World Juniors: Canada looking historically good

Canada is cruising so far at the World Juniors. (Photo by Andy Devlin/ Getty Images)
Canada is cruising so far at the World Juniors. (Photo by Andy Devlin/ Getty Images)

In what was expected to be its biggest test of the 2022 World Juniors to date, Canada routed Finland 6-3 on Monday to win Group A.

Mason McTavish extended his lead atop the points table with a goal and two assists, while Connor Bedard and Ridly Greig added a goal and two helpers each.

Here are four takeaways from Canada’s win:

This would be one of the best Canadian teams in recent memory, but no one’s here to witness it

Reeling off four wins that were never in doubt while outscoring its opponents by a cumulative 27-7 margin, this is a vintage Canadian powerhouse. If these were normal circumstances, we’d be looking to see where it ranked among the all-time greats in this country’s history. Due to the unusual parameters this tournament is being played under, namely that the summer edition is lacking a number of top prospects preparing for NHL camps combined with the disgust many feel watching the competition after the Hockey Canada scandal, this 2022 team may end up being passed over from a historical perspective.

The partnership of McTavish and Bedard is as dominant as any duo Canada has ever fielded, with McTavish being superior to his competition outright, while Bedard is showing he’s the best prospect to enter the draft since Auston Matthews. Against a Finland side that was supposed to push Canada for the first time, the host nation bulldozed them. And now we’re three games away from trying to assess where this team ranks historically, among gold-medal winning sides of the past.

Olen Zellweger is likely going to be named Best Defenseman

We’ve spent the past few takeaways blogs illustrating McTavish’s case for tournament MVP but we’re going to focus on another Anaheim Ducks prospect. Ducks fans got a glimpse into their future when Zellweger teed up McTavish for a one-timer that extended the lead to 5-1.

Zellweger also helped get Canada on the board, shooting through traffic as the puck deflected off Brennan Othmann and in for the game’s opening goal. We’re cautious about giving into small samples that this tournament often affords, but Zellweger seems like an absolute steal for the Ducks at the moment, as he looks to be a ready-made power-play quarterback.

Perhaps he was passed over until the 34th pick of the 2021 NHL Draft due to his smaller build, but he’s displaying the high-end skill set the modern game requires, and Ducks fans have to be happy about their future, as Zellweger looks like he’s going to win Best Defenseman at these World Juniors.

Connor Bedard’s release is why he’s a generational prospect

What makes Bedard a generational prospect? At five-foot-nine, 175 pounds, Bedard’s diminutive size would have been a cause for concern a decade ago, but his ability to weave through traffic and outstanding acceleration are among the best we’ve seen from a prospect in recent memory.

But what makes Bedard a generational talent is his release, and it was once again on display Monday night. After receiving a rink-wide pass from McTavish, Bedard took two strides, looked up, and in one fell swoop rocketed a wrist shot past Finland’s Leevi Merilainen to take a 3-0 lead. There is no way Merilainen had any chance on Bedard’s shot from just outside the faceoff circle.

Bedard can get his shot off from anywhere, too, and you have to only wonder how many goals he’s going to rain on Western Hockey League goaltenders this season, still one year away from the NHL draft. Start your engines — a tank engine that is — because he’s going to directly change the fortune of a franchise come next summer.

Canada on collision course with United States

The two North American sides have been miles above the competition, so if you’re a fan of the Canada-United States rivalry, we have some good news.

Peering over to Group B, the United States also won all four of its games, outscoring its opponents by a 22-4 margin cumulatively. San Jose Sharks prospect Thomas Bordeleau leads a balanced U.S. attack, and in a small tournament, the Americans have benefited from the continuity the national development program affords its players.

It may be foolish to look ahead to the gold medal game — anything can happen in a single elimination tournament — but we’d also be lying if we didn’t predict a gold medal match between Canada and the United States. Both sides field teams that boast several NHL prospects, unimpeded by the absences other countries have faced due to the August start date.

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