According to EliteProspects.com, this is the youngest Team Canada ever at the World Juniors with an average age of 18.61 years.
“Everyone here deserves to be here,” Hockey Canada management group leader Mark Hunter said. “That’s what we looked at, who can play the best, and we evaluated from summertime to here. We put (age) aside, we picked who has the most talent and who can help the team win.”
The World Juniors have long been viewed as a 19-year-old event and Canada’s deep talent pool usually makes it tough for under-agers to crack the roster, but this year, Canada actually has four first-year, draft-eligible players. On the eve of the tournament, Hunter offered TSN a scouting report on his youngest players starting with returnee Alexis Lafrenière.
Lafrenière was benched during last year’s World Juniors and ended up only playing a depth role in Vancouver. This year, the Rimouski left winger is on the top line and top power play unit.
“He’s grown up,” Hunter observed of the reigning CHL player of the year. “He plays a real good two-way game now, he understands what needs to be done to win hockey games, how to win games … he sees he’s got to play both ends of the ice.”
Quinton Byfield is challenging Lafreniere atop this year’s draft class and will also start in a top-six role. A natural centre, the six-foot-four Byfield has been skating on the left wing on a line with Arizona’s Barrett Hayton and Lethbridge’s Dylan Cozens.
“He’s looked good,” said Hunter. “He’s a young man that’s really taken all this stuff in and we hope for good things for him in this tournament, but only time’s going to tell.”
“It’s hard to believe he’s that young,” Hayton said. “Obviously, he looks like a man out there the way he shields the puck, protects the puck and the way he can take over a game is impressive. His hockey sense is something that’s not really talked out, but he has a great feel for the game.”
Jamie Drysdale is a rare 17-year-old to make Canada on defence (only the seventh since 1991) and while he started each pre-tournament game as the seventh defenceman, the Erie Otter looked at ease at this level and has potential to carve out a bigger role.
“His skating does wonders for him,” Hunter noted. “I think he plays like a Victor Mete, who just skates and does things and keeps pucks out of our zone. His gaps are excellent so he’s really done a great job to present himself here and just continue to get better and better.”
Drummondville forward Dawson Mercer wasn’t invited to the World Junior Showcase in the summer, but used to a strong performance in the QMJHL Russia series games to catapult himself into the conversation. On the bubble until the final cut, Mercer scored in Canada’s first pre-tournament game against the Swiss.
“I like his intelligence,” Hunter said. “He makes intelligent plays. I feel like he plays two ways, which we wanted and he’s continued to get better since Day 1 of camp and hopefully he can continue to do that and win some big games for us.”
While the NHL is getting younger and younger, Hunter doesn’t necessarily believe this is the start of a new trend for Hockey Canada at the World Juniors.
“It just depends on the years,” he said. “You know what, every year is different so we’ll see next year what age it is. We have a lot of 18-year-olds playing this year and there’s going to be a lot … playing as 19-year-olds in Edmonton (next year) so that can happen, we’ll have to see. The bottom line is we picked these players based on who’s the best, did a lot of evaluation on them and that’s the conclusion we came up with.”
Before turning in each night, Team Canada’s players turn in their phones to the team staff.
“The players understand they need to get to sleep, but do their friends? Do their families?” asked Hockey Canada director of men’s national teams Shawn Bullock. “Does everyone back home understand there is that major time change? We started explaining that in the summer, why we do those things and how important it’s going to be over here to get that quality of sleep, no disruptions with phones buzzing or anything of that nature.”
Defenceman Kevin Bahl is grateful for the policy, especially since his NHL rights were traded in a deal that broke around 11 pm in Vienna where Team Canada was training.
“If I had my phone I would’ve been up to 3 am so it’s good,” he said, “in my eyes at least.”
But, not everyone is a fan.
“My girlfriend doesn’t like it too much,” said goalie Nico Daws with a laugh. “But, no, it’s good. Sleep’s very important. Anything to get an upper hand in this tournament and it definitely helps.”
