“He’s the guy that sets the bar that everybody else is going to aspire to,” coach Dave Cameron said. “We think we have a lot of guys who were captain material, but picking ‘Mac’ was actually pretty easy.”
McTavish will look to lead Canada to a WJC title after losing to the United States in the 2021 championship game.
The 2022 WJC will be held August 9-20 at Rogers Place in Edmonton. The tournament was originally scheduled for Dec. 26-Jan. 5, but was postponed to December 29 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus.
[RELATED: 2022 World Junior Championship schedule]
Canada will play in Group A, along with Finland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Latvia. The USA, Sweden, Switzerland, Germany and Austria will play in Group B.
Latvia was added to replace Russia, which has been banned from international games due to its invasion of Ukraine.
McTavish, selected by the Anaheim Ducks with the No. 3 pick in the 2021 NHL Draft, started last season with three points (two goals, one assist) in nine NHL games and after a brief stint with San Diego of the American Hockey League , the 19-year-old returned to the Ontario Hockey League. He played five games with Peterborough before being traded to Hamilton on 9 January. McTavish helped Hamilton win the OHL championship with 16 goals in 19 playoff games, and his eight points (six goals, two assists) in five games tied for the Memorial Cup lead.
“Simply put, he’s a hockey player,” Cameron said. “Everything about him shows that. Very attentive in meetings, asks the right questions, works as hard as anybody off the ice, has no ego and his performance on the ice speaks for itself. He’s played in the NHL and has a long time ahead of him the NHL career.”
The top four teams in each group will play in the quarter-finals on August 17. The semi-finals are on August 19 and the championship and third place games are on August 20. All games will be shown on NHL Network in the United States and TSN United States in Canada.
There will be no relegation round, meaning the same 10 teams will play in the 2023 WJC, which will be held Dec. 26-Jan. 5, 2023, in Halifax, Nova Scotia and Moncton, New Brunswick.
Here’s a look at each team in Group A, with predicted order of finish:
Coach: Dave Cameron
2023 NHL Draft Watch: Connor Bedard, F, Regina, WHL
Program: Aug. 10, Latvia (6 p.m. ET); Aug. 11, Slovakia (6 p.m. ET); Aug. 13, Czech Republic (6 p.m. ET); August 15, Finland (6 p.m. ET)
Point of view: Canada’s strength is its depth, especially at centre. McTavish, Logan Stankoven (Dallas Stars), Ridley Greig (Ottawa Senators) and Elliot Desnoyers (Philadelphia Flyers) will likely start the tournament in the middle, but another option could be Connor Bedard. The potential No. 1 pick in the 2023 NHL Draft showed off his dazzling skills in two games as a 16-year-old when the tournament was originally held in December, including a four-goal haul against Austria. Now older and more experienced after finishing fourth in the Western Hockey League with 100 points (51 goals, 49 assists) in 62 games with Regina, he could be poised for an even bigger breakthrough. Seven of the eight defensemen are left shots, but Ellen Zellweger (Anaheim Ducks), the leading defenseman in the WHL last season, is part of a versatile group of strong skaters who should be good on their offside. With goalkeepers Sebastian Cosa (Detroit Red Wings) and Dylan Garrett (New York Rangers) likely splitting time, Canada will again be a favorite to reach the championship game.
Coach: Andy Penanen
2023 NHL Draft Watch: Ruben Rafkin, D, TPS, FIN
Program: Aug. 9, Latvia (6 p.m. ET); Aug. 11, Czech Republic (2 p.m. ET); Aug. 14, Slovakia (2 p.m. ET); August 15, Finland (6 p.m. ET)
Point of view: Finland will have five defenders behind third place at the 2021 WJC, led by Topi Niemela (Toronto Maple Leafs), voted the best defensemen in the tournament after he had eight points (two goals, six assists) in seven games. They should be good with three inexperienced goalkeepers behind them Leevi Merilainen (Ottawa Senators) and Juha Jatkola (2023 draft eligible), who each played a game in December, and Jani Lampinen (2023 draft eligible). Forward Brad Lambert (Winnipeg Jets), who had five points (one goal, four assists) in two games before the tournament was canceled in December, will be counted on to play at a similar level now. Also expected to chip in the attack will be Aatu Raty (New York Islanders), who had 40 points (13 goals, 27 assists) in 41 games with Jukurit in Liiga last season, as well as Kasper Simontaival (Los Angeles Kings), who scored four goals in seven games at the 2021 WJC. If the goaltending holds up and the offense delivers, Finland could push Canada for the top spot in the group.
