Canadian World Junior Team To Make Final Cuts Tomorrow

The World Junior Championships are less than two weeks away, and Team Canada is poised to make their final cuts tomorrow morning. It won’t be an easy decision, as the team boasts incredible depth at almost every position.

Forwards

Player Incumbent Drafted Numbers
Brett Connolly Yes 6th overall, 2010 28GP – 4G – 4A – 8PTS (NHL)
Quinton Howden Yes 25th overall, 2010 20GP – 14G- 15A – 29PTS (WHL)
Jaden Schwartz Yes 14th overall, 2010 13GP – 5G – 13A – 18PTS (WCHA)
Michael Bournival No 71st overall, 2010 16GP – 15G – 9A – 24PTS (QMJHL)
Brett Bulmer No 39th overall, 2010 15GP – 11G – 12A – 23PTS (WHL)
" " " 9GP – 0G – 3A – 3PTS (NHL)
Phillip Danault No 26th overall, 2011 28GP – 6G – 25A – 31PTS (QMJHL)
Phillip Di Giuseppe No 2012 Eligible 19GP – 8G – 6A – 14PTS (CCHA)
Brendan Gallagher No 147th overall, 2010 28GP – 24G – 22A – 46PTS (WHL)
Freddie Hamilton No 129th overall, 2010 31GP – 15G – 28A – 43PTS (OHL)
Jonathan Huberdeau No 3rd overall, 2011 13GP – 10G – 18A – 28PTS (QMJHL)
Boone Jenner No 37th overall, 2011 27GP – 15G – 18A – 33PTS (OHL)
Tanner Pearson No 2012 Eligible 30GP – 26G – 40A – 66PTS (OHL)
Ty Rattie No 32nd overall, 2011 32GP – 32G – 27A – 59PTS (WHL)
Brad Ross No 43rd overall, 2010 33GP – 20G – 18A – 38PTS (WHL)
Mark Scheifele No 7th overall, 2011 19GP – 13G – 23A – 36PTS (OHL)
" " " 7GP – 1G – 0A – 1PTS (NHL)
Devante Smith-Pelley No 42nd overall, 2010 26GP – 3G – 2A – 5PTS (NHL)
Mark Stone No 178th overall, 2010 33GP – 27G – 38A – 65PTS (WHL)
Ryan Strome No 5th overall, 2011 24GP – 16G – 17A – 33PTS (OHL)
Christian Thomas No 40th overall, 2010 21GP – 13G – 14A – 27PTS (OHL)
Tyler Toffoli No 47th overall, 2010 28GP – 27G – 23A – 50PTS (OHL)

Ryan Spooner was also invited to camp but was unable to attend due to illness; he’s unlikely to make the team.

The returning players – Connolly, Howden, and Schwartz – are certain to make this year’s team. Devante Smith-Pelley, as an NHL’er on loan to the Canadian team, is an equally certain selection. Aside from those four, five others were scratched for tonight’s game and are therefore presumed to have made the team: Brendan Gallagher, Freddie Hamilton, Jonathan Huberdeau, Mark Scheifele, and Mark Stone.

That means nine of 13 spots have been secured up front (unlike NHL rosters, the Canadian team is permitted only 22 spots, meaning there’s only one spot for a spare defenseman and one spot for a spare forward). That leaves four spots for the remaining 11 players, assuming that those players scratched for the final contest have indeed made the team. It won’t be an easy decision.

At least two of those forward spots will go to centers. Ryan Strome was considered by many to be a lock entering training camp, and still seems the likeliest possibility of the group to secure a spot, but he’s not having a great year after a 2011 campaign that got him drafted 5th overall. He’s both talented and versatile; I do expect that he’ll make the team. Bournival, Danault, and Jenner would all seem to be in competition for the last spot, and all boast similar skillsets: they’re primarily defensive players, the kind of players that play all 200 feet. Any would be a solid pick, but Bournival would be both my guess and my choice: his numbers are the best of the trio, he barely missed the team last year, and he’s older than the other two. Bournival’s a very strong skater and tenacious on the forecheck; he’d be a great fit on the fourth line.

That leaves two other spots open for a long list of strong choices. Four 2010 picks are facing their last kick at the can. Brett Bulmer’s a tall, lanky forward who plays an aggressive game and skates well, plus he started the year in the NHL. Brad Ross is similar and perhaps even nastier than Bulmer, though one wonders to what extent discipline will concern the Canadian coaches. Five-foot-nine winger Christian Thomas is a brilliant goal scorer (he potted 54 goals in 66 games last season in the OHL) and is aggressive enough to play a bottom-six role. Meanwhile, Tyler Toffoli is scoring at a goal-per-game pace; he doesn’t have the versatility of some of the other players but offensively it’s tough to argue him as a choice.

Tanner Pearson has the best story, and like the 2010 picks is getting his last crack at making the team. He leads the OHL in scoring by a 16-point margin, but has been passed over twice in the NHL Draft. He’s also a teammate of Scheifele, the player expected to be Canada’s top center, and that could help his chances.

Also in the running are Ty Rattie, scoring at a goal-per-game pace and second only to Mark Stone in WHL scoring. He’s a great offensive option but not a great skater, which may cost him. Phil Di Giuseppe is in tough, but has already surprised people with his strong performance this year – he jumped from 50th to 33rd on Red Line Report’s rankings between October and November and might be able to make a case for himself.

It’s hard to pick just two players from the list, but at a guess Di Giuseppe won’t be able to overcome his youth, while Rattie and Toffoli will get docked because of flaws in their game. I’d guess the two spots go to Bulmer and Thomas over Ross and Pearson, since versatility and perceived fit in the bottom-six is going to matter, and since Ross’ penchant for penalties might be too much of a risk for the international game.