“It’s critical for these guys to get their rest so they can perform at an elite level,” Bullock concluded. “This tournament happens real fast and at an elite level and we need to be fresh.”
Canada’s goaltending situation is coming into focus. Dale Hunter has confirmed that Moncton’s Olivier Rodrigue, who was scratched in both pre-tournament games, will start as the third goalie.
The coach wasn’t ready to name a starter after Monday’s game, but Daws appears to have a leg up. He didn’t allow a goal in regulation or overtime in his two exhibition appearances and owns a .939 save percentage with Guelph this season.
“I felt really good, really confident,” said Daws after the win over Finland. “They have a good team over there, the Finns move the puck well and I thought I did a good job in the half I played. My mindset’s pretty strong, still the same as when I came, play my game and have fun with it and I’m having a lot of fun out there and the results are showing.”
After splitting a shutout with Daws in the first pre-tournament game, Portland’s Joel Hofer allowed three goals against the Finns, two in regulation and one in overtime.
“I’ve laid it all out on the line,” he said. “You can’t save them all so it’s not the end of the world. I’ll learn from it and move on.”
Daws had never played for Team Canada before this camp and a Boxing Day showdown against the Americans would undoubtedly be the biggest moment in his career.
“You try not to think about it too much,” Daws said. “I mean, obviously the whole country is watching and more and there’s a lot of stress in those games and a lot of pressure but, once again, I’m just here to have fun and play hockey.”
Cole Caufield scored 14 goals in six games at the under-18 World Championship earlier this year, tying Alexander Ovechkin for the tournament record. Does that MVP performance give him confidence heading into his first World Juniors?
“That’s in the past now, I think there’s a lot of things I need to prove in this tournament too,” the Montreal Canadiens first-rounder said. “I just want to prove that I’m one of the guys that can lead the team in different ways than just scoring.”
But scoring is what Caufield does the best and he appears to be riding a wave of momentum heading into the World Juniors having potted four goals in a final tune-up game against the Germans on Monday.
“When a goal scorer’s scoring that’s a good thing,” USA coach Scott Sandelin said. “He loves to do that and it was a good game for him to have for confidence. It’s going to get tougher, but he finds ways. He has that smile on his face and hopefully we can keep that on there with him scoring in the tournament for us.”
Caufield always finds a way despite standing just 5-foot-7, 163 pounds. He has produced 12 goals in 18 games as a freshman with the University of Wisconsin this season. Last year, he set a new single-season USA National Development Program record with 72 goals.
“He just finds those soft areas,” Sandelin observed, “just knowing where pucks are going and being in the right spot or getting there at the right time is a real key to his success around the net.”
“The pucks find him,” noted goalie Spencer Knight, “and he finishes up close, he can finish from back far, he can take one-timers off the rush, he also can make passes too.”
Caufield has a swagger about him. Asked about Daws, he says he doesn’t know anything about the goalie, who burst onto the scene this season after getting passed over in the NHL draft. And Caufield doesn’t plan on doing any extra scouting.
“It’s all about instincts,” he insisted. “I mean, if the goalie can’t see it, he’s not going to be able to stop it.”
Caufield says the Boxing Day showdown with Canada will be the biggest game he’s ever played in.
“I’ve been looking forward to this for a long time,” he said.
What stands out about the rivalry with Canada?
“Just the history of everything, just the US-Canada bloodbath, even in the summer when played them it was kind of getting chippy, it’s never not intense.”
Sandelin lists Caufield and Nick Robertson as the best performers in his team’s shootout work so far. It was Robertson, Toronto’s top pick in June’s draft, who won the internal competition at Tuesday’s practice.
“Unbelievable,” Caufield said of Robertson. “He pulls off some crazy moves. I think it just comes natural to him. He’s done some things in practice and the pre-tournament games that have just been eye-opening to me. He’s so skilled and so smart, it’s incredible.”
