Barzal is one of the most talented players in this Canadian lineup with the puck on his stick. He has resplendent playmaking ability, strong vision and also has an excellent release on his wrist shot but refrains from using it to find the perfect play. The Coquitlam, B.C. native led the WHL in assists last season despite only participating in 44 games due to injuring his knee cap in an off-ice incident.
Barzal is a redoubtable skater and is dependable in his own end which complements his already impressive play. Furthermore, most regard him as a true student of the game, noting that he watches game film assiduously.

Anthony Beauvillier C/LW (Shawinigan Cataractes, drafted 28th overall by the Islanders in 2015)

Anthony Beauvillier has elite level speed and can really put the puck in the back of the net unlike others on the roster. The 5-foot-11-inch forward has vehement shot, possibly the best on the team, and had 42 goals in the QMJHL the preceded season as evidence. Not to omit his excellent puck handling and passing from the equation.

As is sanctioned with most players out of junior hockey, Beauvillier still needs to work on his play in his own end despite his strong abilities in the faceoff dot.

Rourke Chartier C/LW (Kelowna Rockets, drafted 149th overall by San Jose in 2014)

Chartier’s speed is his greatest quality and is a solid all-around player. The Saskatoon, Saskatchewan native also has a strong work ethic and finds open spaces on the ice so he can capitalize on the opportunities his linemates provide for him. Charter also has daunting vision, is responsible in his own end and is acutely elusive with the puck on his stick.

The winger scored 48 goals last season in Kelowna and, after his re-entrance to the Rockets’ lineup following an injury, had nine points in 10 games. “Rourke is a very mature young man and an extremely smart hockey player.” said Rockets assistant coach Dan Lambert.

Lawson Crouse LW (Kingston Frontenacs, drafted 11th overall by Florida in 2015)

The bestial winger is good at using his 6-foot-4-inch frame to protect the puck and engage himself on the forecheck to create opportunities for his teammates despite his mediocre skating ability. Crouse also possesses an NHL caliber shot, his best asset, is impregnable in the defensive zone and, as is customary for his 215 pounds, unless you’re Jimmy Hayes, he’s a physical force. Last season he scored 29 goals in 56 games with Kingston.

Despite the 10/10 Central Scouting gave him in both physicality and competitiveness, the worry with Crouse is if he can use his impressive shot enough to find the back of the net on a consistent basis.

Julien Gauthier RW (Val D’or Forreurs, 2016 draft eligible)

If you’re looking for a dark horse to contribute in this tournament, you’ve found it in Julien Gauthier. At 6-foot-4-inches, Gauthier is the tallest player on the team and has the abilities to justify his making of the team. The 18-year olds formidable shot is his greatest asset and, although the majority would say his skating isn’t up to par with the rest of the Canadian U-20 team, he is touted as one of the best Quebec-born power forwards of the last decade. He also protects the puck very well with his gargantuan frame.

After convulsing for 38 goals last season the winger has a prodigious 29 goals in 30 games this season, leading the entire QMJHL.

Travis Konecny RW/C (Ottawa 67’s, drafted 24th overall by Philadelphia in 2015)

Garnering the “C” from 67’s head coach Jeff Brown was by no coincidence as the London, Ontario native is a natural born leader. Konecny is a good skater but isn’t particularly fast, has auspicious hockey sense, that is the best in the OHL according to some scouts, and has an electrifying shot. The 5-foot-10-inch forward puts winning above all else, possesses a nose to the grindstone mentality and is a phenomenal stick handler.

“If you watch the Montreal Canadiens play and you see the way he contributes and what he does, I think Travis Konecny has a chance to be every bit as good if not better [than Gallagher],” said Bob Mckenzie of the 24th overall pick.

Mitch Marner C/RW (London Knights, drafted fourth overall by Toronto in 2015)

The London Knights captain is a puck possession god. Marner is an extremely good puck handler, is very duplicitous or evasive, has an underrated shot and can thread a needle through Alex Semin’s goal total in Montreal. To complement the rest of his game that made the Leafs select him with the fourth pick overall, Marner is also a ferocious back checker and works very hard to make his linemates’ jobs easier and to score goals. He also isn’t a liability in the defensive zone.

