With the World Juniors starting exactly a month from today, its time to start taking a look at some of the players that are likely to represent their countries and this highly competitive tournament. A Tournament that has been dominated by the Canadian’s and Russians, most recently the USA, Sweden and Finland have gained ground on the two powerhouses, with Finland actually winning the tournament last year. Our first look will be at Team Canada, the Canadians often start the process of naming a World Junior Squad, with a selection camp held just under 3 weeks prior to the tournament. Here is a look at the Projected roster for the Canadian Selection Camp.
The Canadian’s return last year’s starter in Zach Fucale, however Fucale is playing for a weaker Halifax Mooseheads team this season, and his numbers are arguably the worst of the handful of goalies being considered for the camp. None the less numbers are often thrown out of the window when it comes to goaltenders. Mississauga goaltender Spencer Martin, is at the opposite end of the spectrum, where is numbers are fantastic despite his teams less then stellar record. Then you have names like Tristan Jarry, Eric Comrie and Phillippe Desrosiers who have all had individual and team success to start the season. You can’t count out guys like Oshawa’s Ken Appleby or North Bay’s Jake Smith, who are off the radar guys, but have their play this season is hard to ignore. Then there’s the guys who are likely to be considered for next years, roster, but realistically deserve a shot at this years team as well, the likes of Charlottetown’s Mason MacDonald and Moose Jaws Zach Sawchenko. Without further deliberation here are the 4 guys I predict Canada to invite to camp,
Zach Fucale – Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)
Fucale was a member of last years Team Canada squad, and faired well under the pressure of the tournament. He’s won a Memorial Cup, played internationally for Canada at the U-17’s & U-18’s and has a staggering 49 games of QMJHL playoff experience. He is the most equipped to led team Canada in 2014/15 an in my books, the likely starter.
Tristan Jarry – Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL)
Jarry possesses several impressive attributes, the one that may benefit him the most in this tournaments intense atmosphere is his ability to maintain an even temper, he’s never rattled and is unaffected by momentum swings or a bad goal. He’s blessed with a solid technical foundation and has and excellent glove hand. He’ll definitely get an invite to camp.
Eric Comrie – Tri-City Americans (WHL)
Comrie has always been considered one if the top goaltenders in his age group. He has impressive physical attributes, a workhorse type goaltender, with great poise and athleticism, Comrie has represented Canada on two other occasions. Comrie has been in the conversation for this team for the past 2 seasons. He’ll get an invite to camp, but could be in tough to make the squad.
Philippe Desrosiers – Rimouski Oceanic (QMJHL)
Maybe the most athletic goalie of the bunch, Desrosiers plays the butterfly style, is blessed with great quickness and anticipation amongst other things. He handles rebounds extremely well for his age, knowing how to direct the puck in favorable positions for his defensemen. Desrosiers is a puck stopper, not a puck blocker, as he actively throws his body into saves rather then letting the puck simply hit him. Almost guaranteed he’ll be invited to camp, making the squad, completely different story.
Spencer Martin – Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)
Martin is arguably the top goaltender in the OHL, playing on a weaker Mississauga team, Martin sees a ton of rubber on a nightly bases, and responds well. While his Win/Loss record might not be great, he does see the most shots in the OHL, and in spite of that he still has the 2nd highest save percentage. A work horse type goaltender, Martin is cool and calm under pressure. He deserves a shot at this camp and club, but will likely be the odd man.
When you look at Team Canada’s projected roster, its hard to see where their strength lies. They possess a very strong group of goaltenders, and even deeper group of highly drafted forwards, but ultimately the defense core may be the strongest part of this club. Narrowing down the list of potential to 13 names was hard enough, narrowing it to 10 for the camp, and 7 for the tournament is going to be even harder. There is undoubtedly going to be a small group of impactful names left off the selection camp roster, simply do to numbers.
Josh Morrissey – Prince Albert Raiders (WHL)
Morrissey was on the World Junior Team last year, so its basically a guarantee he gets an invite to the selection camp. Morrissey has seen great success at the AHL level already, recording 9 points in 20 games with St. John’s in last years Playoffs. Morrissey possesses great offensive instincts, fantastic mobility, and shows a willingness to take the body in defensive situations. He’ll be on Team Canada.
