Hockey Canada wrapped up its summer development camp for under-18 and under-20 players in Tsuut'ina Nation, Alta., earlier this week. Here are 10 takeaways as Team Canada gears up for the 2022 World Juniors in Edmonton and Red Deer.
Kaiden Guhle is ready to lead the way to redemption
How long did it take Guhle to get over the 2-0 loss to Team USA in last year’s gold-medal game?
"I don't think I'm over it yet," the Prince Albert Raiders defenceman admitted. "Probably not a day where I don’t think about it. That was a pretty heartbreaking loss, even for the guys who weren't there. They still feel the pain. Any time you lose the gold medal the whole country feels it."
Guhle is eager for a shot at redemption and ready to take on a leadership role.
There are five players eligible to return for Team Canada, but Kings forward Quinton Byfield and Ducks defenceman Jamie Drysdale appear likely to be in the National Hockey League and didn’t attend the summer camp. As a result, TSN Director of Scouting Craig Button says Guhle is his choice to wear the 'C' for Canada. The Canadiens prospect watched Montreal's playoff run closely and was inspired by Shea Weber.
"That's the kind of leader I want to be like," Guhle said. "It looks like he doesn’t say a whole lot, but he does everything the right way and the guys follow him."
Cole Perfetti's development was accelerated by professional experience
With Byfield likely in Los Angeles, Perfetti may be Canada's only returnee up front. After settling for silver in the Edmonton bubble, the Jets prospect spent the rest of the year playing with professionals, producing 26 points in 32 games with the Manitoba Moose in the American Hockey League.
Perfetti feels like a stronger and faster player now.
"Playing in the A, it kind of forces you," he explained. "If you're not moving your feet and playing at a certain speed you're not going to be able to make plays or be able to keep up. I think naturally you just develop being able to play at that high speed."
Perfetti, who will turn 20 on Jan. 1, also benefitted from being part of Canada's gold-medal run at the World Championship in Latvia.
"There are a lot of winning habits that I developed and learned from being there," he said.
Perfetti has the gold medal on display at his home.
"I got the World Junior silver and Hlinka silver on the left and right of it, and sometimes I go in there and look and remember how I don't ever want to feel what it was like to get a silver again," he said. "I want that gold feeling so a little bit of motivation for sure."
Kent Johnson would be a great fit alongside Perfetti
Johnson seems ready for a prime-time role. The Michigan Wolverines forward lined up at centre during the camp and was the star of the final game, recording two goals and three assists.
"He has great poise," noted Dave Cameron, Canada's head coach. "He sees the ice really well and distributes the puck really well, but also has a sneaky shot too. Just real good offensive instincts and he wants the puck."
The fifth-overall pick in July's draft made a crafty play in overtime Tuesday night drawing in two defenders and setting up fellow Blue Jacket prospect Corson Ceulemans for the winning goal.
"Just entered the zone and tried to suck two guys to me," said Johnson. "Cooly was busting in there and I tossed it to space."
"His ability to find plays that other players might not find and create something out of nothing, he's really special that way," Ceulemans said.
Button's projected roster features a top line of Johnson between Perfetti and Hurricanes prospect Seth Jarvis.
Johnson actually started the camp on a line with Perfetti and made an immediate impression.
"Super skilled," Perfetti observed following the first practice. "He can really think the game. It was really fun to play with someone like that. I had never met him before, so it was nice to kind of put a face to his name."
Shane Wright envisions a big role
It was a relatively quiet camp for Wright, at least by his lofty standards, but the Kingston Frontenacs centre made it clear what his expectations are for the World Junior team.
"I feel like I can have a huge role," the 17-year-old said. "I have experience being at the [selection] camp last year and going through that and the U18s as well. I'm hoping to bring those experiences and be a leader."
Wright captained Canada to a gold medal at the World Under-18 Championship earlier this year producing 14 points in just five games.
"For his age, he's almost a consummate pro now," said Ottawa 67's general manager James Boyd, who heads up Hockey Canada's management group. "He brings it every day. He's good in all three zones. For the level of the skill, you know, the attention to detail in all areas of ice is really, really impressive. He's mature beyond his years. The way he carries himself, it's something to see."
Wright, who received exceptional player status allowing him to suit up in the Ontario Hockey League at age 15, scored 39 goals in 58 games as a rookie with Kingston.
"The thing about Shane is he's always been playing up one, two and in some cases three age groups, so it's not foreign to him," Boyd noted. "He’s got a lot of confidence and he’s proven himself as a player so the situation is prime [for him to make an impact]."
