Canada's world junior team dominated the play in its first international exhibition game Friday night against Russia. But players on the bubble did little to distinguish themselves with final cuts looming.
First-liners Anthony Duclair and Max Domi were the best players on the ice in a 2-1 overtime loss to Russia at Air Canada Centre. Locks to be on the 22-man roster, all they did was give Hockey Canada a taste of how deep the offence could be.
That's because an entire line of Canada's top forwards – Connor McDavid, Nic Petan and Curtis Lazar – didn't play against Russia. They're expected to be in the lineup Sunday in the team's second exhibition game against Sweden in Ottawa. The addition of Lazar, loaned from the Ottawa Senators, means Canada will have to cut three forwards along with a defenceman before the tournament begins on Boxing Day. Those on the edge appear to be Lawson Crouse, Frederik Gauthier, Michael Dal Colle, Jason Dickinson and Rourke Chartier, all of whom were bottom-six forwards against Russia.
Dal Colle made most of his impact in the physical game, separating opponents from the puck and forcing turnovers. Dal Colle said Thursday he wanted to "generate chances no matter who I am playing with or where I am playing."
Defenceman Josh Morrissey scored for Canada on a night it was stifled by Russian goaltender Ilya Sorokin, who stopped 52 of the 53 shots he faced. Sergey Tolchinsky of the Ontario Hockey League's Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds scored on the power play for Russia when Canada's Sam Reinhart put the puck in his own net past goaltender Zach Fucale.
Alexander Sharov scored the overtime winner on just Russia's 20th shot.
Aside from those two plays, Canada held onto the puck for the majority of the game. Sorokin's play was the difference, and he robbed Duclair on two shots that should have been goals.
This wasn't Canada's full lineup, and the other scratch was defenceman Joe Hicketts. The five-foot-eight puck-mover might've done enough in camp to prove to the management team and coaching staff that he belongs on the team.
"It's out of my hands now," Hicketts said Thursday. "The coaching staff has obviously made a decision and they want to see other guys play. I've just got my fingers crossed and am hoping that maybe not playing is a good thing, but nothing's written in stone yet."
After Canada faces Sweden on Sunday, the team will travel to Montreal to play Switzerland in its final exhibition game Tuesday. Slovakia is the first opponent in pool play Dec. 26 at Bell Centre.