Chris Bigras – Owen Sound Attack (OHL)
Bigras is another returning defenseman, so he to is likely assured an invite to camp. Bigras is a responsible two-way defenseman, with a high hockey IQ. He thinks the game very well, his on ice intelligence his arguably his best attribute. Known for his solid defensive game, Bigras has improved his offensive game this season, making him even more effective.
Darnell Nurse – Soo Sault Marie (OHL)
Nurse was arguably the biggest snub when last years roster was selected. Nurse is a physical two-way defender, his mobility which was once a slight issue, has improved immensely, his boasts a cannon of a slap shot from the point. He’s very sound positionally and very rarely makes a mistake. Could eventually be the Team’s Captain.
Shea Theodore – Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL)
Theodore is an intelligent, two-way defender, who excels at the offensive end of the rink. He’s an effective power play quarter back, makes a crisp, accurate first pass and shows great on ice awareness and anticipation. Theodore racked up 79 points in 70 games last season, and 5 points in 5 AHL games to start this season, before being returned to Seattle. I’d be shocked if he wasn’t on the selection camp roster.
Madison Bowey – Kelowna Rockets (WHL)
Madison Bowey is a two-way defender with impressive physical attributes, standing 6’2 and weighing around 210 pounds. In the last 3 seasons, Bowey has a +106 rating, and has racked up 120 points in 164 games. Bowey is equally effective in all 3 zones, his skating is above average, he boasts strong leadership qualities, to go along with his impressive size and skill.
Roland McKeown – Kingston Frontenacs (OHL)
McKeown has represented Canada on four occasions, five if you include the Subway Super Series, so he provides a veteran like presence when it comes to International play. A smooth skater, who is equally as fluid skating backwards as he is forwards, McKeown posses strong two-way capabilities, solid positioning throughout the three zones, an active stick and a willingness to engage physically. Being one of the few Right shots in contention for a spot, will help him in his attempt to crack the squad.
Samuel Morin – Rimouski Oceanic (QMJHL)
Morin is a big 6’7, 225 pound defenseman that plays against other teams top lines on a nightly bases. A powerful skater, equipped with a long stride, Morin loves to inject himself physically, makes a strong first pass and is blessed with an absolute cannon of a slap shot. Morin is a steady force in all three zones, although his defensive zone presence will be what endears him to Team Canada’s selection committee.
Haydn Fleury – Red Deer Rebels (WHL)
Fleury is by every sense of the term, a shutdown defender. He moves well for a player who stands 6’2 and weighs nearly 205 pounds, he’s strong on his skates, he show’s good offensive ability, all though that part of his game is a step behind his defensive ability. Show’s great awareness and anticipation and likes to inject himself physically. Should be in contention to make this team, although age may play a factor.
Dillon Heatherington – Swift Current Broncos (WHL)
Heatherington is a 6’4, 205 pound intimidating stay at home defender. While he’s undoubtedly at his best in his defensive zone, Heatherington is a deceptively good offensive talents and very competent puck carrier. With the likely candidates to crack this team having such much offensive talent, Heatherington could snag the final defensive spot as a defensive specialist.
Jordan Subban – Belleville Bulls (OHL)
Subban is looking to follow in his brothers, PK and Malcolm’s footsteps in representing Team Canada at the World Juniors. A offensive minded defenseman, with excellent skating ability, Subban possesses a heavy shot, great offensive instincts, and elite level hockey IQ and is at his best in puck possession. He is a right shot, and with Canada lacking in that department, he should receive an invite to selection camp. However his defensive zone coverage’s are still less then stellar. If this tournament was on international ice, he’d have a better shot because of his elite skating ability.
Ben Harpur – Guelph Storm (OHL)
Harpur has a towering 6 foot 6 frame, he’s a physical presence and a net front clearer, he’s at his best in the defensive zone, although he has been developing his offensive game. He has good speed for his size, and his skating has improved immensely over his 4 year junior career. He likes to inject himself physically, has an active stick and shows a willingness to block shots. His hockey IQ has been question at times, but with his head Coach in Guelph Scott Walker as an assistant coach with Team Canada, he’ll likely get an invite to camp, a deserving one at that.