"I love high expectations," said Wright, who is on course to be the top pick in the 2022 NHL draft. "I like playing with the pressure. I think that's something I thrive under so I'm fine with it. I enjoy it."
Connor Bedard can make this team
Button is projecting Bedard, the first player to receive exceptional status in the Western Hockey League, will become the first 16-year-old to crack Canada's World Junior roster since Connor McDavid in 2014.
"He's an unbelievable talent, such a skilled guy and a great person as well," said Wright. "He definitely has a shot.”
"It wouldn't surprise me at all," said Peterborough Petes centre Mason McTavish, who roomed with Bedard at the World Under-18 Championship. "He's capable of it."
Added Guhle, "We came to watch him when we first got here and he made a shot out of every single angle. He's so good at changing angles."
Bedard produced 28 points in 15 games with the Regina Pats last season and then scored seven goals and added seven assists in seven games at the World Under-18 Championship.
"His hockey sense is extremely high," said Alan Millar, Hockey Canada's director of player personnel. "He's deceptive in his pace in terms of controlling the game, slowing the game down, and then bursting through seams. But, on top of that, he has the intangibles in terms of will and determination."
One moment, in particular, stands out.
"When he missed the penalty shot in the gold-medal game at the World Under-18, you could see he came out on the ice the next shift with a purpose and scored an outstanding goal to tie the game," Millar said.
"I was mad," Bedard recalled. "I missed and there was 10 of these little Russian kids screaming at me, so that definitely did fire me up. I didn't want to go out on that. The [Russian] goal before was probably my fault too, so just a bad turn of events and I really wanted to get one."
Bedard will have to earn his ticket to Edmonton. At the summer camp, he was skating with the under-18 group, but the World Juniors are absolutely on his radar.
"It's kind of in the back of your head," he acknowledged. "All I can do right now is just play my hardest and try to impress the people that are making that decision."
Zachary L'Heureux and Ridly Greig can drive an energy line
L'Heureux scored in all three games at the camp and also made his presence felt with physical play.
"I thought I had a great camp," the Halifax Mooseheads left winger said. "I did everything in my power to show everybody what I can do … I opened a lot of eyes so, moving forward, I think I'm a guy they definitely have on the radar."
Picked by the Predators 27th overall in July’s draft, L'Heureux models his game after Mathew Tkachuk and Brad Marchand and sometimes lets his emotions get the better of him. He was suspended four times in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League last season, but there's no question he injects energy into a team.
"Compete level is something that’s been with me my whole life," he said. "I don’t think I need much to motivate me. I know the guys that were drafted in front of me and I want to prove everybody wrong. So, that’s the mindset I'm going to show up to camp with, show up to next season with, and make sure when people see me they regret the decision to not pick me."
Button's projected roster features L'Heureux and Greig on the fourth line and that duo could drive other teams nuts. Greig racked up 32 points and 39 penalty minutes 21 games with the Brandon Wheat Kings last season.
Greig's physical play will pack an even greater punch if he's able to bulk up. The Lethbridge, Alta. native was listed at 164 pounds at the camp and wants to get to 175 by the start of the next season.
"It's pretty tough," the Ottawa Senators prospect admitted. "I pretty much eat all day and the weight is kind of on its own page right now. Hopefully I can get there ... I can eat junk food and chocolate cake. I definitely spent a lot of money on chocolate this summer."
Sebastian Cossa is the favourite to be the starter
One of the players eligible to return for Team Canada is Kamloops goalie Dylan Garand, who backed up Devon Levi at last year's event. But Button sees Cossa as the favourite to win the starting job.
Cossa has never played for Team Canada at an international event, but believes he's ready for the moment. He says pressure makes him play better.
"It's in Edmonton, which is close to my home in Fort McMurray so a lot of friends and family would be able to be there and the pressure would be the tops. I couldn't think of a better place for it be," he said.
Cossa posted a 17-1-1 record and .941 save percentage with the Oil Kings last season and was the first goalie picked (15th overall) in July's NHL draft. The building in Edmonton that will host the World Juniors is also his home rink in the WHL. What's his comfort level in that barn?
"I'd say 10 out of 10. I love it," he said with a big smile. "I couldn't think of a better spot to have my first real international stage."
Cossa is an imposing figure in the crease. Listed as 6-foot-6 and a half last season, Cossa is now up to 6-foot-7.
"There's not a lot of net to look at," said Jarvis, who plays for Portland in the WHL. "When you're coming down you kind of shoot and hope he moves the wrong way. He's a monster in net."
"He's a big boy, for sure," said Hockey Canada goaltending consultant Olivier Michaud. "He covers a lot of net and he's pretty agile for his size."
The big goalie also has a big mouth.
