Every fan held their breath when Kirby Dach, Team Canada’s captain, skated off the ice and straight into the dressing room, nursing a floppy wrist during a warmup game at the World Juniors. Every fan squirmed when the announcement came that Dach’s floppy wrist was, of course, broken, and that he would not be returning to the tournament. 

Team Canada was left without their captain on the ice. Dylan Cozens and Bowen Byram were named co-captains, alternating wearing the “C”, but Dach would still remain the official captain. Despite not having Dach out on the ice, the team is still stacked with top-talent players, many of which have leadership potential. Here are five players who not only would be fit to wear the “C”, but could potentially serve as leaders on the ice regardless. 

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Quinton Byfield

He’s a fridge on skates, with speed and good hands to boot. His plays provide opportunities, not only for himself but for his teammates. He’s well-rounded, with strong skating ability and drive, which gives him immense leadership potential. Plus, he is already looking to be a role model — he was the highest-drafted Black player in NHL history and the highest drafted player ever in the history of his junior team, the Sudbury Wolves (a team with which he put up an impressive 82 points in his most recent season). If given the opportunity with his new team, the Los Angeles Kings, he could learn from captain Anze Kopitar and blossom into a centre worth building the team around, Connor McDavid style.

Jamie Drysdale

He may be a defenceman but if Drysdale has proven anything since the World Juniors began, it’s that he makes plays like his life depends on it. He makes the best decision for the play, no matter the situation. He was also drafted 6th overall in the 2020 draft and put up 9 goals and 47 points last season with the Erie Otters. Not to mention he made the OHL’s First All-Star team last season. Now, him and his dynamic D partner, Bowen Byram, have demonstrated the lengths they will go to to produce results in the game. He has signed an entry level contract with the Anaheim Ducks now, who are in need of a right shot defenceman, and one who can dictate plays would be an extra benefit.

Bowen Byram

It’s not a surprise that the defenceman was offered one of the alternating “C’s” after Dach left the warmup game with a sideways wrist – the kid is an all-around team player. Every decision Byram makes as a defenceman works in his line’s favour. He also wears the “A” for his current team, the WHL’s Vancouver Giants, so it’s clear that his other teammates already see him as leader material. No doubt the Colorado Avalanche could use his attentive skills in the upcoming NHL season. He has a strong chance of breaking the Avs lineup, with capabilities far beyond his peers. His performance in the World Juniors so far suggest that he’s ready to be a young leader in NHL territory, alongside fellow young defenceman Cale Makar.

Dylan Cozens

Just like Byram, he is also wearing the “C” for a reason — he is a clear leader on the ice. He currently serves as the captain of the Lethbridge Hurricanes. He’s competitive with a top notch hockey sense his teammates can feed off of. He’s lightning fast, leads complex plays, and delivers. Last season, he had 38 goals and a staggering 85 points with the Hurricanes. He was drafted by and signed with the Buffalo Sabres, who could use a sharp and speedy player to move up in their ranks and lead the other young players. He plays a mature game, which naturally gives him a leg up in showing his teammates how it’s done. 

Philip Tomasino

Perhaps he doesn’t seem like an obvious choice, but after his performance in the game against Germany, Tomasino has proven that his fearlessness and ability to see the ice well make him a team leader. Plus, he wore the “A” while playing for the Mississauga Ice Dogs. The Nashville Predators think he’s NHL-ready, with his fast-paced game and ability to make skilled plays. Despite his age and the fact that he’s not a massive kid, he seems like the kind of player that could thrive if put in a position that requires him to step up.

Each of these young phenoms are not only able, but are also willing to lead a team. As the rest of the World Juniors unfolds, I don’t doubt these guys will continue to impress, continuing to prove that hey, they don’t all have “C’s” on their chest but damnit, they can dominate. Perhaps, they don’t have to prove anything — they just need to keep doing exactly what they are doing.