World juniors: 3 takeaways from Canada's obliteration of Slovakia

Mason McTavish might be a little too good for the 2022 world juniors. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson)
Mason McTavish might be a little too good for the 2022 world juniors. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson) (THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Thursday’s contest got out of hand quickly as Canada cruised to an 11-1 win over Slovakia. Mason McTavish finished with four goals and six points, while Connor Bedard added a goal and an assist.

Here are four takeaways from Canada’s victory to move to 2-0 in the summer edition of the 2022 world juniors.

Connor Bedard is generational, but it’s an incomplete debate for No. 1 pick

Connor Bedard may end up being a generational talent, and we’ve written about him several times over the past two years. His ability to get his shot off through traffic is perhaps unlike any prospect we’ve ever seen, he can weave into small spaces and create dangerous plays out of nowhere, and once again, he was several tiers above the overmatched Slovaks.

Here’s the thing, though: while most of us view this tournament as a window into the upcoming NHL draft, any discussion of next year’s No. 1 overall pick is somewhat incomplete. Russia is banned from the tournament due to its escalation of the Russo-Ukranian war, thereby, Bedard’s primary competition for the top pick, SKA Saint Petersburg’s Matvei Michkov (five points in 13 KHL games last season) is sitting at home idly by.

We teed up the December edition of this tournament as a competition between Bedard and Michkov for tournament MVP, and before the original version was postponed due to a COVID-19 outbreak, it looked like the 2023 headliners, along with Owen Power, the first overall pick in 2021, were duking it out for top player honours. None of this is meant to detract from Bedard’s arsenal. He’s a phenomenal offensive talent, and plays in what’s widely considered the most defensive-oriented of the three major junior leagues under the CHL umbrella, but until Michkov suits up in public, we’ll have to put an asterisk on presumptive No. 1 status.

Mason McTavish is too good for this tournament

This summer’s tournament hasn’t invited the best quality of competition, and as a result a player as pro-ready as Mason McTavish stands out above the competition. McTavish, in tandem with Bedard, overwhelmed a Slovakian team that wasn’t at full strength (more on that storyline below) and it never felt like a fair fight.

McTavish was selected third overall by the Anaheim Ducks in 2021 and barring some kind of injury or a truly horrific training camp, the 19-year-old should be in the NHL next season — with a chance to play real top-six minutes on a rebuilding team.

He didn’t burn an entry-level year, but McTavish played nine games with the Ducks last year, registering two goals and three points. It’s a stepping stone, but frankly, this dude is too good for this abridged, charlatan version of the World Juniors as we know it.

Slovakian team without Slafkovsky, Nemec isn’t worthy of full evaluation

July 7, 2022 will go down as a momentous day in Slovakian hockey, as Juraj Slafkovsky was somewhat surprisingly taken first overall by the Montreal Canadiens, while his countryman, Simon Nemec, went second to the New Jersey Devils. We would’ve loved to have seen Slafkovsky and Nemec play, but they weren't made available. And while rendering an evaluation of a team down two star players is somewhat reductionist, it’s made a material difference on this year’s squad.

Without a top-flight forward or defenseman to corral the stacked Canadian roster, this Slovakian team didn’t have a chance. It’s absurd to have this tournament in the summertime so close to NHL training camps, and Thursday’s game was a prime example why.

If you’re covering the tournament and aren’t critical of Hockey Canada, what are you scared of?

Hockey Canada has been outed as a national disgrace and it is outrageous that the national governing body gets to host its marquee tournament without further sanction from the IIHF, or a third-party arbitrator. This part isn’t up for debate, unless you’d like to close your eyes and believe we live in an alternate reality, or tune out of the tournament entirely, to which there is no counterpoint.

But if you are covering the tournament as a journalist or media member and haven’t been critical of Hockey Canada, what are you scared of? Are you scared of losing your book deal? Of losing your access?

Seriously, what are you worried about? Are you worried that you’re going to look like a bad Canadian, or that Hockey Canada is an extension of your Canadian identity, and you don’t want to examine that? That’s fine, if you’re not getting paid to think critically, but if you are, what’s the excuse?

You can cover hockey, love hockey, and be critical of it. This idea that sports needs to carry inherent goodness for it to be covered fairly is nonsense, and lets Hockey Canada off the hook. Let's be better.

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