Early on Tuesday morning, Canada's 2024 World Junior team, which included two members of the Toronto Maple Leafs, fell in the quarterfinals 3-2 in a heartbreaker to Team Czechia.
The Toronto Maple Leafs sent Frazer Minten and Easton Cowan to the tournement, but things didn't end up turing out as good as we would have hoped.
With the game tied at 2 goals apiece in the final minute, Czechia defenseman Jakub Stancl fired a shot that bounced off a skate and found its way into the net with 11 seconds left in the game.
It was a premature end to the tournament for this Canadian team, who despite not being the odds-on favourites to win the tournament, still had high hopes and expectations to win a medal this year.
The two Toronto Maple Leafs draftees gave their all at the tournament, now let's dive deeper into their performances at the 2024 World Juniors.
Toronto Maple Leafs Prospects, Team Canada Fall Short at WJC
Cowan had a decent tournament, especially considering not even 6 months ago he wasn't even supposed to be on this team. However, against all odds, Cowan earned a spot and got better each game he played.
He was fairly invisible during the opening 3 games of Canada's tournament, but his skill set finally started to show in their last round-robin game. Cowan added an empty-netter in that final round-robin game, which Canada won over Team Germany.
In Canada's quarterfinal loss, Cowan had his best game of the tournament.
He had plenty of chances to score, forechecked well, and added a key assist on a goal by Matthew Wood.
Despite his not-so-great start, Cowan's play improved mightily as the tournament went on. If he returns next year for the 2025 tournament (which he likely will), he will be an important player on Team Canada.
In short, Minten had a fairly disappointing tournament.
In his defense, he was used incorrectly on this Canadian team, and of course being named the captain only gave people higher expectations for him.
Minten was used in Canada's top-6, as well as heavily on the power play, when he really should've been used in a shutdown type of role. With only 5 goals in 13 WHL games this year, it's clear Minten should've been used in Canada's bottom-6.
Now to be fair, almost all of Canada's top-6 forwards had disappointing tournaments. Matt Poitras and Conor Geekie were fine, but not spectacular. Matt Savoie and Jordan Dumais combined for just 3 points in the entire tournament. Minten was also, just ok.
In fact, 4 of Canada's top-6 scorers were under-agers, including 17-year-old Macklin Celebrini.
Minten should have been used like Owen Beck was. Beck, despite being the only returning player on the team, was used in a checking-line role, where he was one of Canada's most consistent players. Minten on the other hand, was misused on this team, and it's unfortunate considering that he is a great player.
Canada's tournament was a disappointment, but not to the fault of the Leafs prospects.
Both Cowan and Minten will have great NHL careers, regardless of the outcome of this tournament.
Team Canada will look to get back on the podium in next year's World Juniors, which will take place in Ottawa starting on December 26th, 2024.