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2020 World Junior Hockey Championship: Canada preview & roster – Habs Eyes on the Prize

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They may have breezed through the preliminary round, but Team Canada had a disappointing early exit from the 2019 World Junior Hockey Championship. There were only 47 seconds left in the third period when Finland tied it up and pushed the game to overtime. It was there that Canada lost 2-1 in the knockout stage.

It was a bit of a shock to see Canada booted out so early. They hold the highest number of medals (31) and gold medals (17) in the tournament’s history.

This year, they’ll be in grouped together with long-time rivals the United States and Russia, both of whom made it to the semifinals last year with Russia grabbing bronze and USA taking home silver.

Canada didn’t meet either of those adversaries during last year’s tournament, but this year they’ll be facing USA right out of the gate when the tournament starts on Boxing Day.

Team Canada preliminary roster

# Player Position League Current team (NHL)
# Player Position League Current team (NHL)
8 Liam Foudy F OHL London Knights (CBJ)
9 Joe Veleno F AHL Grand Rapids Griffins (DET)
10 Raphael Lavoie F QMJHL Halifax Mooseheads (EDM)
11 Alexis Lafreniere F QMJHL Rimouski Océanic (2020 Draft)
12 Benoit-Olivier Groulx F QMJHL Halifac Mooseheads (ANA)
16 Akil Thomas F OHL Niagara IceDogs (LAK)
17 Connor McMichael F OHL London Knights (WSH)
18 Ty Dellandrea F OHL Flint Firebirds (DAL)
19 Quinton Byfield F OHL Sudbury Wolves (2020 Draft)
20 Dawson Mercer F QMJHL Drummondville Voltigeurs (2020 Draft)
22 Dylan Cozens F WHL Lethbridge Hurricanes (BUF)
25 Aidan Dudas F OHL Owen Sound Attack (LAK)
27 Barrett Hayton F NHL Arizona Coyotes
29 Nolan Foote F WHL Kelowna Rockets (TBL)
2 Kevin Bahl D OHL Ottawa 67’s (ARI)
3 Calen Addison D WHL Lethbridge Hurricanes (PIT)
4 Bowen Byram D WHL Vacouver Giants (COL)
5 Jacob Bernard-Docker D NCAA Univ. of North Dakota (OTT)
6 Jamie Drysdale D OHL Erie Otters (2020 Draft)
14 Jared McIsaac D QMJHL Halifax Mooseheads (DET)
24 Ty Smith D WHL Spokane Chiefs (NJD)
1 Nico Daws G OHL Guelph Storm (2020 Draft)
30 Joel Hofer G WHL Portland Winterhawks (STL)
31 Olivier Rodrigue G QMJHL Moncton Wildcats (EDM)

Strengths

This team looks to have every area covered, from down the middle, to the blue line, and all they way to the netminders. But their talented group of forwards has to be their biggest strength. The roster includes 10 first-round selections and the predicted top two 2020 NHL Draft picks — Alexis Lafrenière and Quinton Byfield.

Lafreniere is leading the QMJHL with 70 points in 32 games while Byfield is third on the OHL leaderboard with 57 (22G, 35A) in 30 games. Byfield also took home the silver medal during this year’s Hlinka Gretzky Cup, tallying a point per game during the tournament.

Not to mention Dylan Cozens, who currently has 46 points (20G, 26A) with the Lethbridge Hurricanes and is skilled enough to play both centre and wing. The depth of the forward corps is crazy impressive.

Weaknesses

This team is stacked and are in it to win it, so there aren’t a lot of weaknesses to choose from. The only concern is that it looks like it will be a game-time decision on who the starting goaltender will be. It’s the most important position and will remain a question mark right up until the round-robin games have concluded.

All three goaltenders have impressive records, so the choice shouldn’t make or break the team. Though there are three netminders on the roster, the coin toss will probably be between Joel Hofer, who’s leading WHL goaltenders with his 20-4-2 record, 1.81 goals-against average, .937 save percentage, and four shutouts so far this season, and Nico Daws, who has a 13-3-4 record in the OHL, a 2.06 GAA and .939 save percentage.

During Sunday’s practice, the team was down to just one goalie — and it was neither of these guys. It was up to Oliver Rodrigue to man the net after Hofer was stung by a shot to the glove and Daws left early with an undisclosed injury. What was a small question mark for the team a few days ago, is becoming the biggest one.

X-Factor

Lafrenière is one of five returning players from last year’s roster, but the only returning forward. At 18 years old, he’ll be looked upon to not only provide excellent offence, but also leadership to the team. He’s currently leading the QMJHL in points (70) and assists (47). During his rookie season, he scored 42 goals, the most goals scored by a rookie since some kid named Sidney Crosby in 2004. He’s predicted to be the top prospect eligible for the 2020 NHL Draft, ranked number one by Elite Prospects, Hockey Prospect, McKeens Hockey, and Future Considerations.

Last year, Lafrenière was the youngest on Team Canada’s roster and scored his only goal in Canada’s 5-1 win over the Czech Republic. He’ll be hoping to take the team a little further into the competition so he can make more of an impact this year.

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Sinclair to lead Canadian women’s team in her fourth Olympics

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Christine Sinclair, the all-time international goal-scoring record holder, was named to her fourth Olympic squad on Wednesday and will headline a Canadian roster at the Tokyo Games that features a mix of veterans and youth.