"He chirps the other team and the other goalie and he really has no mercy," said Dylan Guenther, Cossa's teammate in Edmonton.
When Guenther failed to convert on a shootout attempt at the summer camp, Cossa let him hear it.
"A lot bragging rights coming my way," Cossa said with a grin.
Brandt Clarke is having a good time
The blueline may end up providing Team Canada management with their greatest question marks at the final selection camp in December. Button only felt comfortable projecting four defencemen (Guhle, Michigan's Owen Power, Moose Jaw's Daemon Hunt and Clarke) on his roster.
Clarke is the only right shot among those four. The Barrie Colt posted seven points in seven games at the World Under-18 Championship and was also responsible for Canada's goal song: 'Nothin’ But A Good Time,' by Poison.
"I'm a big rock guy and that was on my playlist," Clarke revealed. "That chorus, 'Nothin' but a good time,' fires me up every time I'm in my car and I thought it'd be good for the boys. I threw that in the group chat and everyone loved it."
Forwards tend to love it when Clarke is on the ice. He makes things happen and that was the case throughout Canada's summer camp. He scored in the opening game on a play that saw him end up below the hashmarks in the offensive zone.
"It was a blocked shot and they started turning up the ice and their forward wasn't really checking so I just kind of stepped in front of him and we went on a quick three-on-one. I drove and got it to [Zayde] Wisdom and he threw it back to L'Heureux and he took a one-timer and it was just sitting there for me to chip it in."
Clarke posted three assists in Tuesday's finale.
The 18-year-old seemed even more energetic than usual at the camp. Perhaps he was still riding a wave of adrenaline from the draft. The Kings made Clarke the No. 8 pick.
"Anze Kopitar reached out to me," Clarke said. "He signed it 'AK11' in his text and I was like, 'Who is this?' And then it snapped in and I was like, 'Oh my God!' That was a cool moment. I was like sitting in a breakfast diner when that happened. I screamed. It was pretty funny."
Cameron gets a second chance.
Cameron was the head coach at the 2011 World Juniors when Canada squandered a 3-0 lead in the third period of the gold-medal game against Russia.
"It was a heart-wrenching defeat," he said. "I never thought I'd get the chance again and now that I got it, I'm really excited. So, yes, there's some unfinished business. The disappointment of that took me a long time, I don't know if 'get over it' is the right term, but to let go."
When incumbent World Junior coach Andre Tourigny was hired by the Arizona Coyotes on July 1, the job opened up. Boyd, who was on Cameron's staff when he coached Mississauga in the OHL, reached out to his old friend.
"It came together extremely quickly," Boyd said. "It's fortunate that Dave and I worked together and have been in constant communication over the years. He's up to date on what's on the scene here in Canada. He always has been."
"He was asking me about a few guys he was interviewing for the job," Cameron said. "Out of the blue he asked me if I'd be interested. I said, 'Well, I always listen.'"
Added Boyd, "When the opportunity arose for the national junior team, that's something Dave's not going to say, 'No,' to."
Cameron, a former bench boss of the Ottawa Senators, spent the past three years coaching the Vienna Capitals in Austria.
"From the last time I did it to this time, there's a lot of experience [gained]," said Cameron, who celebrated his 63rd birthday during the camp. "I'm a lot more relaxed this time."
Adam Fantilli took advantage of a unique camp format.
The camp saw the under-18 group join the under-20 group at the Seven Chiefs Sportsplex. And the rosters were actually combined for the last two days. The coaching staff held a draft to create four different teams featuring players from both age groups.
"We made a difficult decision earlier in the year that we would not play international competition this summer, so that meant no Ivan Hlinka for our under-18s," explained Scott Salmond, Hockey Canada's senior vice-president of hockey operations.
"This under-18 group also missed the under-17s [event], so we wanted to make sure we had an opportunity for them to learn about Hockey Canada, the Canadian way, and there's no better way to do that than to merge them with our under-20s to get some mentorship there."
Fantilli, the MVP of the USHL playoffs last season, took full advantage of the opportunity. The Chicago Steel centre scored twice and earned player-of-the game honours on the camp's final day, helping Team Louis Robitaille pick up a win.
"He's a guy I was intrigued by," said Robitaille, who is the head coach and general manager of the Gatineau Olympiques and will serve as an assistant at the World Juniors. "I didn't know much about him. I watched him in practice and was really impressed. He's a guy who's really mature. He plays the right way. He's a big boy, who skates well. As soon as he gets the puck, it's on and off his stick. He's a guy with a high IQ and he was excited for that challenge to play with the U20 guys ... and wanted to prove himself and that's what he did."