Late addition of Barrett Hayton highlights Canada's near-final world juniors roster
9 players cut, with 1 more move to come before tournament begins in Czech Republic
Defencemen Braden Schneider, Peter Diliberatore and Thomas Harley were three of nine players released from Canada's world junior selection camp Thursday night as the team trimmed its roster to 24 two weeks before the start of the tournament.
The team will need to cut one more player before the world junior tournament begins Dec. 26 in the Czech Republic.
Canada's world junior hopes got a big boost earlier in the day with news the Arizona Coyotes have loaned centre Barrett Hayton to the national team.
The fifth overall pick in the 2018 NHL draft, Hayton has one goal and three assists in 14 games with Arizona this season.
Barrett Hayton.<br><br>Remember the name. <a href="https://t.co/8NaiensoWc">pic.twitter.com/8NaiensoWc</a>—@ArizonaCoyotes
The 19-year-old from Peterborough, Ont., was part of the Canadian setup that finished a disappointing sixth at last year's world junior hockey championship in Vancouver and Victoria, finishing the under-20 tournament with four assists in five games.
"He's a top-end guy and he's been playing up," head coach Dale Hunter said after the second of Canada's two exhibition games against a team of university all-stars. "He's a great leader. That's what you need.
"We always take a lot of skill, but [with his] leadership in the room, it'll help a lot."
One of five returnees, Veleno is scheduled to join his teammates in Europe closer to the start of the tournament.
"When you get veterans back that played before, it just means so much," Hunter said. "They can talk to the young guys about the pressures of playing, what it's like, and what the competition's all about. That's priceless."
Adding a potential No. 1 centre in Hayton also gives Canada plenty of options up front with Veleno, Dylan Cozens and Ty Dellandrea.
Canada invited 31 players to this week's selection camp in Oakville, but with both Veleno and Hayton in the mix, the number stood at 33 names before cuts came down Thursday night.
"It's no fun," Hunter said of delivering bad news. "It is tough. They're kids and they all want to play, but that's the hard part about the job."
The program is still waiting to hear on two other NHL players eligible for the tournament — Chicago Blackhawks centre Kirby Dach and New York Islanders defenceman Noah Dobson.
Hockey Canada had said it will wait as long as needed to finalize its roster.
The national team is scheduled to fly to Vienna this weekend to continue preparations before exhibition games Dec. 19 against Switzerland and Dec. 23 against the Finns.
Canada has won gold at the world juniors 17 times since 1977, with the last victory coming at the 2018 event in Buffalo, N.Y.
Lafreniere dealing with injury
Alexis Lafreniere had no reason to hit the ice this week.
The presumptive No. 1 pick at the 2020 NHL draft, his name has been written in ink on Canada's world junior roster for some time.
That didn't make sitting out with a nagging ankle injury any easier.
"It got better over the last couple days," Lafreniere said Thursday during his first media availability. "We talked with [the doctor] and the staff. They don't want me to push too much.
"I'm excited to be back on the ice soon."
Canada no doubt feels the same way.
Lafreniere leads the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League with 70 points in just 32 games this season for the Rimouski Oceanic, including six goals and six assists in five December outings alone, despite the bothersome ankle.
The 18-year-old winger didn't take part in any practices or play in either of the exhibition contests against a team of university all-stars this week, but said he would have been good to go if the games mattered.
Canada's first test at the under-20 tournament is set for Boxing Day against the United States.
"I want to be on the ice, but a little bit of rest is always good," Lafreniere said. "When I'm playing I don't feel [pain in the ankle] that much, maybe a little bit after. It's good when I'm playing."
The native of Saint-Eustache, Que., made last year's team at 17 years old as the 13th forward, working his way up the lineup before Canada was bounced in stunning fashion by Finland — which would go on to win gold in Vancouver and Victoria — in the quarter-finals.
"It was hard to lose," said Lafreniere, one of four returning players on the roster. "We'll use that experience for this year.
"I can take that to help me this year and try to have a bigger role."
Lafreniere, who has 23 goals and 47 assists in the QMJHL this season, skated on a line with centre Joe Veleno at Canada's summer camp, and that duo will likely be asked to do a lot of heavy lifting in the Czech Republic.
He added the message to teammates experiencing the world juniors for the first time will be quick and to the point.
"No games off," Lafreniere said. "You've got to play every night like it's your last."
Canada's selection camp roster
- Quinton Byfield, Sudbury (OHL)
- Dylan Cozens, Lethbridge (WHL)
- Ty Dellandrea, Flint (OHL)
- Aidan Dudas, Owen Sound (OHL)
- Nolan Foote, Kelowna (WHL)
- Liam Foudy, London (OHL)
- Benoît-Olivier Groulx, Halifax (QMJHL)
- Dylan Holloway, U. of Wisconsin (NCAA)
- Peyton Krebs, Winnipeg (WHL)
- Alexis Lafrenière, Rimouski (QMJHL)
- Raphaël Lavoie, Halifax (QMJHL)
- Connor McMichael, London (OHL)
- Dawson Mercer, Drummondville (QMJHL)
- Alex Newhook, Boston College (NCAA)
- Jakob Pelletier, Moncton (QMJHL)
- Cole Perfetti, Saginaw (OHL)
- Akil Thomas, Niagara (OHL)
- Joe Veleno, Grand Rapids (AHL)
- Barrett Hayton, Arizona Coyotes (NHL)
- Calen Addison, Lethbridge (WHL)
- Kevin Bahl, Ottawa (OHL)
- Jacob Bernard-Docker, U. of North Dakota (NCAA)
- Bowen Byram, Vancouver (WHL)
- Peter Diliberatore, Quinnipiac University (NCAA)
- Jamie Drysdale, Erie (OHL)
- Thomas Harley, Mississauga (OHL)
- Jared McIsaac, Halifax (QMJHL)
- Braden Schneider, Brandon (WHL)
- Ty Smith, Spokane (WHL)
- Nico Daws, Guelph (OHL)
- Joel Hofer, Portland (WHL)
- Hunter Jones, Peterborough (OHL)
- Olivier Rodrigue, Moncton (QMJHL)