Ryan Graves – Quebec Remparts (QMJHL)
Another towering defender, Graves stands 6 foot 5 and weighs nearly 220 pounds. Clearly he’s blessed with great physical attributes, however he also boasts great mobility, both backwards, and forwards, good d-zone positioning and coverage, shows grit and a willingness to inject himself physically. He has a short choppy stride, despite his mobile frame, and his puck skills are merely average. However the defensive aspect of his game is what makes him intriguing.
Travis Sanheim – Calgary Hitmen (WHL)
Sanheim rose quickly in the draft rankings throughout last season, and was ultimately a 1st round, 12th overall pick by the Flyers. He’s still progressing everyday, he’s blessed with great size and physical attributes, plays a solid two-way game, is effective in all three zones. Known as a puck moving defenseman with great vision, there could be a spot for Sanheim on the final roster. However next season seems more likely at this point. However you have to think he at the very least receives a selection camp invite.
With Connor McDavid stepping back on the ice this week, Canadians let out a sigh of relief, however Canada’s other top forwards are all toiling in the NHL. Jonathan Drouin, Curtis Lazar, Bo Horvat and Anthony Duclair all made the NHL the season, while Nathan MacKinnon is still technically eligible for this tournament, but there is no chance we see him. The Canucks have said Horvat will not be loaned to the team, Drouin has been a healthy scratch lately but its still unlikely he is released for the tournament. Duclair was likely up until last week when his play and ice time with the NY Rangers picked up. Lazar has been playing a crucial role with the Senators this season, so he to is unlikely to be released. With that being said, Canada still boats a talented and deep core of forwards.
Connor McDavid (C/LW) – Erie Otters (OHL)
What’s there to say that people don’t already know. McDavid the consensus 1st overall pick in the 2015 NHL entry draft, is arguably the best player outside of the NHL, he’ll be on the team. However his hand injury may limit him in the selection camp.
Frederik Gautheir (C/LW) – Rimouski Oceanic (QMJHL)
Gauthier was on last years World Junior Team, taking on a defensive role, often being assigned the role of shutting down the oppositions top line, as well as being an integral part of the penalty killing unit. Gautheir is a 6’5, 215 pound two-way centre, he shows a great maturity to his game, and is both offensively and defensively sound. He uses his size well, is at his best working the boards and below the goal line. While he projects as a 3rd line player in the NHL, his offensive is impactful at the Junior level.
Sam Reinhart (C/RW) – Kootenay Ice (WHL)
Reinhart is the third of four forwards expected to return to Team Canada, from last years World Junior Team. Reinhart possesses a high level hockey IQ, to go along with immense offensive talent, and good size. Reinhart has a high compete level, great leadership qualities and a blend of maturity and poise beyond his years. With 19 points in just 8 games since being returned to Junior Reinhart will play a huge role on Team Canada this year. A candidate for the team’s Captaincy.
Nic Petan (C) – Portland Winterhawks (WHL)
The fourth and final returning forward from last years squad, is an undersized but highly effective offensive threat. Petan possesses not only high end offensive instincts and skill, but is also a high end skater, coupling his superb edge work, with elite speed, acceleration and lateral mobility. Petan has deceptive playmaking skills and a quick and accurate release. While he’s undersized, he plays with a chip on his shoulder and doesn’t shy away from physicality, he actually seems to thrive from it.
Robbi Fabbri (C) – Guelph Storm (OHL)
Fabbri was a late cut of the St. Louis Blue, won the OHL playoff MVP last season and thrives in big game situations. Fabbri possesses dynamic hands, a quick release and great speed. He’s most effective when he puts his speed to use, as he’s very dynamic and elusive when combining his puck skills and speed. Fabbri doesn’t shy away from the physical side of things either, although its not a key element in his effectiveness.
Jake Virtanen (RW) – Calgary Hitmen (WHL)
Virtanen, is a player who has the ability to dominate a game. Blessed with great physical attributes, Virtanen also possesses slick hands, a hard/accurate/heavy shot, and above average skating ability. He’s a complete power forward, he’s strong along the boards an in the corners, he thinks the game at a high level, and shows a willingness to go to the dirty areas on the ice. For a kid who stands nearly 6 foot 2 and weighs over 200 pounds, his skating his actually his best attribute, both speed an acceleration wise. Virtanen plays in all situations.
