Team Canada will be looking to defend its gold medal as the puck is set to drop at the IIHF U18 men’s world championship in Kaufbeuren and Landshut, Germany, this weekend.
Watch Canada kick off the U18s against Team USA on Saturday, April 23 at 1:30 p.m. ET/10:30 a.m. PT on TSN3/4 and streaming on TSN.ca, the TSN App and TSN Direct.
While Team Canada will be led by two of the top prospects for the 2023 NHL Draft in Connor Bedard and Adam Fantilli, the tournament is also an opportunity for the 2022 draft-eligible players to impress the scouts before the draft in July.
Here are seven Canadian players to watch for.
F Connor Bedard – Regina Pats
Bedard is the only player returning from the Canadian squad that won gold at last year’s tournament.
As a 15-year-old, he had seven goals and 14 points, tying him with teammate Shane Wright for second in tournament scoring, trailing only Russia’s Matvei Michkov (16).
The only player to receive exceptional status in the Western Hockey League and one of eight across the Canadian Hockey League, his star has only risen since he last played at the U18s.
The North Vancouver, B.C., product was the first 16-year-old to make the Canadian World Junior squad for the 2022 edition in December and netted four goals and five points in two games before the tournament was cancelled.
In the WHL with the Regina Pats, he was fourth in league scoring this season with 51 goals and 100 points in 62 games.
“He’s a brilliant player,” said TSN Director of Scouting Craig Button. “What I absolutely love about him is the way that he processes in real time at lightning speed. He’s able to size up the situation and know how to take advantage of it, just like that. He’s next generation computer chip when it comes to processing the game.
“He has a fire in him, too. You might have heard the saying, ‘still waters run deep.’ His waters run deep. His fire burns. He reminds me so much of Steve Yzerman, it’s scary.”
F Adam Fantilli – Chicago Steel
Fantilli came in as the No. 3 prospect in the first edition of Craig’s List for the 2023 NHL Draft and will be a key part of the Canadian attack along with Bedard.
“The way I would describe Adam is he can take advantage in so many different ways because he’s quick and fast, he’s determined, he’s competitive,” said Button of Fantilli.
The Nobleton, Ont., native had 38 goals and 76 points in 56 games this season with the Chicago Steel of the United States Hockey League. Last year, the Steel won the Clark Cup with Fantilli winning playoff MVP after scoring eight goals in nine postseason games.
“He plays right in the guts of the action. He’s hungry to score, to get on a puck, to win a puck,” said Button.
D Owen Pickering – Swift Current Broncos
Owen Pickering is a 2022 draft-eligible defenceman scouts will be watching closely at the U18 tournament.
The Swift Current Broncos finished outside the WHL playoffs but Pickering had nine goals and 33 points in 62 games this season, his first full season after skating in 23 games last season.
When he was selected in the ninth round at the 2019 WHL Bantam Draft, Pickering was 5-foot-7 and 131 pounds. Since then, he has blossomed to 6-foot-5 and 179 pounds. He suited up for Team White at the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game in Kitchener and while he is still considered to be a raw prospect, his draft stock has risen throughout the season.
“The way he approaches different situations, you see this ability to take an experience and learn from it,” said Button on Pickering. “His game is really, really sound in all areas. He can kill penalties, he can play on the power play, he can contribute offence, he’ll jump into the attack.
“Brains, skill, potential. I think his potential is really terrific.”
D Matthew Morden – St. Andrews College
While Morden is taking a different path compared to his Canadian teammates having played for St. Andrews College in the Prep Hockey Conference this season, he is a player fully on the NHL radar.
“’Here is a young player that’s got all these skill attributes and people will say ‘oh well he’s not playing at a high level,’” said Button of Morden, who is making his first foray into the Hockey Canada program. “That’s okay, that doesn’t mean he doesn’t possess the skill attributes. Doesn’t mean it doesn’t translate to the NHL.”
The defenceman, who clocks in at 6-foot-5 and 203 pounds, had eight goals and 35 points and 41 games this season for St. Andrews and is committed to Harvard next year.
F Rieger Lorenz – Okotoks Oilers
Rieger Lorenz had a standout season in 2021-22 in the Alberta Junior Hockey League with the Okotoks Oilers.
The 18-year-old recorded 38 goals and 85 points in 60 games this season, including two goals and 11 points in 14 playoff games.
In terms of player comparisons, Button sees Tampa Bay Lightning forward and two-time Stanley Cup winner Alex Killorn as the type of player Lorenz could be.
“He’s quick, fast, competitive, skilled,” said Button. “I see NHL written all over him. Whenever I watched him in the hard games, the challenging games, he was always in the thick of things.”
F David Goyette – Sudbury Wolves
David Goyette is another player on this list that has seen his draft stock rise in 2021-22.
Playing in his first full season in the Ontario Hockey League with the Sudbury Wolves, Goyette had 33 goals and 73 points in 66 games, which was the most goals and points by an OHL rookie this year. He also participated in the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game for Team Red.
“One of the most improved players this year,” said Button. “He reminds me of Teuvo Teravainen from Carolina. Slick, quick, he’s smart.
“He’s just another player that adjusts to everything on the move. Real confident on the ice and he’s got the forward thinking of what I call progression of thought in his game.”
G Reid Dyck – Swift Current Broncos
In the WHL with Swift Current this season, goaltender Reid Dyck’s numbers don’t pop off the page. In 23 appearances this season, he recorded an .884 save percentage and 4.26 goals-against average.
However, he had a standout performance at the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game for Team Red as he stopped all 23 shots he faced and is the type of player scouts will be watching as the U18s get underway.
In scouting him this season, Button saw a player who progressed well and was always thinking on the ice.
“He’s got really good athletic ability and I just see this goaltender rounding into form, rounding into his shape that I think is really impressive,” said Button.