“I like shootouts,” Robertson said. “I have go-to moves and luckily it worked out.”
How many go-to moves does he have?
“More than one, that’s for sure,” Robertson said with a grin. “You got to read the goalie and hopefully it works.”
Sandelin says Team USA has worked on shootouts “two or three times” and will do it at least once more.
Team Canada is scheduled to hold a practice at 2:30 pm (8:30 am ET) on Christmas Day.
Tom Brady is defying age — and belief – CBC.ca
This is an excerpt from The Buzzer, which is CBC Sports’ daily email newsletter. Stay up to speed on what’s happening in sports by subscribing here.
Here’s what you need to know right now from the world of sports:
It wouldn’t be a Super Bowl without Tom Brady
For all the upheaval we’ve experienced lately in sports and in life, there remains a near constant: Tom Brady in the Super Bowl. The age-defying quarterback made it back for the fifth time in seven years by helping Tampa Bay upset Green Bay 31-26 in yesterday’s NFC championship game. Brady will now try to knock off Kansas City and reigning Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes after they stamped out Buffalo’s magical run with a dominating 38-24 win in the AFC title game.
We’ll have plenty to say about the Super Bowl matchup as the Feb. 7 game gets closer. But, for today, let’s just appreciate Brady.
This is the 20th Super Bowl matchup since Brady became an NFL starter in 2001 and, come two weeks, he’ll have played in 10 of them. He went 6-3 and won four Super Bowl MVPs with New England. And now, after just one year in his new conference, Brady owns as many NFC titles as fellow future-hall-of-famer Aaron Rodgers has managed in 13 years as Green Bay’s starter.
Did we mention Brady is 43 years old? Sure, he looked it at times yesterday, throwing three interceptions. But he also tossed three touchdown passes — the eighth time since the season started that he’s had at least that many in a game.
How wild is that for someone his age? Well, before this, there was exactly one instance in NFL history of a player past his 43rd birthday throwing at least three TD passes in a game. And that happened a half-century ago. George Blanda, who had transitioned from QB to kicker in his old age, came on in relief of Oakland’s injured starter and threw three TDs to beat Pittsburgh in Week 6 of the 1970 season.
Which is all to say, there’s no precedent for what Brady is doing right now. He’s not just defying age. He’s defying belief. Read more about how Tampa Bay and Kansas City reached the Super Bowl here.
The Edmonton Football Team’s head coach quit before he even coached a game. Scott Milanovich resigned today to, as the CFL team put it, “pursue NFL opportunities.” He’s reportedly joining the Indianapolis Colts as their quarterbacks coach after the guy who had that job was promoted to offensive co-ordinator. Edmonton hired Milanovich as its head coach after the 2019 season, and the 2020 campaign was wiped out by the pandemic. Read more here.
And in case you missed it…
A few more things from the weekend that you should know about:
Canada’s speed skaters can’t be trusted. Oh, they’re fine people and all. But they told us not to expect any medals from them at the long-track World Cup season opener in the Netherlands. Save for a two-week training camp back in the fall, the Canadian team had no opportunities to train on a proper oval since the pandemic hit, forcing them to resort to short tracks and outdoor ice to prepare for the shortened season. So of course they showed up to the Netherlands and promptly won five medals — including a gold by Ivanie Blondin, Isabelle Weidemann and Valérie Maltais in Friday’s women’s team pursuit. Read more about the haul and watch highlights here.
Reece Howden had himself a weekend. The 22-year-old Canadian won back-to-back men’s World Cup ski cross events in Sweden on Saturday and Sunday. He now has three victories and four podium finishes in seven races this season and sits atop the World Cup standings by a wide margin. Canada’s Marielle Thompson is second in the women’s chase after reaching the podium for the fifth time this season on Sunday. Read more about the women’s and men’s races and watch highlights here.