Led by Sinclair, whose 186 goals for her country are the most by a female or male soccer player worldwide, Canada won medals at both the 2012 and 2016 Olympics and was the only nation to make the podium in both competitions.

“I am looking forward to doing whatever I can to help take this team back to the podium and make history again,” said Canadian captain Sinclair. “Our team is in a good spot, we are excited, we are hungry and we are ready to go.”

The 18-player roster features 12 members of the squad that competed at the 2016 Rio Games while a quintet including Vanessa Gilles, Jayde Riviere, Julia Grosso, Adriana Leon, and Evelyne Viens will be making their Olympic debuts.

Goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan travelled to Rio in 2016 as an alternate.

Canada will kick off their Tokyo 2020 journey when they face Japan on July 21 and continue Group E play against Chile on July 24 and Britain on July 27.

(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto, editing by Ed Osmond)

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Which of the Canadians Picked in the 2021 NFL Draft Will Thrive This Season?

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It was a good NFL Draft for Canadian players in 2021.

Some four stars from north of the border were selected by NFL franchises in the free agency pick ‘em, and that is tied as the highest number of Canadians drafted in the 85-year history of the event.

Of course, the hope is that these young talents are more than just filler and roster depth, but can any of the quartet make the breakthrough into the big time?

Here’s a look at which of the NFL’s newest Canadian additions can shine in 2021/22.

Jevon Holland

The defensive back was the number 36 pick in the Draft by the Miami Dolphins, who beat off a number of rivals in the hunt for the Coquitlam native.

A versatile defender, Holland is a former Jim Thorpe Award semi-finalist thanks to his exploits in the NCAA back in 2019 with the University of Oregon.

He sat out the 2020 campaign, but representatives from dozens of NFL teams were in town to watch Holland go through his paces at the Oregon Pro Day.

The 21-year-old is following in the footsteps of his father Robert, who turned out for the Detroit Lions, and he is expected to force his way into the starting line-up at the Dolphins. And, who knows, maybe Holland could go all the way in his first season, with Miami priced at +2500 in the Super Bowl 2022 American football odds.

Benjamin St-Juste

When you’re six foot three, 205 pounds and still able to run 40 yards in 4.51 seconds, it goes without saying that you have the physical credentials to succeed in the NFL.

Benjamin St-Juste is the man that can, and he will bolster the roster at a Washington Football Team that will be looking to improve upon their playoff showing in 2020.

The 23-year-old may only have been a third-round pick, but he comes with a burgeoning reputation thanks to a successful time at the University of Minnesota. An All-Big Ten special mention in 2019, more than 50 NFL recruitment personnel attended the college’s pro day – largely to catch a glimpse of St-Juste going through his paces.

Both Brian Gutekunst and Jon Robinson made the trip but, in the end, it was Washington who snapped up the powerhouse from the Draft.

Chuba Hubbard

The third Canadian to be drafted in 2021 was Chuba Hubbard, who became the first Canadian running back to be selected from the Draft in 25 years.

It’s the Carolina Panthers who have taken a chance on the 22-year-old and with his credentials, you can see why. Hubbard finished eighth in the voting for the Heisman Trophy in 2019 after a stellar campaign – he served up 2,094 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns, an NCAA best. He was named the Big 12 Conference Offensive Player of the Year.

While running backs are not the hottest of properties in the Draft, Hubbard provably has the talent to cross into the end zone with regularity – the Panthers might just have got their hands on an unheralded gem here.

With these three Canadians taking the step up to the NFL, the future of the sport north of the border looks in safe hands.

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Berrettini ends Murray’s comeback at Queen’s

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Andy Murray‘s grasscourt return was cut short in brutal fashion at Queen’s Club as Italian top seed Matteo Berrettini dished out a 6-3 6-3 defeat to the former world number one on Thursday.

The 34-year-old two-time Wimbledon champion, playing in his first singles tournament on grass for three years, could not handle the ferocious pace of Berrettini as he slid to defeat.

Murray eased past Benoit Paire in his opening match on Tuesday but world number nine Berrettini was too big a step up.

Berrettini’s huge first serve and forehand did most of the damage but the Italian also showed plenty of silky touch on the slick lawns to register his first career win over Murray.

Berrettini, 25, finished the match off with a powerful hold of serve, banging down four massive first serves before sealing victory with a clubbing forehand winner.

He faces British number one Dan Evans in the quarter-final after Evans beat Frenchman Adrian Mannarino.

Murray, a five-time winner of the traditional warm-up event but now ranked 124 after long battles with hip injuries including resurfacing surgery in 2019, has been handed a wildcard for the Wimbledon championships.

Apart from a slight groin niggle, Murray said he was reasonably happy with his condition, considering this was only his third Tour-level tournament of the year.

“I think obviously I need to improve,” Murray told reporters. “I actually felt my movement was actually quite good for both of the matches. My tennis today was not very good today. That’s the thing that I’ll need to improve the most.

“I felt like today that that sort of showed my lack of matches.”

Spanish veteran Feliciano Lopez, who won the singles title in 2019 and the doubles alongside Murray, was beaten 6-2 6-3 by Canada‘s Denis Shapovalov.

(Reporting by Martyn HermanEditing by Toby Davis and Pritha Sarkar)

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