Connor McDavid has a target return date as Canada’s world junior camp opens

Hockey Canada got some good news as phenom Connor McDavid appears close to a return. If the 17-year-old star stays on schedule, he could be in the Canadian lineup as soon as Dec. 21 when they face off against Sweden in an exhibition game in Ottawa.

That sound you hear is an entire nation exhaling, as it appears Connor McDavid could be back in time to start the World Junior Championship.

The potential return date for McDavid is Dec. 21, when Canada faces off against Sweden in a pre-tournament game in Ottawa. Scott Salmond, Hockey Canada’s vice-president of hockey operations, told the Toronto Sun that the 17-year-old phenom is actually ahead of schedule.

McDavid had his cast removed this week and, for the first time since breaking his hand on Nov. 11, has been cleared to take part in non-contact practices. Arguably the brightest star in junior hockey, McDavid’s return gives the Canadian squad one of the most legitimate scoring threats in the tournament.

Before the injury, McDavid had 16 goals and an eye-popping 51 points in 18 games with the Erie Otters. McDavid broke the hand in a fight with Bryson Cianfrone of the Mississauga Steelheads, and concern turned to how much time the sure-fire top-two 2015 draft pick would miss. As he left the ice, it was evident that he was in some pain as he nursed his hand skating off the ice.

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After learning that Canada will have Anthony Duclair loaned to them from the New York Rangers, getting McDavid back is huge news as the country looks to take home its first medal in three years. McDavid, if healthy enough to compete, will be one of seven returning players and is one of only two undrafted players on the selection camp roster that is yet to be drafted, the other being winger Lawson Crouse of the OHL’s Kingston Frontenacs.

While Canada may be the most successful team in tournament history, coming short of a medal in consecutive tournaments has been seen as a tremendous failure for the program. With McDavid in the lineup, Canada’s hopes of breaking the drought, if you can call it that, are exponentially increased.