Canadian Gold: Remembering the 2015 World Junior Championship
In the lead-up to the 2021 World Junior Championship, we're taking a look back at each of the 18 Canadian teams to capture the gold medal, culminating Dec. 25 with the start of the latest edition of the tournament.
Team Canada needed to get back on track at the 2015 world juniors following back-to-back fourth-place finishes. It was the first time since 1979-81 that the program failed to win a medal in consecutive years due to losses in the bronze-medal game.
More than a handful of players, including Connor McDavid and Sam Reinhart, returned for this tourney in Montreal and Toronto after experiencing the 2014 disappointment in Sweden. They would ultimately redeem themselves both individually and as a team.
*Denotes returning player
All ages are as of the start of the tournament
Canada opened its tournament schedule by crushing Slovakia 8-0 with Fabbri posting two goals and two assists. A day later, Canada cruised to a 4-0 shutout victory over Germany.
The competition got a bit tougher after that, but the Canadian squad didn't waver and beat Finland 4-1. Before the medal round, Canada's biggest scare came on New Year's Eve against a U.S. team featuring Jack Eichel and Auston Matthews. However, a pair of goals from Domi helped Canada defeat the Americans 5-3 in both nations' final round-robin contest.
Canada's first game of the medal round invoked a bit of deja vu, as the hosts trounced Denmark 8-0 in the quarterfinals. In the semifinal, Slovakia had a chance to avenge its tournament-opening loss to Canada by the same score, but the result wasn't much better for the Slovaks. Petan potted a hat trick and the Canadian side coasted to a 5-1 win, setting up a gold-medal showdown with Russia.
The championship game reached a crescendo in the second period. Canada led 2-1 after 20 minutes, but McDavid, Domi, and Reinhart buried goals in a span of about seven minutes in the middle stanza. Russia responded shortly after, notching a trio of markers in just over three minutes to get back to within one. However, Canada clamped down in the third period and secured the gold with a 5-4 victory.
Canadians dominated the tournament's scoring leaderboard. Reinhart, Domi, and Lazar led all skaters with five goals apiece, while Petan and Duclair finished among those tied for second with four. McDavid tied for third in goals with three and led all players with eight assists, tying for the points lead with 11.
Petan and Reinhart equaled McDavid atop the points race. Domi tied for second in that department with 10 and was named the tourney's best forward. McDavid, Reinhart, and Morrissey joined Domi as All-Stars at the event.
The key moment
Just over five minutes after Domi gave Canada a 4-1 lead in the gold medal game, Reinhart provided the dagger, tipping home Domi's shot to extend Canada's lead to four with seven and a half minutes remaining in the second period. Reinhart's goal was his team's third in a span of 7:22.
While it appeared to be a mere insurance marker at the time, it turned out to be the most important play of the night, and thus the tourney, because Russia stormed back with three consecutive goals to cut the lead to 5-4 late in the middle frame.
After the Edmonton Oilers won the NHL draft lottery in April 2015, they selected McDavid with the No. 1 pick - to no one's surprise - that June. He was considered the game's next generational talent at the time, and the 2016-17 Hart Trophy winner has lived up to the hype, becoming arguably the league's best player over the last few seasons.
The Buffalo Sabres chose Reinhart second overall about six months before the tourney began. While he hasn't become a superstar, he's blossomed into a dependable offensive player who has shown chemistry with Eichel.
Several other players on Canada's 2015 world junior roster turned into talented NHLers, including Point and Theodore. However, Petan and Lazar haven't lived up to the potential they displayed at this event - particularly in the latter player's case.
Like McDavid, Nurse debuted for the Oilers in 2015-16. Though he managed only a single point in this tournament, he's become a vital cog on Edmonton's blue line.
After its 2015 triumph, Team Canada stumbled for a sixth-place finish in 2016 and a silver medal the following year before reclaiming gold in 2018.