Today Hockey Canada released the names of the invitees to the World Junior Selection Camp. The names on the list are radically different than those who attended the summer camp, and the list has been shortened by six players.
Most notably absent from the revised camp are Erik Gudbranson, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Devante Smith-Pelly, Ryan Johansen, Brett Connolly and Sean Couturier who have all landed NHL gigs. These absences leave Canada with only three players with the potential to return from last year's roster.
Despite the six lost to the NHL, Hockey Canada has chosen to go in a different direction with a number of other players and eleven players from the summer camp have been told to stay home while eleven new players will arrive. The new arrivals seem to shift the line-up towards a Western Hockey League heavy roster, most likely to play to the Alberta host crowdAfter the jump, a breakdown by position of the Canadian Camp.
This is the one position that stayed intact from the summer camp and barring injury the starting role belongs to Mark Visentin (OHL) as he is one of the few returning players from last season. The backup role is the only competition, and it's a toss-up between Louis Domingue, who looked strong in the summer camp, or Edmonton fan favourite Tyler Bunz (WHL prospect drafted by the Oilers in 2010.) The odd man out is likely Scott Wedgewood who certainly deserves some consideration given the season that he and the Whalers are having.
My picks: Visentin with Domingue as his backup.
Gudbranson was the sole defensive graduate to the NHL, but he also would have been the only returning member to Team Canada. Blueline leadership will likely fall on Brandon Gormley (QMJHL) and he would be a returning player if he wasn't injured last year.
After Gormley, defense is wide open, and the names on the point have changed. Gone from the summer are Stuart Percy, Duncan Siemens (both first rounders) and Dillon Simpson along with undrafted 19 year olds Martin Lefebvre and Matthew Petgrave, the latter who looked quite good in the summer camp.
Getting their first taste of camp of Alex Petrovic, Brendan Kichon and draft lottery favourite Matthew Dumba, all three play in the WHL and Dumba and Petrovic are teammates in Red Deer. Of the three Dumba probably has the best chance of making the squad.
Besides Dumba, a couple of other 2012 draft eligible players who could make the squad are Cody Ceci, a big physical defender with a two way game, and Ryan Murray a lightning fast quarterback with excellent hockey sense.
Other favourites likely to make the team are Ryan Murphy, Jamie Oleksiak, and Doug Hamilton all high picks from the 2011 draft. Joe Morrow and Nathan Beaulieu could also fall into this category, but might be passed over in favour of size or shutdown defenders.
Mark Pysyk is another favourite to make the team. Not only is he a solid player and leader, but as a Sherwood Park, AB native drafted by the Oilers playing on the Oil Kings he would be a good fit for the local tournament.
Finally, Jerome Gauthier-Leduc and Scott Harrington are at best considered long shots on a Canadian team that will likely consider the blueline their greatest strengths.
My picks: Gormley, Hamilton, Murphy, Oleksiak, Murray, Ceci, and Pysyk.
If Jonathan Huberdeau is healthy this is his team. As strong as Nugent-Hopkins has been for the Oilers this season I still believe that Huberdeau is the better long term player. Odds are he'll be healthy by the tournament and as such there is a strong possibility that Zach Phillips could join him on the team despite not attending the summer camp.
A few other newbies from the summer are Brett Bulmer, Phillip di Guiseppe, Michael Ferland, Mark McNeil, Tanner Pearson, Max Reinhart, and Brad Ross. I'd argue that at least one of Ferland or Reinhart will make the team to represent for Flames fans, and Tanner Pearson has come out of nowhere to lead the OHL in scoring. It would be shocking if he doesn't line up with Mark Schiefele.
As a Toronto fan the only thing that could make up for Greg McKegg and Stuart Percy not returning from the summer camp is for Brad Ross to make the team. Ross adds a lot of sand paper reminiscent of the Cormier, Kassian, and Marchand's time on Team Canada.
Besides McKegg the other forwards who weren't invited back from the summer camp are Brett Ritchie, Matt Puempel, Patrick Holland, Lucas Lessio, and Michael Sgarbossa. I can't say that any of these are surprising including McKegg who was not a favourite of coaches in the summer.
Rather than go through the whole mess of forwards I'll cut right to my picks.
Huberdeau is a lock, as are Schiefele and Ryan Strome. Mark Stone has continued to live up to his strong performance in the summer camp and should make the team too. Jaden Schwartz and Quinton Howden will be back to provide some experience to the roster and I don't see how Tyler Toffoli, Ty Rattie, and Tanner Pearson don't make this team.
With four spots left I'd expect some physical players to fill out the team. Phillip Danault can fill a pest role nicely and Boone Jenner seems to fit the bill as a fourth line center though I'd argue that Mark McNeil is the better choice. Zack Phillips would be a familiar face to ride shotgun with Huberdeau and has put up solid numbers to warrant making the team. And finally the spot I'd like to see go to Brad Ross will ultimately go to Max Reinhart.
I realize that I have built a lineup that excludes Christian Thomas, and I can't really see how Canada excludes him from the team so if I'm wrong on any of my picks it will be because Thomas is on the squad.
The camp this season has certainly shifted West as the WHL is now the dominate league in the Canadian camp. It is also looks that QMJHL may be better represented than they have been in recent years. While this team might lack the star power of recent seasons there is no doubt that Canada will still be the favourite going in. Even if this team isn't destined for gold we can assume it's strong enough to defeat Team USA.
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