St. Albert Minor Hockey alumnus and NHL draftee Zack Ostapchuk and his Team Canada teammates have gone undefeated through the preliminary round at the rescheduled 2022 IIHF World Junior Championship at Rogers Place in Edmonton.
Ostapchuk, 19, was not on the original Canadian roster for the tournament, scheduled last December before it was postponed due to COVID, but on Aug. 1, when Hockey Canada announced the new roster, Ostapchuk was one of 10 new players on the team.
Canada opened tournament play with a 5-2 win over Latvia on Aug. 10. Ostapchuk registered an assist on a third period goal by New York Islanders draft pick William Dufour.
The Canadians more than doubled their scoring effort in their second game as they beat Slovakia 11-1 on Aug. 11. Ostapchuk scored the 11th goal for Canada in the third period.
Ostapchuk had an individually quiet performance on Aug. 13 in Canada's third game against Czechia. Canada won 5-1.
To conclude the preliminary portion of the tournament, and to decide the first place seed in Group A, Canada faced Finland on Aug. 15.
The Canadians didn't waste any time before building themselves a solid lead, scoring three unanswered goals in a 10-minute span in the first period. Finland managed to get themselves on the board in the last minute of the period.
Just 29 seconds into the second period, Ridly Greig scored his third of the tournament to restore Canada's three-goal lead. Mason McTavish went on to add another goal for Canada to make it 5-1 heading into the third period.
Finland scored early in the third period to make it 5-2. After the Canadians ran into some penalty trouble and gave the Finnish team nearly 11 consecutive minutes of power-play time, Finland scored again to reduce Canada's lead to two.
With under two minutes to play in the game Ostapchuk assisted on an empty net goal by Dufour.
With four wins to open the tournament Canada finished first in Group A, and will play Switzerland in the quarter finals on Wednesday, Aug. 17.
Neither Ostapchuk or his agent responded to The Gazette's interview requests, but in an interview with TSN prior to the tournament's start, Ostapchuk said he was excited to wear the Canadian jersey for the first time.
Seeing as the World Junior Championship is taking place in Edmonton, Ostapchuk told TSN's Mark Masters that he "will have a lot of friends and family" at Rogers Place cheering for him.
"It will be nice to have some support in the crowd," said Ostapchuk.
Ostapchuk was drafted by the Ottawa Senators in the second round of the 2021 entry draft as the 39th overall pick of the draft.
When Hockey Canada announced the new World Junior team roster, Ostapchuk's WHL team, the Vancouver Giants, posted an announcement on the team's website congratulating their Ostapchuk.
Ostapchuk has appeared in 132 regular season games for the Giants since making his debut in 2019, while registering 38 goals and 29 assists. In March of this year the Giants announced that Ostapchuk was the team's new captain, the 19th in the franchise's history.
Giants general manager Barclay Parneta was quoted as saying that Ostapchuk "has a great sense and feel for the game."
"He is a tremendous skater that has established himself as a premier forward in the WHL and will be a great addition to Team Canada," Parneta said.
Ostapchuk will also be eligible to play for the Canadian team at the 2023 World Junior Championship, scheduled to take place in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick come December.