After 4 straight years without a gold medal, the Team Canada U-20 brass has decided it’s time for a change in the way things are done. Head Coach Brent Sutter and company released today an initial 25-man roster of players who will “compete” for final spots at the selection camp. Normally the team has invited around 40 players vying for the coveted spots, culminating in Ryan Rishaug and other TSN personalities waking up the young lads at 6 a.m. to inform them that they have been cut. The camp this year runs from December 12-15, with a final roster needing to be set by Christmas Day. But with the team basically set, look for only 2 forwards and 1 defenceman to be released prior to the traditional Boxing Day start.
Lets take a peek at what the squad will be working with this year.
Josh Anderson – London (OHL)
Jonathan Drouin – Halifax (QMJHL)
Frederik Gauthier – Rimouski (QMJHL)
Felix Girard – Baie-Comeau (QMJHL)
Bo Horvat – London (OHL)
Charles Hudon – Chicoutimi (QMJHL)
Scott Laughton – Oshawa (OHL)
Curtis Lazar – Edmonton (WHL)
Taylor Leier – Portland (WHL)
Anthony Mantha – Val D’Or (QMJHL)
Connor McDavid – Erie (OHL)
Nic Petan – Portland (WHL)
Sam Reinhart – Kootenay (WHL)
Kerby Rychel – Windsor (OHL)
Hunter Shinkaruk – Medicine Hat (WHL)
Obviously the headline grabber here is Erie Otters’ top gun McDavid. The 16-year old phenom, and overwhelming favorite to be the 1st overall pick in the 2015 Entry Draft, looks to join a handful of 16 year-old players to crack Team Canada. That exclusive list includes the likes of Wayne Gretzky, Eric Lindros, Jason Spezza, Jay Bouwmeester and Sidney Crosby. If he cracks the team he will likely have a role similar to what Crosby held back in 2004, that of a 13th forward. Otherwise look for this team to be led upfront by the likes of Drouin, Reinhart and Horvat – all high (or projected to be high) draft picks in their own right. Reinhart has already performed well for Team Canada on the international stage at the U-18 World Championship earlier this year, and last year’s OHL playoff MVP Horvat will be looked upon as a key face-off man in addition to being an offensive catalyst. Look for big-bodied Hockey Canada favorite Rychel to be a primary cog on the squad as well. Wildcards include Petan, the undersized Winterhawks forward, and Laughton, the energy player who could play a similar role on the team to that of his former junior roommate Boone Jenner. Definitely surprising to see 2013 Phoenix Coyotes’ 1st round pick Max Domi left off this roster as he could have been a dynamo on the big ice surface in Sweden.
Chris Bigras – Owen Sound (OHL)
Matt Dumba – Minnesota (NHL)
Aaron Ekblad – Barrie (OHL)
Josh Morrissey – Prince Albert (WHL)
Adam Pelech – Erie (OHL)
Derrick Pouliot – Portland (WHL)
Griffin Reinhart – Edmonton (WHL)
Damon Severson – Kelowna (WHL)
A heavily Western influenced lineup, I think this is where the strength of the team really lies. Dumba is the only active NHL’er on the roster as the Toronto Maple Leafs did not release Morgan Rielly (and why should they considering he is playing 18+ minutes a night), but other 1st-round picks Morrissey, Reinhart and Pouliot litter the corps. Of course, it’ll be interesting with Reinhart as he still has to serve out an IIHF imposed 3 game suspension stemming from last year’s tournament. Perhaps the player I’m most excited to see here is 2014 1st-overall pick candidate Ekblad, a towering behemoth who leads the Colts D-men with 23 points. He was a standout player for Canada at the U-18 tournament, and really demonstrated his skill and judgment on the larger ice surface. Really looking forward to what he can do at this tournament at is has been known to vault d-men (Erik Johnson comes to mind) to indisputable status come draft time. Biggest omission here is obviously 2013 7th overall pick and Soo Greyhounds star Darnell Nurse. A current point a game guy, the critics on him have been quick to point out he failed to keep his game simple at the recent Subway Series and may have been trying to do too much. Sounds like some of the same critics who label P.K. Subban as too high risk a player for the 2014 Canadian Olympic team.
Zach Fucale – Halifax (QMJHL)
Jake Paterson – Saginaw (OHL)
Not really anything to debate here, Fucale to me is the clear starter, even while exhibiting below average stats with the Mooseheads. He is a workhorse goaltender who recently led the team to last year’s Memorial Cup championship and wants to show the Montreal Canadiens brass they were justified making him the 1st goaltender selected in the 2013 Entry Draft. Only notable I would say could have been considered is Pittsburgh Penguins prospect Tristan Jarry, currently toiling with the Edmonton Oil Kings of the WHL. This could be the weakest link on this team so hopefully Sutter and Co.’s back-end can keep things tight.
Feel free to chime in on who you would put on the squad.
For Hockeyland Canada,