Coach: Radim Rulik
2023 NHL Draft Watch: Daniel Hercik, F, Pardubice, CZE; Adam Mechura, F, Tri-City, WHL
Program: Aug. 9, Slovakia (2 p.m. ET); August 11, Finland (2 p.m. ET); August 13, Canada (6 p.m. ET); Aug. 14, Latvia (6 p.m. ET)
Point of view: Jan Misak (Montreal Canadiens), Matyas Sapovaliev (Vegas Golden Knights) and Jiri Kulich (Buffalo Sabres) will probably lock down the offense. Misak had 64 points (34 goals, 30 assists) in 61 games for Hamilton of the OHL last season and is one of five returning players from the 2021 WJC, where he had three points (two goals, one assist) in five matches. Sapovaliv was fourth among OHL rookies with 52 points (18 goals, 34 assists) in 68 games for Saginaw. Kulic was named the 2022 IIHF World Under-18 Championship Most Valuable Player after leading all players with nine goals in six games. Two defensemen among 2021 WJC returnees, Columbus Blue Jackets prospects David Jirichek and Stanislav Svozil. Jiricek’s status for the start of the tournament is in doubt after testing positive for COVID-19, but hopefully he will arrive in time for kick-off. The Czech Republic will need him if they hope to finish ahead of Slovakia and push Finland for second place in the group.
Coach: Ivan Fenes
2023 NHL Draft Watch: Dalibor Dvorsky, F, AIK Jr., SWE-JR; Samuel Honzek, F, Vancouver, WHL
Program: Aug. 9, Czech Republic (2 p.m. ET); August 11, Canada (6 p.m. ET). Aug. 12, Latvia (6 p.m. ET); August 14, Finland (2 p.m. ET)
Point of view: Dvorski is a potential top-five pick in the 2023 draft after he had 40 points (20 goals, 20 assists) in 33 games with AIK in the Swedish youth league. Except for Dvorsky, forward Servats Petrovsky (Minnesota Wild), who was third among OHL rookies last season with 54 points (28 goals, 26 assists) in 65 games with Owen Sound, should also have a big role on offense. Goaltender Simon Latkoczy returns after having a .922 save percentage through three games at the 2021 WJC despite facing 34.0 shots on goal per game and playing the past three seasons in the United Hockey League, meaning he has experience in the minor North American ice. Slovakia will not have a striker Juraj Slafkovsky (Montreal Canadiens) and defenseman Simon Nemec (New Jersey Devils), the first two picks of the 2022 NHL Draft, but still has a talented team. If Latkoczy can steal a game from them, they could challenge the Czech Republic for third place in Group A.
Coach: Artis Avols
2023 NHL Draft Watch: Niks Fenenko, D, Baie-Comeau, QMJHL
Program: August 9, Finland (6 p.m. ET); August 10, Canada (6 p.m. ET); Aug. 12, Slovakia (6 p.m. ET); Aug. 14, Czech Republic (6 p.m. ET)
Point of view: It is Latvia’s first time playing at the top level of the World Juniors since 2017, and being in a group with second (Canada) and third (Finland) from 2021 will not help their cause. Three players on the roster have been drafted by NHL teams, including the forward Klavs Weinbergs (Tampa Bay Lightning). He had seven points (four goals, three assists) in nine playoff games to help Zemgale win the championship in Latvia’s top professional league. It will take a lot for Latvia to win a game, but without worrying about the relegation round, the experience the players gain could help them for the 2023 WJC.