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Young stars Fantilli and Bedard headline Button's projected WJC roster

Adam Fantilli Adam Fantilli - Michigan Wolverines

Connor Bedard and Adam Fantilli aren’t just the youngest players on TSN Director of Scouting Craig Button’s 2023 World Juniors pre-selection camp roster, they’re also carrying the biggest expectations.

Although the World Juniors is often regarded as a 19-year-old’s tournament, Button believes that Bedard, 17, and Fantilli, 18, will lead the offence as Canada looks to defend its gold medal in Halifax and Moncton next month.

“They will be two of their best players,” said Button of the duo. 

Bedard, a centre for the Regina Pats, and Fantilli, a centre at the University of Michigan, are both eligible for the 2023 NHL Draft and are expected to be two of the first names off the board in June.


2023 WJC Team Canada projection

Bedard was ranked No. 1 while Fantilli No. 3 in Bob McKenzie’s pre-season 2023 draft rankings. Bedard has been pegged as the No. 1 pick in the 2023 draft for years and has lived up to the hype since being granted exceptional status to enter the Western Hockey League as a 15-year-old in 2020. He has 13 goals and 31 points in 16 games in 2022-23.

Fantilli is off to a roaring start as a freshman at Michigan, registering nine goals and 20 points in 11 games. The Nobleton, Ont., product told TSN’s Mark Masters before the start of the season he has no plans to concede the No. 1 spot to Bedard.

“Adam is a goal scorer, a driver. He’s competitive, skates well and plays hard,” said Button. “All the things you’re looking for in a top-line player, a difference maker, Adam Fantilli has.”

Bedard has already made his mark at the World Juniors, winning gold in August with four goals and eight points in seven games. This would be Fantilli’s first foray at the tournament as he looks to bolster his case to go No. 1 in the draft.

Button projects for Bedard and Fantilli to play together on Canada’s top line after they successfully teamed up at the 2022 U18 worlds. Bedard had six goals and seven points in four games as the captain, while Fantilli had one goal and six points in four games skating at left wing. 

“They become lethal together because they're both really good playmakers and excellent finishers,” said Button. “If you want to play off of one, the other is going to be open for a lot of opportunities.”

While Button has Bedard firmly as No. 1 for the 2023 draft, the early draft year success of Bedard and Fantilli draws comparisons to the 2015 class that saw Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel dominate in the OHL and NCAA respectively and represent their countries at the World Juniors before being drafted in the top two spots.

Lining up behind Bedard at centre on Button’s roster is 2022 No. 4 pick Shane Wright. The Burlington, Ont., product is playing sparingly in the NHL with the Seattle Kraken, and it is unknown if he’ll remain in the NHL or return to the OHL’s Kingston Frontenacs.

Button believes Wright will be released for the tournament and needs to be there for his development.

Wright made Team Canada last December as a 17-year-old and had one assist in two games before the cancellation. In 2021, he captained Canada to gold at the U18s, finishing second in tournament scoring with nine goals and 14 points in five games.

Returning from the gold-medal winning squad in August up front on Button’s roster are Kamloops’ Logan Stankoven, Flint’s Brennan Othmann, Sherbrooke’s Joshua Roy, Acadie-Bathurst’s Riley Kidney, Quebec’s Nathan Gaucher and Vancouver’s Zack Ostapchuk.

Arizona Coyotes forward Dylan Guenther and Dallas Stars forward Wyatt Johnston are also players Button sees as locks for the roster if their teams decide to release them for the tournament. 

Canada will see an overhaul in net, with last year’s trio of Dylan Garand, Sebastian Cossa and Brett Brochu all aging out. Button projects Sarnia’s Benjamin Gaudreau, Prince George’s Tyler Brennan, and Seattle’s Thomas Milic to be the three goaltenders who will be on the roster in December.

Button gives Gaudreau the edge as the starter. A third-round pick (81st overall) by the San Jose Sharks at the 2021 draft, the North Bay, Ont., product backstopped Canada to U18 gold last year.

"He led them at the U18 tournament in Dallas in 2021," said Button. "That team dominated; they were never touched. He was the guy. He’s the best goalie at this point in time."

On the blueline, Olen Zellweger, an Anaheim Ducks prospect playing with the WHL’s Everett Silvertips, will be leaned upon heavily in all situations for Canada. He had two goals and 11 points in seven games at the August World Juniors.

“Zellweger is going to be their No. 1 guy," said Button. "He's going to be their go-to guy in so many different areas. He's going to the run the game the way he runs it, power play, penalty kill. He’s just really good.”

