According to NHL.com’s Mike Morreale, Team Canada defenseman Daemon Hunt will not be able to join the team for the World Junior Championship due to injury, and has instead been replaced by fellow defenseman Ethan Del Mastro (link). The move comes just three days before Canada is set to kick off its 2022 World Juniors run, matching up against Latvia Wednesday evening. Both players are left-shot defensemen, so the impact on the rest of the lineup should be minimal at most, and though Hunt was Canada’s first choice among the two, Del Mastro represents high-quality talent that should help the country chase Gold once again.
By losing Hunt, Canada will be without a very talented two-way defenseman who even comes with a bit of pro experience as well. Hunt has played parts of five seasons as a member of the WHL’s Moose Jaw Warriors, his best season coming in 2021-22 where he had 17 goals and 22 assists in 46 games en route to a playoff berth and fourth-place finish in the league’s Eastern Conference. A third-round pick of the Minnesota Wild in 2020, the defenseman made his professional debut during the 2020-21 season, getting into six games with the AHL’s Iowa Wild, scoring a goal. Missing the tournament is an especially tough break for Hunt, now age 20 and in what would have been his final year of eligibility for the tournament with a chance to represent his country in his home province of Alberta.
In Del Mastro, Hunt’s replacement, Canada will be bringing in a large, physical defenseman with some bite and playmaking ability, albeit with less experience. A fourth-round pick in 2021 by the Chicago Blackhawks, Del Mastro debuted for the OHL’s Mississauga Steelheads in 2019-20, recording seven assists in 57 games. With the OHL cancelling the 2020-21 season amid COVID-19 concerns and restrictions, Del Mastro himself missed the entire season, but came back better than ever this year, scoring seven goals to go with 41 assists, a plus-34 rating and 91 penalty minutes in 68 games. Though losing Hunt is far from ideal, Del Mastro’s addition to the roster gives Canada another quality two-way defenseman, this one with a bit more size added to his game.
The tournament begins this Tuesday, August 9th at 2:00 pm ET, as Czechia plays Slovakia (link for full schedule). The United States will see its first game action Tuesday night at 10:00 pm ET, with Canada and Latvia hitting the ice Wednesday at 6:00 pm ET. The Bronze and Gold medal games will take place on Saturday, August 20th.