Defense

Player Incumbent Drafted Numbers
Nathan Beaulieu No 17th overall, 2011 30GP – 8G – 18A – 26PTS (QMHL)
Cody Ceci No 2012 Eligible 30GP – 7G – 25A – 32PTS (OHL)
Brandon Gormley No 13th overall, 2010 26GP – 10G – 17A – 27PTS (QMJHL)
Dougie Hamilton No 9th overall, 2011 30GP – 12G – 33A – 45PTS (OHL)
Scott Harrington No 54th overall, 2011 26GP – 2G – 14A – 16PTS (OHL)
Joe Morrow No 23rd overall, 2011 27GP – 9G – 19A – 28PTS (WHL)
Ryan Murphy No 12th overall, 2011 14GP – 1G – 8A – 9PTS (OHL)
Ryan Murray No 2012 Eligible 11GP – 3G – 4A – 7PTS (WHL)
Jamie Oleksiak No 14th overall, 2011 29GP – 6G – 4A – 10PTS (OHL)
Alex Petrovic No 36th overall, 2010 29GP – 3G – 23A – 26PTS (WHL)
Mark Pysyk No 23rd overall, 2010 25GP – 2G – 16A – 18PTS (WHL)

Ryan Murray and Cody Ceci are the two youngest players on this list, but both are high-end prospects. Murray is generally projected as a top-three selection in 2012 and is all but certain to make the team; in October Redline Report said (in part) the following about him:

Was team captain at 17. Has his coaches’ complete confidence to play in every situation and can handle a heavy workload… Never seems to make a mistake defensively – always makes the smart, safe play. Smooth, effortless skating stride. Great decision making process and makes crisp, accurate outlets. Excels in the transition game, breaking up plays and starting quick-strike counterattacks. Has superb vision that can’t be taught. Plays a very cerebral game and hockey sense is off the charts – has the ability to read a couple of plays ahead of everyone else and easily blunt the attack.

Murray is nearly a lock to make the team. Cody Ceci, on the other hand, may have to wait until next year – his defensive game isn’t as good as some of the other options and Canada is loaded to the gills with offensive defensemen, most of them older.

One of those offensive defensemen is Dougie Hamilton, who has 45 points in 30 OHL games, and is arguably Canada’s best offensive option. Hamilton, who went ninth overall to Boston in last year’s draft (one of the picks sent as part of the Kessel deal), isn’t a one-trick pony by any stretch, though: the 6’4” defender earned rave reviews from scouts for both his defensive play and composure under fire. He’s another candidate who would be extremely unlikely to miss the cut.

Three skaters from the 2010 Draft are also competing for a spot. Thirteenth overall pick Brandon Gormley is managing a point-per-game pace in the QMJHL, but that’s not even regarded as his strong point. Gormley’s primarily a shutdown defenseman, and was ranked as the NHL’s 12th-best prospect in last year’s THN Future Watch. He’ll be on the team. Less certain are the fates of the other two: 23rd overall selection Mark Pysyk and 36th overall pick Alex Petrovic. Pysyk was one of the final cuts on last season’s team, while Petrovic is big, tough, and the second-leading scorer in Red Deer.

The bulk of the invitees, six altogether, come from the 2011 Draft class. We’ve already considered Hamilton, but the 12th (Ryan Murphy), 14th (Jamie Oleksiak), 17th (Nathan Beaulieu), 23rd (Joe Morrow) and 54th (Scott Harrington) overall picks are all competing for spots. Murphy has draft pedigree, but is more one-dimensional than other picks – he’s a high-end offensive prospect but has definite defensive shortcomings. That could cost him. Six-foot-seven defender Oleksiak has the opposite problem – his offense isn’t as developed as other candidates, but he’s huge and skates well for his size, and many assume he’ll make the team as a result. Beaulieu plays a well-rounded game, having transformed himself from a primarily offensive defenseman to one that plays at both ends of the ice. Penguins’ prospects Morrow and Harrington both play strong defense, but Morrow is also hanging around the point-per-game mark and is likely to make the team, while Harrington seems like a less probable candidate.

Murray, Hamilton and Gormley are likely to form the backbone of Canada’s defense. At a guess, that group will be rounded out by Pysyk, Oleksiak and Morrow. I’d expect Beaulieu or Murphy to get the final job.

Goal

Player Incumbent Drafted Numbers
Mark Visentin Yes 27th overall, 2010 21GP, 11-7-2, 0.899 SV% (OHL)
Tyler Bunz No 121st overall, 2010 29GP, 17-8-4, 0.922 SV% (WHL)
Louis Domingue No 138th overall, 2010 20GP, 14-4-2, 0.922 SV% (QMJHL)
Scott Wedgewood No 84th overall, 2010 21GP, 13-5-3, 0.904 SV% (OHL)

Those who watched the World Juniors last season will remember Mark Visentin, who was in net when the Canadians allowed five goals in the third period of the gold medal game against the Russians. Despite that setback, and some terrible numbers in the OHL this season, it appears that Visentin is a lock to return for the team.

The second job is up for grabs, with Oilers’ prospect Tyler Bunz probably the favourite. Scott Wedgewood is well back based on the numbers, but has played well in selection camp.

Projected Team

Center: Borunival, Hamilton, Scheifele, Strome Wing: Bulmer, Connolly, Gallagher, Howden, Huberdeau, Schwartz, Smith-Pelley, Stone, Thomas Defense: Beaulieu, Gormley, Hamilton, Murray, Morrow, Oleksiak, Pysyk Goal: Bunz, Visentin