Not unlike Matthew Barzal, the perceived “problem” with the Ontarian is he passes up the shot too much to find an open man. Marner had a sumptuous 44 goals and 126 points in 63 games last season, finishing second only to his team Canada linemates Dylan Strome.

Brendan Perlini LW (Niagara Ice Dogs, drafted 12th overall by Arizona in 2014)

Essentially Perlini is a less physical but more talented reincarnation of Lawson Crouse. Standing at 6-feet-3-inches, Perlini can absolutely fly for a guy of his size, has excellent puck handling abilities and had an NHL shot at age 18. Unlike Crouse’s unadorned style, he very much relies on his skill rather than his size to put points on the board. The only down side of Perlini’s game is he doesn’t use his frame to get in on the forecheck all that well.

“He’s already got NHL speed and an NHL shot but he has to improve his ability to come out of the traffics and come out of the corner with pucks,” said Bob McKenzie at the 2014 draft in Philadelphia.

Brayden Point C (Moose Jaw Warriors, drafted 79th overall by Tampa Bay in 2014)

No make a career for yourself in hockey at 5-feet-9-inches you either need to be a tireless worker or extremely skilled, Brayden Point embodies the best of both attributes. Point is an unremitting worker and skater that plays his heart out on both ends of the ice. The Moose Jaw Warriors captain is also a tremendous playmaker with peerless vision of the play and can put the puck in the back of the net with his above average shot.

He is expected to center team Canada’s second line, is expected to get a letter on his jersey and had 18 goals in 19 games before heading to Canadian camp.

John Quenneville C/ LW (Brandon Wheat Kings, drafted 30th overall by New Jersey in 2014)

A true bottom six forward, Quenneville doesn’t excel in any particular category but does everything well. The New Jersey Devils farmhand is a playmaker first, sees the ice duplicitously well and has an altitudinous compete level which contributes to his 33 points in 25 games this season. Quenneville’s downside is his skating ability which is against the team’s motto of speed. He also is very reliable in his own end and will will often be seen on the penalty kill.

John is the second cousin of Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville in case you were wondering. “He’s smart, there’s not any one thing he does exceptionally well but he does a lot of things that help you be successful in the game,” said Craig Button on the forward.

Mitchell Stephens C (Saginaw Spirit, drafted 33rd overall by Tampa Bay in 2015)

As much as Quenneville is a defensive specialist, Stephens is the defensive master on this team Canada roster. Along with the willingness to block shots and win battles, the second round pick has leadership abilities and intangibles. Stephens isn’t completely offensively stagnant, most scouts say he has an underrated shot and decent playmaking abilities.

Stephens also is a very good skater and is a very good stick handler with some good creativity. Following getting an “A” on his jersey for the first time in his career the centreman had seven goals and 11 points in nine games.

Dylan Strome C (Erie Otters, drafted third overall by Arizona in 2015)

Canada’s best all-around player without a doubt is a good skater and capitalizes on his speed with a tremendously accurate and heavy shot. Strome has resplendent hands, playmaking ability and vision of the ice which makes him a dual threat when culminated with his great shot. The Mississauga, Ontario native also possesses intangibles and the will to win games that would make him a prime candidate to get a letter on his sweater come December 26th in Helsinki. He is a natural leader that leads by the way he plays more so than anything he says in the locker room.

Strome is also exceedingly patient with the puck to subsequently facilitate for his teammates but has an ascendant sense of when to release his shot. “He has a big shot […] he’s got an NHL shot already [at 18-years of age].” said Damian Cox of Sportsnet.

Jake Virtanen LW/RW (Vancouver Canucks, drafted sixth overall by Vancouver in 2014)

After failing to find the back of the net more than a lone time in 19 games in the NHL, the Canucks let Jake Virtanen join team Canada in the WJC, where he is expected to reignite his confidence and contribute. The winger brings a superfluity of speed to an already rapid Canadian lineup and has a physical component that beautifully complements his game. The New Westminster, B.C. native bear’s a heavy shot that’s deadly accurate, he also has a blue collar work ethic and is a power forward that isn’t afraid to throw his weight around.
Virtanen is a former 50 goal scorer in junior and all watchers are complimentary towards his abilities “Pure power, speed, he drives the net, big shot, ability to score goals […]” commented Bob McKenzie of TSN.


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