Erie Otters center Connor McDavid, who has been out of the lineup since sustaining a right hand injury in a fight last month, could return to action on Dec. 21, according to the Toronto Sun.
The Dec. 21 return would give McDavid an opportunity to prepare for the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship that is scheduled to begin five days later at Bell Centre in Montreal.
"He is on track and he is probably a little bit ahead of where everyone thought he would be," Hockey Canada vice-president of hockey operations Scott Salmond told the paper. "I think coming out of Toronto he will be ready to practice full on and we are probably targeting around the 21st for his first exhibition game, which would be great."
Canada will host an exhibition tournament against Russia on Dec. 19, Sweden on Dec. 21 and Switzerland on Dec. 23. McDavid could see game action against Sweden at Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa. After the exhibition games, Canada will open the 11-day tournament on Dec. 26 with a Group A match against Slovakia at Bell Centre.
Canada will play its four preliminary-round games at Bell Centre. The Group A field consists of Canada, the United States, Finland, Slovakia and Germany. The gold-medal game will take place at Air Canada Centre in Toronto on Jan. 5.
"We're going to talk with Connor and obviously it's great news for us to have him on the ice to skate," Canadian coach Benoit Groulx told The Canadian Press in a phone interview. "We're going to discuss with him how he feels and he's going to be monitored by the doctor.
"Obviously it's going to be a day-to-day evaluation. We'll start from there and see how it goes."
McDavid sustained a fracture of the fifth metacarpal bone in his right hand in a fight against Mississauga Steelheads forward Bryson Cianfrone on Nov. 11. At that time, he was expected to miss 5-6 weeks. On Tuesday, he had the cast removed from his hand and was told he could resume skating and shooting with the Otters.
The roster for Canada does not need to be made official until Dec. 25.
McDavid, who had scored a point in all but one game for Erie this season, has 16 goals and 51 points in 18 matches. He has 69 goals and 216 points in 137 career OHL games spanning three seasons.