By Sonny Sachdeva, January 8 2015 —
Team Canada’s young guns have regained their golden crown, casting aside five years of international disappointment.
After failing to earn a medal in the past two World Junior Championship tournaments, the Canadians capped a dominant 2015 run with a nail-biting gold medal victory over Russia at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto on Jan. 5.
The win earned Canada its first gold medal since 2009. It was the perfect crowning moment to the 2015 tournament that saw the Red and White go undefeated in seven games.
The Russians gave the hometown kids their toughest test when it mattered most. While Canada cruised through the preliminaries and first two playoff rounds — finishing every game with at least a two-goal lead and racking up two 8–0 victories along the way — the gold medal game was a different affair.
Canada seemed destined to roll through yet another opponent after piling up five goals in the first two periods. However, the Russians stormed back to make it 5–4 heading into the third period.
Canadian goalie Zach Fucale stood tall in net, refusing to allow a tying goal from the Russians.
Despite the tournament being billed as the head-to-head battle of stars Connor McDavid (of Canada) and Jack Eichel (of the U.S.A.) — both of whom have a strong chance to be drafted first overall in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft — the tournament proved to be so much more.
McDavid was a force during the tournament by tying teammates Sam Reinhart and Nic Petan for the tournament scoring lead with 11 points and leading all skaters with eight assists. However, Team Canada wasn’t just the McDavid Show.
The Canadians displayed tremendous offensive balance.
While McDavid, Reinhart and Petan piled points on the ice, Canada’s captain, Curtis Lazar, and rising star Max Domi also sniped their way to top goalscorer honours with five goals in seven games.
Despite McDavid tying for the scoring lead, it was Domi who was named the tournament’s best forward.
The prestige surrounding the World Juniors is grounded in the careers of the tournament’s past greats.
A glance at Canada’s last gold medal squad is evidence enough. The roster isn’t short on current NHL greats such as John Tavares, P.K. Subban, Jordan Eberle and Jamie Benn.
The future looks bright for Canada. The host team seemed more offensively dominant this time around than their 2009 counterparts with six of the top ten scorers this year coming from Canada.
The strong international showing will raise the profile of Canada’s best young prospects. Several of them will battle to make the NHL squads they’ve been drafted to.
McDavid will be a near-lock to play in the NHL as soon as he’s drafted. But the same can’t be said for Domi, who was drafted by the Arizona Coyotes in 2013, or Reinhart who was taken by the Buffalo Sabres 2014.
After impressing in such a dominant fashion among the best of their age group, Canada’s future best can expect a chance to play a bigger role on their NHL clubs come next season, like the greats who came before them.