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Eight Canadian players to watch at men’s U18s

Gavin McKenna Gavin McKenna - Rusty Barton/HHOF Images

The IIHF men’s U18 world championships are set to get underway on April 25 as Canada looks for its first gold medal since 2021 when they were led by Connor Bedard and Shane Wright.

The Canadians claimed bronze last year after crashing out in the quarter-finals in 2022.

Watch Canada take on Sweden at the men's U18s LIVE on Thursday at 12 p.m. ET/9 a.m. PT on TSN1/4 and streaming on and the TSN App. 

Canada is bringing 16 players who are eligible for the 2024 NHL Draft in June, several top prospects for the 2025 class, and 16-year-old phenom Gavin McKenna.

While the U18s are a tournament Canada rarely dominates as it coincides with the Canadian Hockey League playoffs, TSN Director of Scouting Craig Button is confident this year’s squad will go far.

“Rarely does Canada enter the U18 tournament with the opportunity to field their best team,” said Button. “But the players that have become available to Canada’s team make them the favourite in my view.”

Here are eight players to watch for Canada.

Gavin McKenna – Medicine Hat Tigers

McKenna is the only player on the Canadian roster eligible for the 2026 NHL Draft, but he had the highest-scoring season of any player on the team. 

The 16-year-old forward had 34 goals and 97 points in 61 games this season as a rookie with the Western Hockey League’s Medicine Hat Tigers, including two goals and six points in five playoff games.

“He’s a terrific player,” said Button. “He’s more playmaker than goal scorer. Brilliant vision [with] 360-degree scanning ability. Speeds the game up, slows the game down.

“[He] keeps defenders right off balance because of his ability, and he can really understand where there’s vulnerability.”

At the U17s in November, he had five goals and eight points in seven games for Canada Red.

Porter Martone – Mississauga Steelheads

As a sophomore in the Ontario Hockey League this season with Mississauga, Martone led the team in goals with 33 and was second in points with 71 in 60 games.

Martone skated at the U18s last year with three goals and six points in seven games as Canada claimed bronze. He also helped Canada win gold at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup in August with five points in five games.

As the lone returning player from last year’s team, Martone will play a much bigger role this time around.

“He’s going to be a frontline player here,” said Button. “He’s one of the best players available for the 2025 NHL Draft. He’s like Corey Perry – he’s got a motor, an edge, and the skills.”

Liam Greentree – Windsor Spitfires

After he led all rookies in goals with 25 last season, Greentree was a bright spot on a rebuilding Spitfires team in 2023-24.

In his second OHL season, Greentree had 36 goals and 90 points in 64 games and was awarded the captaincy on Jan. 13.

Liam Greentree Windsor Spitfires

“He is a power forward,” said Button. “He makes life miserable for defenders because he’s so directed towards the net and the scoring area.

“He does not allow himself to be denied. He’s a good player.”

Greentree was also a part of the golden Hlinka Gretzky Cup team, recording one assist in three games.

Malcolm Spence – Erie Otters

One season after the Otters finished second last in the OHL, Spence helped Erie get back to the playoffs this year, scoring a goal and three assists in six games before being eliminated by the Kitchener Rangers.

In his second season, Spence had 19 goals and 62 points in 66 games.

“He is such a gamer,” said Button. “He’s got great speed, disruptive speed. He pushes defenders out of their strength of their game because his skating is so overwhelmingly strong.”

Eligible for the 2025 NHL Draft, Spence had five points in five games to help Canada win gold at the Hlinka Gretzky in August.

Spencer Gill – Rimouski Oceanic

Gill had just four assists in 41 games as a rookie last season but made a big jump this year, scoring 12 goals and 46 points in 65 games.

He also had five assists in five playoff games as the Oceanic were eliminated in the first round.

Spencer Gill Rimouski Oceanic

The 6-foot-3 defenceman also skated in six games with Canada White at the U17s last season and is eligible for the 2024 draft.

“I don’t even think he knows how good he can be yet, and I think that’s a scary proposition,” said Button of Gill. “He’s a good player, he’s smart. And I think he’s just slowly continuing to find his way and trying to say, ‘Okay I can do more.’”

Roger McQueen – Brandon Wheat Kings

McQueen went from four goals as a rookie in 2022-23 to 21 goals and 51 points in 53 games this season as a sophomore.

The 6-foot-5 forward also added four goals and an assist as the Wheat Kings were swept in the first round of the playoffs by the Moose Jaw Warriors.

“He’s big and talented,” said Button. “He’s like a pony, he had to find his way and boy, has he found his way this year in Brandon.

“It’s one thing to have size but he’s got this skill and I think as the physical maturity has come about, he’s more assertive.”

The 17-year-old helped Canada win gold at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup with seven points in five games and is eligible for the 2025 NHL Draft.

Maxim Massé – Chicoutimi Sagueneens

Another member of the golden Hlinka Gretzky Cup team, Massé had 36 goals and 75 points in 67 games this season with Chicoutimi.

The 17-year-old was recently awarded the Michael-Bossy Trophy as the top professional prospect in the QMJHL.

Maxime Masse Chicoutimi Sagueneens

“Maxim is so balanced in his play,” said Button. “You can play him on the power play and the penalty kill. You can put him net front, he’ll grind the puck out of the corners, he can play on the rush. He knows how to contribute to the game.”

Massé is eligible for the 2024 draft in June and was ranked No. 30 by Button on his March list.

Tij Iginla – Kelowna Rockets

Iginla broke out as a second-year player in his first season with the Rockets, scoring 47 goals and 84 points in 64 games, edging his Hockey Hall of Famer father Jarome’s draft-eligible season in 1994-95 (33 goals and 71 points in 72 games).

Iginla had nine goals and 15 points in the playoffs as Kelowna was eliminated in the second round by the Prince George Cougars.

Button compares Iginla to Boston Bruins captain Brad Marchand not for his edge, but rather his impact on all facets of the game. 

“When I talk about Tij having that type of game, I’m talking about the impact that he has everywhere on the ice,” said Button. “The obvious, the subtle, the nuances. He’s so good.”

As a rookie last season with the Seattle Thunderbirds, he won a WHL championship and helped Canada earn silver at the U17s.

Button has Iginla at No. 10 on his March draft rankings.