Joining Zellweger as returning defencemen are Mississauga’s Ethan Del Mastro and Winnipeg’s Carson Lambos. Button has four first-round picks to round out the defence corps in Seattle’s Kevin Korchinski, the seventh overall by Chicago in 2022, a pair of Columbus Blue Jackets picks in Moose Jaw’s Denton Mateychuk and Wisconsin’s Corson Ceulemans and Prince Albert’s Nolan Allan, a Chicago Blackhawks prospect.

Button's roster includes 19 NHL draft picks in total, including 10 first rounders. Milic went undrafted in 2022 and is eligible again in 2023 along with Bedard and Fantilli.


2023 Team Canada

Projected Roster          
GOALTENDERS S/C HT WT 2022-23 Team NHL Draft
Tyler Brennan L 6'4 181 Prince George (WHL) New Jersey 2022
Benjamin Gaudreau L 6'2 174 Sarnia (OHL) San Jose 2021
Thomas Milic L 6'0 174 Seattle (WHL) 2023
Nolan Allan L 6'2 194 Prince Albert (WHL) Chicago 2021
Corson Ceulemans R 6'2 188 Wisconsin (NCAA) Columbus 2021
Ethan Del Mastro* L 6'4 209 Mississauga (OHL) Chicago 2021
Carson Lambos* L 6'1 196 Winnipeg (WHL) Minnesota 2021
Kevin Korchinski L 6'1 185 Seattle (WHL) Chicago 2022
Denton Mateychuk L 5'11 187 Moose Jaw (WHL) Columbus 2022
Olen Zellweger* L 5'10 174 Everett (WHL) Anaheim 2021
Connor Bedard* R 5'10 185 Regina (WHL) 2023
Zachary Bolduc L 6'0 187 Quebec (QMJHL) St. Louis 2021
Zach Dean L 6'0 179 Gatineau (QMJHL) Vegas 2021
Adam Fantilli L 6'2 187 Michigan (NCAA) 2023
Nathan Gaucher* R 6'3 207 Quebec (QMJHL) Anaheim 2022
Dylan Guenther R 6'2 175 Arizona (NHL) Arizona 2021
Wyatt Johnston R 6'0 185 Dallas (NHL) Dallas 2021
Riley Kidney* L 6'0 176 A-Bathurst (QMJHL) Montreal 2021
Zachary L'Heureux L 5'11 196 Halifax (QMJHL) Nashville 2021
Zach Ostapchuk* L 6'3 205 Vancouver (WHL) Ottawa 2021
Brennan Othmann* L 6'0 174 Flint (OHL) NY Rangers 2021
Joshua Roy* L 6'0 187 Sherbrooke (QMJHL) Montreal 2021
Logan Stankoven* R 5'8 170 Kamloops (WHL) Dallas 2021
Chase Stillman R 6'1 187 Peterborough (OHL) New Jersey 2021
Shane Wright R 6'0 198 Seattle (NHL) Seattle 2022

* - Returning Player


2023 Team Canada

DEFENCE S/C HT WT 2022-23 Team NHL Draft
Brandt Clarke R 6'2 185 Los Angeles (NHL) Los Angeles 2021
Tyson Hinds L 6'3 181 Sherbrooke (QMJHL) Anaheim 2021
Christian Kyrou R 5'11 182 Erie (OHL) Dallas 2022
Tristan Luneau R 6'2 191 Gatineau (QMJHL) Anaheim 2022
Jack Matier R 6'4 202 Ottawa (OHL) Nashville 2021
Owen Pickering L 6'4 185 Swift Current (WHL) Pittsburgh 2022
Owen Beck R 6'0 185 Mississauga (OHL) Montreal 2022
Jake Chiasson R 6'1 180 Brandon (WHL) Edmonton 2021
Nate Danielson R 6'1 185 Brandon (WHL) 2023
Luca Del Bel Belluz L 6'1 175 Mississauga (OHL) Columbus 2022
Jordan Dumais R 5'9 174 Halifax (QMJHL) Columbus 2022
Jagger Firkus R 5'10 153 Moose Jaw (WHL) Seattle 2022
Conor Geekie L 6'3 196 Winnipeg (WHL) Arizona 2022
Brett Harrison L 6'3 175 Oshawa (OHL) Boston 2021
Dylan James L 6'0 181 North Dakota (NCAA)  Detroit 2022
Fraser Minten L 6'1 185 Kamloops (WHL) Toronto 2022
Francesco Pinelli L 6'1 185 Kitchener (OHL) Los Angeles 2021
Tucker Robertson R 5'10 184 Peterborough (OHL) Seattle 2022
Reid Schaefer L 6'3 213 Seattle (WHL) Edmonton 2022
Matt Savoie R 5'9 179 Winnipeg (WHL) Buffalo 2022
Matthew Wood R 6'3 185 Connecticut (NCAA) 2023
Koehn Ziemmer R 6'0 195 Prince George (WHL) 2023