Kirby Dach, a center for the Chicago Blackhawks, will be captain for Canada at the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship.
“Obviously, it’s a huge honor to wear the ‘C’ for any team you play on, and especially for the Canadian national junior team,” Dach said Friday. “I’m going to wear it with pride. I know there’s a lot of leaders in the dressing room that’ll help me out along the way. I think we’re all just looking forward to getting the tournament started, and this is just one step along the process.”
Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid made the announcement in a video message played on the scoreboard at Rogers Place in Edmonton during Canada’s practice.
Defenseman Bowen Byram (Colorado Avalanche) and forward Dylan Cozens (Buffalo Sabres) were named alternate captains.
“It was definitely unexpected,” Cozens said. “They put something on the screen, we’re not quite sure what it was going to be, but you see a guy like that, the resume he has in the NHL and with Hockey Canada, it’s pretty cool to see a guy like that read your name as one of the leaders on the team.”
Dach said he’ll rely on some of the things he learned last season from Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews, a center entering his 14th NHL season.
“I learned a lot from [Toews], not only on the ice but off the ice and how to prepare each and every day,” Dach said. “I’m obviously going to take the lessons I’ve learned from him and try and become my own leader and in my own style. I’m going to lead by example and not be afraid to speak up when things need to be said in the dressing room.”
The WJC is scheduled to be played at Rogers Place from Dec. 25-Jan. 5, 2021. No fans will be in attendance for the games, and the teams are in a secure zone similar to the one used by the NHL during the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season.
Canada will play in Group A in the preliminary round, starting against Germany on Dec. 26 (6 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN), followed by games against Slovakia (Dec. 27), Switzerland (Dec. 29) and Finland (Dec. 31).
Coach Andre Tourigny said picking Dach, Cozens and Byram as the leadership group was an easy decision.
“They bring a lot of energy,” Tourigny said. “The three of them have a lot of pride to represent their country, and it was kind of a three-headed monster since the beginning (of selection camp Nov. 17) in terms of leadership. They took a lot of initiative; they were all in on that. The way they behaved when adversity arrived and the way they carried themselves was really good.
“In the case of [Dach], I think his willingness, his desire to represent his country, we could feel it right from the beginning. And the way he carried himself during the games, the way he prepared, the way he paid attention to detail in practices and games, I think he really showed a lot of maturity, a lot of leadership, and is a good example for his teammates.”
Dach will play at the World Juniors for the first time. He scored 23 points (eight goals, 15 assists) in 64 regular-season games as a rookie for Chicago last season and six points (one goal, five assists) in nine postseason games.
“Obviously, last year it was disappointing not being able to come to the tournament,” he said. “But with the pandemic, it kind of gave me opportunity to be here, and I’m grateful for that. I’m looking forward to getting the tournament started and trying to be an impact player each and every night.”
Cozens scored nine points (two goals, seven assists) and helped Canada win the 2020 WJC. Byram had two assists in seven games.