On Monday Hockey Canada announced the invitees to its World Junior Camp for the upcoming 2014 World Junior Hockey Championships. After finishing a disappointing fourth place last year, Hockey Canada is taking a different approach to this year’s camp. Unlike in year’s previous where Canada would invite upwards of 40 players to camp and then make cuts accordingly, this year a roster of only 25 players was invited with the hopes of only making a few cuts and leaving more time for the team to gel and work out systems.
Hockey Canada announced that 15 forwards, 8 defencemen, and 2 goalies had been invited to the camp that will take place in Toronto from December 12th-15th. The team looks to be very strong this year, but take that with a grain of salt as last year’s team that finished fourth was seen by many to be a stacked squad after NHLers Ryan Nuggent-Hopkins and Jonathan Huberdeau were named to the squad.
However, this year’s crop is incredibly talented and there is no doubting that and in fact this may be one of the first year’s in a while where the projected top overall picks in next year’s NHL draft will get a serious look. Kootenay Ice’s Sam Reinhart and Barrie Colts’ Aaron Ekblad, who are both believed to challenge for the top spot in next year’s draft could play very pivotal roles on this year’s team. Both were important pieces of Canada’s under 18 tournament that won gold this past year.
Reinhart has captained Canada’s under-18 team the past two seasons so despite being one of the younger players on the squad, will be one of the leaders going forward. Reinhart has put up 45 points through his first 28 games this season and will be looked to bring his offense and hockey smarts to the world stage once again.
Ekblad who captains the Barrie Colts, was a huge part of the team that brought home the gold at the under- 18 tournament is the youngest defenceman on Canada’s roster. However, don’t expect his young age to get in the way of him playing important minutes for the team. Ekblad joined the Colts in the OHL as a 15 year old after being awarded exceptional status. Ekblad was instrumental at quarterbacking Canada’s powerplay and could be looked to help do the same with this year’s team.
Besides these two, another member of that same under- 18 team and someone many people will be excited to see, is 16 year old phenom Connor McDavid. McDavid like Ekblad was also granted exceptional status into the OHL last season and has already put up 45 points through 27 games this season. McDavid is already slated to be the next Sidney Crosby or even better depending on who you ask, and will be expected to bring his dynamic offensive skills back on to international ice.
On top of these great offensive talents, the player who will likely provide Canada with the strongest offensive punch is returning player Jonathan Drouin. Drouin was one of the more offensive players on Canada last year on a team despite the firepower, lacked the ability to finish at key times. The No. 3 overall pick in last year’s NHL draft and Memorial Cup winner is currently lighting it up again for the Halifax Mooseheads, tallying 46 points through his first 19 games this year. Drouin can be expected to play on Canada’s first line and see a lot of time on the team’s powerplay.
Besides the vast talent mentioned above, the team will also include Bo Horvat, the Canucks first round pick from the London Knights who was picked by Vancouver after they traded away goaltender Corey Schneider for New Jersey’s pick. Philadelphia Flyer’s first round pick Scott Laughton scored an invite after being snubbed last year. Jets draft pick Nic Petan of the Portland Winterhawks, who since the beginning of last season has put up more points than any other Canadian player, and Anthony Mantha who since the start of last year has put up more goals than other junior in Canada will both dawn the red and white.
Like last year, this year Canada will also be fortunate enough to have a player with NHL experience on the squad. The Minnesota Wild agreed to loan defenceman Matt Dumba to Canada. Dumba has been in and out of the lineup this season for the wild and because of this the Wild felt there was no reason why they couldn’t let him join the team.
Charles Hudon will be another face that the Hockey Canada will be happy to finally see in red and white this year. Last year Hudon suffered a devastating double fracture in his back during one of Canada’s tune up games and because of the injury was unavailable for the entire tournament. This year Hudon has 32 points in 29 games for the Chicoutimi Sagueneens of the QMJHL.
However, despite having only named 25 players there will still need to be a couple of cuts made to the team to get the down to size, likely two-three forwards and one defenceman. This cut will be easier on the defensive side of things, at least for the beginning of the tournament due to the case of Griffin Reinhart.
The elder brother of Sam Reinhart, will still have to serve three more games as part of a suspension that Griffin received last year for a highstick he delivered in a game against the USA. This means that Griffin will miss the first three games against Germany, Czech Republic, and Slovakia, but will be able to return in the team’s fourth game against the reigning champions USA. Luckily the team’s coaches will have three games to see who they want to sit upon Griffin’s return to the roster.
Meanwhile in goal it is a little uncertain to this point who exactly will carry the reigns, but as Canada has usually elected to do, both goalies will likely see playing time during the first couple games of the tournament. Jake Patterson returns for Canada after being the team’s third string last year, despite arguably being the best goaltender in Canada’s camp last year. Patterson has put up some shaky numbers this season with the OHL’s Saginaw Spirit including a 3.56 goals against average. However, Hockey Canada believes that he can still be a solid contender between the pipes. Canada will also have Canadiens second rounder Zach Fucale of the Halifax Mooseheads. This season Fucale has put up a 2.62 goals against average and 0.897 save percentage in 23 games.
Here is the entire list of those invited to this year’s camp:
Josh Anderson, London Knights (OHL)
Jonathan Drouin, Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)
Frédérik Gauthier, Rimouski Océanic (QMJHL)
Félix Girard, Baie-Comeau Drakkar (QMJHL)
Bo Horvat, London Knights (OHL)
Charles Hudon, Chicoutimi Saguenéens (QMJHL)
Scott Laughton, Oshawa Generals (OHL)
Curtis Lazar, Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL)
Taylor Leier, Portland Winterhawks (WHL)
Anthony Mantha, Val-d'Or Foreurs (QMJHL)
Connor McDavid, Erie Otters (OHL)
Nic Petan, Portland Winterhawks (WHL)
Sam Reinhart, Kootenay Ice (WHL)
Kerby Rychel, Windsor Spitfires (OHL)
Hunter Shinkaruk, Medicine Hat Tigers (WHL)
Chris Bigras, Owen Sound Attack (OHL)
Matt Dumba, Minnesota Wild (NHL) / Red Deer Rebels (WHL)
Aaron Ekblad, Barrie Colts (OHL)
Josh Morrissey, Prince Albert Raiders (WHL)
Adam Pelech, Erie Otters (WHL)
Derrick Pouliot, Portland Winterhawks (WHL)
Griffin Reinhart, Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL)
Damon Severson, Kelowna Rockets (WHL)
Zach Fucale, Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL
Jake Paterson, Saginaw Spirit (OHL)
Team Canada will kick off the tournament on Boxing Day when they take on the Germans. Canada has not brought home gold from the championship since 2009, but hopefully with a new approach to their camp and yet another roster chalked full of talent they will be able to get back on top of the junior hockey world.
Follow me on Twitter @Craig_Hagerman