Just under a month ago, the World Junior Hockey Championship came to a screeching halt due to a dramatic rise in COVID 19 infections, fuelled particularly by the Omicron variant. This highly infectious variant swept through team rosters and made continuing on with the tournament impractical and, ultimately, unsafe. Perhaps lost in this is the fact that high-level prospects were deprived of their grandest opportunity to showcase their skill on amateur hockey’s largest stage. Coast to Coast Sports continues to advocate for athletes who have lost opportunities to showcase their talents due to the ongoing pandemic. Following is a series of mini-profiles of team Canada’s prospects.
Sebastian Cossa, of the Edmonton Oil Kings, is a prospect of the Detroit Red Wings. He went 21-6-3 in his rookie Western Hockey League season before the pandemic struck. In the 2020-21 season, he was17-1-1 and led the league in goals-against average, save percentage, and shutouts. In the summer of 2021, he was drafted 15th overall by the Detroit Red Wings.
Brett Brochu is currently playing for the Wilkes Barre Scranton Penguins of the American Hockey League, and is an alumnus of the London Knights. In his junior career with the Knightsx Brochu posted a record of 48-11-1, and in 2020, was awarded the “Dinty” Moore Trophy. Brochu earned the starting job for Team Canada for the 2022 World Juniors.
Kamloops Blazer and New York Rangers’ prospect Dylan Garand rounds out the goaltending staff for the Canadians. The 19 year old Victoria, BC native holds a 2.09 goals against average and .923 save percentage in 23 WHL games played. Garand has also seen action with the Hartford Wolfpack of the AHL.
Olen Zellweger is a second-round, 34th overall selection of the Anaheim Ducks. The Calgary-born Zellweger played his junior hockey with the Everett Silvertips in the WHL. A defenseman with a flash for offense, Zellweger is a top-notch passer and puck handler, who has collected 31 points in 26 games this season.
Carson Lambos, a Winnipeg native, plays for his hometown Ice. A 26th overall selection of the Minnesota Wild, Lambos boasts an elite shot and next-level agility, making him both a scoring threat from the point as well as a playmaking threat. Lambos had 20 points in 21 games for the Ice.
The Vegas Golden Knights are more than excited to have Lukas Cormier. An offensive defenseman with a lethal shot, the Charlottetown Islander collected 18 points in the ten games prior to the start of the WJC. In addition Cormier uses his shot as a weapon of deception, and because of his accuracy, he can use his shot as a pass, to augment his playmaking ability.
Born in Kingston, Ontario, Donovan Sebrango is a third-round selection of the Detroit Red Wings. Currently playing for the AHL’s Grand Rapids Griffins, Sebrango played his junior hockey with the Kitchener Rangers of the Ontario Hockey League. Sebrango’s skill set includes the ability to win puck battles in tight situations and making the transition pass to not only get his team out of trouble but also to create scoring opportunities in transition.
Ronan Seeley of the Everett Silvertips provides a physical presence on the blue line. Born in Whitehorse, Yukon, Seeley can be seen as something of a late bloomer, drafted in the 7th round by the Carolina Hurricanes. That being said, Seeley was named team captain of the Silvertips and had amassed 28 points in 29 games. Unlike many Team Canada defensemen this year, Seeley’s strength is his hockey IQ away from the puck, and is able to make the correct reads, making life easier for his partner and teammates.
Jaiden Guhle of the Edmonton Oil Kings possesses the ability to quickly dispossess opposing attackers of the puck and quickly transition play to his forwards. He also activates and provides a dangerous second wave of attack. The Montreal Canadiens’ 16th overall draft pick has a strong +9 rating and is operating at a point-a-game pace in his last ten games. He is a World Junior silver medalist and a former WHL champion in the 2018-19 season with the Prince Albert Raiders.
Owen Power is the first overall selection for the Buffalo Sabres in 2021. Power played NCAA college hockey with the Michigan Wolverines. The Wolverines, a threat to become national champions, were forced to withdraw from the 2021 playoffs due to the pandemic. Power had all the tools needed to play the game at the professional level, including size, skating ability and hockey sense. From the blue line, Power operates at a point-a-game pace and consistently works on the positive side of the plus-minus ledger.
Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds defenseman Ryan O’Rourke was selected 39th overall by the Minnesota Wild. The Wild can expect a tough, stay-at-home defenseman, who works hard and is not afraid to go to battle for his team. With a lethal slap shot O’Rourke proves that he is a multi-dimensional player who is dangerous at both ends of the ice. With the Soo this year O’Rourke has 24 points and 33 penalty minutes in 25 games. He spent 33 games in 2020-21 with the AHL’s Iowa Wild.
Connor Bedard is a 16-year-old centre for the Regina Pats. Selected first overall in the WHL Bantam draft, Bedard is the first WHL player to have been granted exceptional status. Although diminutive in stature, Bedard averaged almost 3 points a game in his minor hockey career, and two points per game in his rookie season in the WHL. He is not NHL draft-eligible until 2023. An early highlight to his career was posting four goals against Austria in the World Juniors prior to its shutdown. This tied Wayne Gretzky’s 44 year-old record for most goals in a game for a 16 year old.