Max Domi (C/LW) – London Knights (OHL)
Another then Darnell Nurse, Max Domi was the biggest snub from last years team. This year he looks to be as close as you can get to a sure thing. Domi is a fantastic skater, possesses both great speed and acceleration. He has great vision and it shows in his elite playmaking ability. Domi is smaller in stature, but has good core strength and is very hard to knock of the puck. He plays a high competitive game, and shows a willingness to inject himself physically. He’s become more of a play maker this season, but boats a fantastic shot, with a quick and accurate release.
Morgan Klimchuk (LW) – Regina Pats (WHL)
Klimchuk is the type of player Canada would love to have play a 3rd or 4th line role. A player who has a great compete level, a winning attitude an fantastic leadership qualities. Klimchuk also thinks the game very well, he has great on ice awareness, top notch hockey sense and a great work ethic. While Klimchuk sounds like your meat and potatoes type player, he also boats an ability find the back of the net with relative ease, and more importantly in clutch situations.
Michael Dal Colle (C/LW) – Oshawa Generals (OHL)
Dal Colle is a big, smooth skating, highly effective offensive threat. A player who his blessed with a quick release, heavy and accurate shot , Dal Colle shows great puck protection skills, good speed and deceptive playmaking ability. He sees the ice very well, shows great awareness, and has improved his defensive zone coverage. NY Islanders 5th overall pick in last June’s draft, Dal Colle has a tendency to score clutch goals. He’s twice represented Canada at International Events.
Nick Ritchie (RW) – Peterborough Petes (OHL)
Ritchie is your prototypical power forward, he has great physical attributes standing 6’3 and weighing near 230 pounds. He skates very well for a big man, his as an impressive stride, accelerates fairly well and has very agile feet. He boast a cannon of a shot, that comes with a quick release. His shot is heavy and it catches goalies of guard. He uses his size to his advantage quite well, he likes to drive the net and is very effective in doing so, his puck protection skills are elite. He’d look good alongside a Connor McDavid.
Greg Chase (RW) – Victoria Royals (WHL)
Chase shows a balanced offensive game to go along with a very agitating style of play. He’s blessed with good speed, a high compete level and a willingness to go to the dirty areas of the rink. Chase has a good on ice awareness along with a high level hockey IQ, he not only protects the puck well, but he is also hard to knock off the puck. Chase could play in either a top 6 role, a checking role or a limited 4th line role. His versatility will serve him well.
Nick Baptiste (RW) – Erie Otters (OHL)
Baptiste is a solid two-way, complementary winger with a solid physical edge to his game. He possesses strong puck protection skills, excels in net drives and along the boards. Deceptively good playmaking skills, can make effective plays well on the rush. Baptise has a well rounded game and can be trusted in his defensive zone. Not the quickest guy in the world, Baptise is very sound positionally and that often makes up for his average speed. Baptiste has a nose for the net, and heavy shot.
Brayden Point (C) – Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL)
Point has represented Canada at three international events, fairing well in all 3. Despite being some what undersized, Point plays a big game. A spark plug type player with a strong work ethic and consistent motor, Point also possesses and above average release, elite hockey IQ, great vision and is a creative playmaker. While noted as a playmaking centre, Point has also showed great finishing ability. His above average skill in the face-off dot may appeal to the Team Canada brace.
Jason Dickinson (C/LW) – Guelph Storm (OHL)
A highly skilled two-way forward, Dickinson is a fantastic skater for a player of his size. He boasts, excellent speed & acceleration to go along with excellent change of direction ability. A player blessed with soft hands, Dickison has deceptive playmaking ability to go along with a quick and accurate shot. He lacks some physicality to his game for a player that stands 6’2 and around 190 pounds, however he uses good body position and his long reach to be effective in separating the opposition from the puck. Dickinson is reliable defensively and could play on any line for Team Canada.
