Three first round picks from the Western Hockey League’s 2016 Bantam Draft are set to lead the way on the ice for Canada at this year’s World Juniors.
Kirby Dach has been named as the captain for the squad, while Bowen Byram and Dylan Cozens will serve as assistant captains.
“These three players are all leaders in their own right who have the respect of their teammates. Kirby has set a standard for himself through his commitment and determination, which is a great example for the others on our team,” Canada head coach Andre Tourigny said on Friday. “He has a strong desire to represent his country.
“Bowen and Dylan are veterans who know what it takes to win at this tournament, and their voices will be important in our leadership group.”
Dach joined Canada’s team on loan from the Chicago Blackhawks, where he had 23 points in 64 regular season contests and six points in nine playoff games during his rookie season.
The 19-year-old forward posted 129 points in 133 WHL games with the Saskatoon Blades before being picked third overall in the 2019 NHL Draft.
“I wasn’t expecting this at all, especially as there are a lot of good leaders on this team,” Dach said. “It’s a huge honour and I’m looking forward to the tournament.
“There’s many reasons why we named Kirby the captain,” Tourigny added. “He took a lot of leadership when everyone arrived at camp and he really wanted to set the standard for the rest of the team.”
This is the third straight year that a player from the NHL has been named as Canada’s captain, as Dach joins Barrett Hayton of the Arizona Coyotes and Maxime Comtois of the Anaheim Ducks in earning that honour.
Byram and Cozens are both returning to Canada’s Under-20 program after helping their country capture a gold medal last winter in the Czech Republic.
Cozens was tied for third in team scoring with nine points in seven games, while Byram dished out a pair of helpers during the tournament.
“We definitely battled some adversity last year with (Alexis) Lafreniere going down and then our big loss to the Russians in the round-robin,” Cozens said. “If you have a tough loss or a tough game, you have to bounce back right away, especially as you probably have another game the next day.
“We have lots of experience on this team and lots of stuff that we can take from our previous experiences to help us win this tournament.”
The fourth overall pick by the Colorado Avalanche in the 2019 NHL Draft, Byram has recorded 150 points in 188 regular season games for the Vancouver Giants.
Cozens, who was taken seventh overall by the Buffalo Sabres last year, has put up 223 points in 179 WHL contests for the Lethbridge Hurricanes.
Canada is slated to start their pre-tournament schedule on Monday against Sweden and their round-robin slate on Friday against Germany in Edmonton, but that is now up in the air.
Two members of Sweden’s coaching staff have tested positive for COVID-19 and the team is staying in quarantine until Monday.
Meanwhile, eight members of Germany’s roster had positive tests, which has put the team are under quarantine until Thursday.
Germany was to have played exhibition games against Austria and the Czech Republic next week, but those will not take place.
Svejkovsky wins Memorial eCup tournament
Medicine Hat Tigers forward Lukas Svejkovsky has bragging rights over the rest of the Canadian Hockey League.
The Pittsburgh Penguins draft pick ran the table to capture the Memorial eCup tournament, which was held online over the last month via NHL 21 for the PlayStation 4.
Svejkovsky dominated the best-of-three final against Riley Bezeau of the Saint John Sea Dogs as he cruised to a 10-0 win and followed that up with a 4-1 triumph Thursday night.
“This was a really fun event that the CHL put together here,” Svejkovsky said. “It’s nice to come away with the win and I’m just happy that I got to be a part of it.”
In addition to capturing the title of the top NHL 21 player in the CHL, two $1,000 donations will be made in Svejkovsky’s name to the Medicine Hat News Santa Claus Fund and the Medicine Hat Women’s Shelter Society.
“I had talked things over with my parents and we decided that two local charities in Medicine Hat would be great to help out, as they’ve done a lot for the community,” he added.
Svejkovsky reached the final with wins over Zach Hodder of the WHL, Rhett Rhinehart of the Saskatoon Blades, Zachary Roy of the Hamilton Bulldogs, Danny Katic of the Saginaw Spirit and Ty Collins of the Mississauga Steelheads.
Around the WHL
The Moose Jaw Warriors made a pair of trades on Thursday as they acquired overage forward Riley Krane from the Regina Pats and dealt 19-year-old blueliner Cayde Augustine to the Swift Current Broncos.
Krane had been with the Pats for the last two seasons and had 57 points in 129 career games.
Augustine was acquired from the Kelowna Rockets last December and had eight assists in 32 games for the Warriors prior to the early end of the 2019-20 season.
He had eight points in 54 contests for the Rockets and has played in two games this year for the SJHL’s Kindersley Klippers.
Meanwhile, the Portland Winterhawks have lost their top pick from this year’s WHL Bantam Draft to the USHL.
Winnipeg forward Jayden Perron signed a tender with the Chicago Steel on Thursday and is expected to join the club on a full-time basis next season.
The 23rd overall pick back in April, Perron was the first Manitoba player to be selected during the draft after posting 104 points in 36 games for the Winnipeg Bantam Warriors program.