Xavier Bourgault is an Edmonton Oilers prospect, currently playing for the Shawinigan Cataractes of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. Drafted 22nd overall, Bougault had 40 points in 29 games. The L’islet, Quebec native is also know for his discipline, receiving the Frank Selke Trophy for sportsmanship.
Another Shawinigan Cataracte, Mavrik Bourque, had been drafted 30th overall by the Dallas Stars. After amassing 43 points in 28 games in the QMJHL, Bourque has joined the Texas Stars of the AHL. His creativity and agility gives opposing defensemen fits as he uses his hockey sense to create plays that are seemingly not there.
Windsor Spitfires’ left winger Will Cuylle is a 6 foot 4 power forward with a deadly one-timer. Selected by the New York Rangers in the second round, Cuylle operates at a point-a-game pace in junior. He is also not afraid to use his physical strength to win battles, either during or after play. In 2020-21 he also appeared in 18 games for the AHL’s Hartford Wolfpack.
The lone Halifax Moosehead on the current Team Canada roster, Elliot Desnoyers was selected in the fifth round by the Philadelphia Flyers. Desnoyers provides a hard-nosed brand of defensive hockey while still putting up nearly a point a game with the Mooseheads during his junior career. Even though his calling card is his defensive prowess, Desnoyers has the agility to be a constant concern for opposing defenders.
The Brandon Wheat Kings line representative on Team Canada is Ridley Greig. A first round pick by the Ottawa Senators, the centre plays a rough-and-tumble brand of hockey. When he is not agitating opponents, Greig is scoring or assisting on goals. He comes by his talent honestly, as his father spent nine seasons in the NHL and he has two sisters playing for the NCAA’s Wisconsin Badgers.
The Edmonton Oil Kings have no fewer than four players who are on Canada’s World Junior roster. Dylan Guenther, an Arizona Coyotes’ prospect, was selected 9th overall. A natural goal scorer, Guenther possesses the rare combination a lethal shot and soft passing hand. His strength on the puck means that he is not easily dispossessed. Prior to the start of the World Juniors, Guenther has 43 points in 30 games.
Kent Johnson of the Michigan Wolverines is a fifth overall pick of the Columbus Blue Jackets. Johnson’s creativity combined with generational-level athleticism makes him a coach’s dream when it comes to playmaking ability. In 2019-20 Johnson posted nearly two points per game. As he progressed to the college level, he continues to produce consistently and continues to improve and adapt whenever the level of play dictates.
Mason Mctavish of the Peterborough Pete’s was drafted third overall by the Anaheim Ducks. Born in Switzerland, Mctavish and his family relocated to Carp, Ontario when he was 8 years of age. Currently, Mctavish is playing his rookie professional for the AHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs, where he has collected 5 points in his first two games. Always a hard, intelligent worker, Mctavish has a keen sense of where he should be on the ice at all times.
Another Oil King, Jake Neighbours, is a left winger and 26th overall selection of the St. Louis Blues. Born in Airdrie, Alberta, Neighbours, despite being diminutive in size, is the consummate power forward, often making defensemen regret attempting to hit him. The Oil Kings’ captain is also a quality playmaker, having posted 24 points in 15 games prior to joining Team Canada
Justin Sourdif comes to the national junior program as another member of a loaded Oil Kings team. Acquired from the Vancouver Giants, Sourdif is a Florida Panthers prospect who is solid on his skates and possesses the innate ability to find shooting lanes. Sourdif can be counted on for a point and a half per game at the junior level, and as he continues to develop physically he stands to take the step to the pros easily.
Drafted by the Dallas Stars, by way of the Kamloops Blazers, Logan Stankoven is a solidly-built 18-year-old centre. The Blazers captain likes to carry the puck with speed and shoot first. This leads to plenty of goals but also many assists when opposing goaltenders happen to make the initial save. Stankoven has 17 goals and 22 assists in 25 games this season, and with another year of junior eligibility, he will be a major star in the upcoming year.
Shane Wright of the Kingston Frontenacs is considered the top undrafted prospect going into the 2022 NHL Entry Draft. The Burlington native is described as a “sniper”, and was granted exceptional player status coming out of Bantam. As a 16-year-old, Wright scored 39 goals and 66 points for the Frontenacs, the team which he now captains. Even more impressive is the fact that in the World Under 18 tournament, Wright had 14 points in 5 games, leading the Canadians to gold.
Cole Perfetti starred for the Saginaw Spirit of the OHL, where he posted 111 points in 61 games. Capable of playing either centre or left wing, Perfetti is one of a very select group of players to medal in both the World Juniors and World Men’s championships in the same year. He captured silver as a junior before joining Team Canada’s senior club and capturing gold. Drafted 10th overall by the Winnipeg Jets, Perfetti joined the Manitoba Moose of the AHL for the 2021-22 season, contributing 15 points in 17 games before rejoining Team Canada for the 2022 World Juniors. Perfetti scored his first NHL goal for the Jets on January 18 versus the Washington Capitals.
Coast to Coast Sports acknowledges the extremely high level of talent possessed by these players, their predecessors, and future generations of Canadian hockey talent. What makes this group unique is that they still await their opportunity to fully showcase their skills in a world not hampered by Covid 19.
Credit Trevor Grier
C2C SPORTS ANALYST