Nick Paul (LW) – North Bay Battalion (OHL)
A big reliable two-way forward, with good offensive instincts. Paul shows awareness in both the offensive and defensive zones. He could play in a top 6 or bottom 6 role. Paul shows a physicality to his game at times, although he could be more consistent in that area. A deceptively good playmaker, Paul has an uncanny ability to find the back of the net. Blessed with a heavy and accurate shot, Paul is also a fairly good skater, he could lengthen his stride to add some speed. Should be invited to the camp, with a good chance at cracking the final roster.
Mitchell Marner (C/RW) – London Knights (OHL)
Marner is a creative and dynamic offensive threat. While he may lack some size and strength at this point of his career, his offensive ability is undeniable. A player with excellent vision and playmaking skills, Marner also has a quick and accurate shot. He has slightly above average speed and skating ability, his d-zone coverage’s need to improve and could be his one detriment in trying to crack this World Junior Squad as an underage player.
Jayce Hawryluk (C) – Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL)
Hawryluk is an offensive minded centre with an edge to his game. He’s highly competitive and used in every situation by his club team in Brandon. Hawryluk doesn’t mind going to the dirty areas of the rink, and has a grittiness to his game. Blessed with a very good shot, both accurate and hard, Hawryluk excels on net drives. His high energy and effective checking, will endear himself to the Team Canada brace. Could play a fourth line role effectively for the Canadians.
Zach Nastasiuk (RW) – Owen Sound Attack (OHL)
Nastasiuk is a hardworking, two-way player, who’s very effective on the forecheck. His use his on ice awareness and great anticipation to force turnovers. Nastasiuk is blessed with a fantastic work ethic, with a nose for the net, his skating needs to improve but is still good enough to keep up with international competition. If this tournament was in Europe Nastasiuk’s skating could be more of an issue. A player who plays on the top line in Owen Sound, Nastasiuk’s game could easily translate and work in a fourth line role.
Dylan Strome (C/LW) – Erie Otters (OHL)
Strome is a highly effective offensive threat, blessed with great natural playmaking ability and excellent vision, Strome shows a capability to play in traffic, he can excels in the dirty areas on the ice do to his impressive size. A potent scorer by trade Strome’s shot is both quick and accurate. While he did see limited ice time last season, he’s exploded offensively this season, and currently leads the OHL in scoring. You cant not invite him to at least the selection camp.
Remi Elie (LW) – Belleville Bulls (OHL)
Elie has been impressive early on this OHL season, and impressed during the Subway Super Series. A sold two-way player, Elie is responsible in all three zones. Elie has a fantastic shot, couple with a quick release, he sees the ice well and possesses above average puck skills and stickhandling ability. Elie can be sent out in any situation and be effective, Elie takes a very tactical approach below the goal line, showing excellent work on the cycle and net drives. He’s a long shot for the final roster, but deserves and invite.
Nick Merkley (C) – Kelowna Rockets (WHL)
Merkley like Strome finds himself leading his junior league in scoring as a draft eligible player. Merkley possesses above average speed, strong acceleration, and elusive lateral movements. Merkley’s vision, passing and playmaking ability is already at the elite level, he possesses a very quick release, coupled with a hard/heavy and accurate shot. He likes to carry the puck and seems to excel in puck possession. He has great puck skills and stickhandling ability, to go along with a very high hockey IQ and overall on ice awareness. Merkley has the ability to make this team, however he’s likely to be a huge part of next years World Junior Squad.
Daniel Audette (C) – Sherbrooke Phoenix (QMJHL)
Audette is a pure offensive threat. A player blessed with great speed, Audette does everything at a high speed. He possesses great puck handling ability and a knack for finding the back of the net. Audette impressed during the QMJHL’s leg of the Subway Super Series, is a bit undersized and lacks strength, however his offensive capabilities are hard to ignore.
While its yet to be determined just how many players will receive the invite to the selection camp, it has been said Canada will go back to the larger selection camp roster, rather then naming just 25 guys like the did last season. I expect 36 skaters an 4 goalies to be named to the selection camp roster. Canada is deep once again this year, the question is can they put together the right combination of players to take home the Gold for the first time since 2009.
Written By: Mike Mackley