Conor McGregor got knocked out. The UFC’s biggest star hadn’t fought in a year and was making just his third appearance in the octagon since 2017. But he was expected to beat Dustin Poirier for the second time in his career and bolster his case for luring undefeated Khabib Nurmagomedov out of retirement for a megafight. Instead, Poirier spoiled McGregor’s (and the UFC’s) plans by dropping him with a flurry of punches to score a shocking second-round KO on Saturday night. Read more about the upset here.
Patrik Laine got traded. Winnipeg swapped him for another talented young player who wanted a change of scenery, sending Laine and Jack Roslovic to Columbus for Pierre-Luc Dubois and a third-round pick. Laine averaged about 35 goals over his first four NHL seasons and is still only 22. But he’s wanted out of Winnipeg for a while and, with his contract set to expire after this season, the Jets didn’t seem all that interested in convincing him to stay. Dubois was the third-overall pick in 2016 and looked like a promising player the last two seasons. He scored 27 goals in 2018-19 and had 18 in pandemic-shortened 2019-20. But he asked for a trade after his relationship with fiery Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella soured. Read more about the deal and why Laine wanted a fresh start here.
Coming up on CBC Sports
Alpine skiing: The World Cup season continues Tuesday with a women’s giant slalom in Italy starting at 4:30 a.m. ET and a men’s slalom in Austria starting at 11:45 a.m. ET. Watch both two-run races live on CBCSports.ca and the CBC Sports app.
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UFC 257 medical suspensions: Conor McGregor possibly out for six months – MMA Fighting
Conor McGregor may have headlined the first UFC pay-per-view of the year, but it could be a while before we see “The Notorious” in action again.
In the lightweight main event of UFC 257 on Saturday in Abu Dhabi, McGregor lost by second-round TKO to Dustin Poirier. His downfall was preceded by several stinging leg kicks and that was reflected in the official medical suspensions list from mixedmartialarts.com.
McGregor requires a negative result from an X-ray on his right tibia/fibula, or else he will be suspended for 180 days. Poirier was only handed a seven-day suspension for mandatory rest.
Two other fighters are also potentially facing six-month suspensions, lightweight Matt Frevola (right hand) and middleweight Andrew Sanchez (nasal, left tibia/fibula). Both require negative X-rays on their injured areas to avoid the maximum suspension.
See the full list of UFC 257 medical suspensions below:
Dustin Poirier: Suspended seven days (mandatory rest)
Conor McGregor: Must receive clearance on negative result from X-ray on right tibia/fibula or no contest for 180 days; minimum suspension no contest for 45 days, no contact for 30 days due to TKO
Michael Chandler: Suspended seven days (mandatory rest)
Dan Hooker: Suspended 45 days for TKO, 30 days no contact
Joanne Calderwood: Suspended seven days (mandatory rest)
Jessica Eye: Suspended 45 days for left eye brow laceration
Makhmud Muradov: Suspended 30 days for hard bout, 21 days no contact
Andrew Sanchez: Must receive clearance on negative result from X-ray on nasal and right tibia/fibula or no contest for 180 days; minimum suspension no contest for 45 days, no contact for 30 days due to TKO
Marina Rodriguez: Suspended seven days (mandatory rest)
Amanda Ribas: 45 days for TKO, 30 days no contact
Arman Tsarukyan: 30 days for left brow and scalp laceration, 21 days no contact
Matt Frevola: Must receive clearance on negative result from X-ray on right hand or no contest for 180 days; minimum suspension no contest for 30 days, no contact for 21 days
Brad Tavares: Suspended seven days (mandatory rest)
Antonio Carlos Junior: Suspended 30 days for hard bout, 21 days no contact
Julianna Pena: Suspended seven days (mandatory rest)
Sara McMann: Suspended 30 days for hard bout, 21 days no contact
Marcin Prachnio: Suspended 30 days for hard bout, 21 days no contact
Khalil Rountree: Suspended 30 days for left ankle pain, 21 days no contact
Movsar Evloev: Suspended seven days (mandatory rest)
Nik Lentz: Suspended 45 days for right eye brow laceration, 30 days no contact
Amir Albazi: Suspended 30 days for hard bout, 21 days no contact
Zhalgas Zhumagulov: Suspended 30 days for hard bout, 21 days no contact
Canucks’ quiet leader Sutter makes presence known in steadying performance – Sportsnet.ca
During the Canucks’ alarming start to the National Hockey League season, when attention has understandably been focussed on Elias Pettersson’s inability to score, J.T. Miller’s problems at even strength and the overall chaos on defence caused by turnovers, Sutter and a couple of other players near the bottom of the lineup have quietly been among the team’s best.
