The Canadian national junior team was shut out of a medal for the first time in 15 years in Ufa, Russia last year and have gone without gold since 2009 in Ottawa. It's a different approach for Hockey Canada this year, with 25 players invited to the World Junior Selection Camp and 22 making the team.
With the roster virtually set, TSN Director of Scouting Craig Button was on TSN Radio 1050 and Off The Record on Tuesday to dissect the strengths and weakness of the team.
"Depth and wealth of winning experience, not just internationally but within their own leagues," Button said of this year's team's strengths. "You have players who have won Memorial Cups, participated in Memorials Cups, as well as winning gold medals at the international level. When you go into this type of tournament, you need players who will not capsize when you get into the rough patches. They have too many players who have been through it and succeeded."
Asked how much can we expect from youngster Conner McDavid and how he will look away from his OHL club, the Erie Otters, and play with the elite players, Button said he wouldn't underestimate the 16-year-old.
"Last April at the Under-18 tournament, he was two years younger than everybody else and was probably two times better than everybody there," said Button. "He was the best player by far. You are talking about a young man who is 16-years-old that understands a couple of things that go beyond the obvious skill. He understands the situations he is in and understands how to play them, given his capabilities and understanding that he is a little bit younger and that this is an elite level of hockey.
"Connor McDavid can play defence, he can play two-ways, he can score, and he can set up plays. I don't want to start saying 'expect the earth, the moon, and the stars' from him, but I can tell you this; Connor McDavid is more than capable at this level and is playing very well."
McDavid is considered an OHL phenom, who was drafted first overall in the 2012 OHL entry draft and scored 66 points for the Otters in 63 games during his rookie season. The Richmond Hill, ON, native already has 45 points in 27 games with the Otters this season.
Notable players who were not named to the selection camp include Max Domi, who was selected 12th overall in the 2013 NHL Draft by the Phoenix Coyotes, and Darnell Nurse, selected seventh overall by the Edmonton Oilers in this year's draft.
Button pointed out that neither are the first to not get invited to a team or make the team as 18-year-olds, and that it's not the end of the world for them.
"I am still high on (Domi) and if there were 38 players invited, we would not be having this discussion. The next discussion would be; can he make the team?" said Button. "Head coach Brent Sutter really understands what he wants and who he feels fits his team. When they hired Sutter, everybody knew the deal. I don't want to suggest he is black and white because that is not the right way to put it, but he is very clear about where he wants players to play, how he wants them to play, and the types of players that fit.
"There are a lot of really good players who did not get invited and when you have only 25 players invited that is what is going to happen," continued Button. "For Sutter, Canada has not won a gold medal in a number of years, so with a lack of success, so to speak, some changes come and certainly Sutter has instituted that."
On the team's weakness, Button said there are few. He said the defence needs to learn how to play as a group and as pairs.
"You have to defend on the big ice and you have to be able to transition quickly on the big ice. Sutter is perfectly suited to doing that. He has always had success with a group of defenceman and they are going to be key to this team's success."
Sutter will need to release two forwards and one defenceman from the selection camp roster before the tournament begins.
TSN's World Junior coverage continues on Wednesday with the World Junior Countdown Show at 10:30pm et/7:30pm pt. James Duthie hosts the 30-minute special alongside Hockey Insider Bob McKenzie, as they set the table for Team Canada's selection camp, which kicks off on Dec. 12. Duthie and McKenzie will break down, position by position, how the team might look.
TSN has complete live coverage of the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championship from Dec. 26 to Jan. 5, with pre-competition games beginning Friday, Dec. 20.
Follow the World Juniors tournament with multi-platform coverage on TSN, TSN.ca, and TSN Radio.