Monday, he wasn’t so quiet.
At the start of a very important week for the Canucks, Sutter scored his first NHL hat trick in his 735th game. Fellow grinder Tyler Motte also scored as Vancouver built an early lead and won 7-1 against the Ottawa Senators to ease, for at least a couple of days, some of the tension on the West Coast.
With conjecture percolating about the future of general manager Jim Benning, it felt perfectly scripted that Sutter, one of Benning’s least popular acquisitions, should score a hat trick to steady the team and take some of the heat off the GM.
Sutter is a pro’s pro, a guy who leads by example. But he was oversold to the market when he was acquired by Benning in 2015, and has struggled to stay healthy and score for most of the five years since then.
Teammates, however, love him.
“You never know when you’re going to get one or if you’re going to get one,” Sutter, 30, said after scoring once in each period. “It only took me 13 years. I’m pretty excited. It was a good win for our team… a little bit of confidence for our team going forward.”
It was a game that generated a lot of positive vibes for the Canucks. Rookie defenceman Olli Juoelvi scored his first NHL goal, rookie forward Nils Hoglander impressively set up Tanner Pearson on another, and Thatcher Demko made 34 saves in easily the best performance by a Vancouver goalie so far.
“It was enough is enough for me,” Demko said, relieved to improve on his 0-3 record and .866 save percentage. “First three starts of the year and not getting a win, that’s tough. That’s not the guy I want to be. I want to be a guy that’s going to get wins when the team needs it.
“(It was) the goals that I was giving up at the times I was. That was something that I really wanted to focus on. Just timely saves, making sure that when they do get chances… that I can come up big and kind of give the team a chance to pull away.”
With his team up 2-0, Demko stopped Connor Brown on a breakaway late in the first period. In the second, his point-blank save on Artem Anisimov immediately preceded Sutter’s shorthanded snipe that made it 4-1. Demko made another strong save against Josh Norris at the end of the middle period, allowing his team to comfortably go into the third and pull away.
But he was still happier for Sutter than he was for himself.
“One of the reasons why you play the game is moments like that,” Demko said. “You know he’s been around the league 13 years now, and you’re not sure if you’re going to get one. Everyone’s just really excited for him, giving him some hugs after the game.”
Demko and Braden Holtby have largely had a free pass during the Canucks’ poor start because there were so many other, more serious, problems.
But on Monday, the team was much better in front of him – albeit against a weaker opponent – and Demko provided goaltending you can win with. The Canucks need a lot more if it.
They could use more of the perfect penalty killing they had against the Senators, more of the positional discipline and composure they displayed, too. Hey, if Pettersson and the first line can start dominating at even-strength the way they did last season, everything will be fine.
“Everyone just needs to simplify,” Sutter said. “I know it sounds a little bit cliche. But when you do the right things system-wise and play the right way as a team, that’s when your highly-skilled guys kind of find their game and take over. That’s where they create their offence.”
The Senators are the only team in the Canadian division universally regarded as worse than the Canucks, and this was only one win. The Canucks are still 3-5-0. But players seeking confidence have something to build on. It’s a start.
The Canucks and Senators play again Wednesday and Thursday at Rogers Arena.
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