Hockey Canada has announced the 38 player final selection camp roster for their U20 team, and the selection of even this roster is quite a ridiculous process in a lot of ways. For weeks, it was debated whether someone like 2011 draft eligible would make the cut, after having been left off the summer evaluation camp invite list. And if 38 players seems like a lot to invite, it's because it is. Within one week, we're supposed to believe that some of these players are going to decide their fate on this team? I don't understand pulling players from their junior teams right before Christmas (and making Christmas plans weird for their families) accomplishes when you know they aren't going to make the team, but hey... it gets more fans in more markets interested.
What's amazing to me sometimes are the obvious misses, and to me there is no more obvious miss than a guy from the junior team I love, Stefan Elliott of the Saskatoon Blades. I realize I have a bias... but please, this is as ridiculous as Hockey Canada leaving Mike Green off the 2005 WJC team with the entire hockey world believing that Cam Barker was somehow better. Scouting is an inexact science, but somehow no one can ever get the team I follow even remotely right. And I have nothing against Curtis Hamilton's presence, but he's a complimentary player. Stefan Elliott drives the bus: he skates well, makes great passes, carries the puck through the neutral zone, can play on the PP, and is incredibly smart at joining a rush. Not to mention the fact that he graduated with top marks in his class, too.
So, I guess, you can look at this and say that if a guy like him can't even crack the top 12 on a country's depth chart, that country must be stacked. And you'd be right. Team Canada choosing one of the other players invited over Elliott probably won't cost them the gold medal. But if the idea is to have the best U20 players in the world represented, well... I can't help but feel a bit cheated.
With that out of the way, here's a look at the players that might possibly still make it to Buffalo on Boxing Day:
|ANDERSON, J.P.||R||5'10"||192||2/14/92||Toronto, ON||Mississauga (OHL)||N/A (SJ)|
|PICKARD, Calvin||L||6'1"||203||4/15/92||Winnipeg, MB||Seattle (WHL)||2/49, '10 (COL)|
|ROY, Olivier||L||5'11"||186||7/12/91||Causapscal, QC||Acadie-Bathurst (QMJHL)||5/133, '09 (EDM)|
|VISENTIN, Mark||L||6'1"||198||8/7/92||Waterdown, ON||Niagara (OHL)||1/27, '10 (PHX)|
The OHL might be sending two goalies to camp, but I think it'd be a mild surprise if one of them made the cut. I'm a little surprised Scott Wedgewood didn't get the call for a challenge spot, but I think it's a battle between Pickard and Roy for the starting spot. Roy doesn't seem like he'll be worse than the backup on this team. Having three 1992 birthdates in camp makes it tough for next year's crop of goalies to come up out of the blue, though.
|BARRIE, Tyson||R||5'10"||190||7/26/91||Victoria, BC||Kelowna (WHL)||3/64, '09 (COL)|
|COWEN, Jared||L||6'5"||227||1/25/91||Allan, SK||Spokane (WHL)||1/9, '09 (OTT)|
|DESPRÉS, Simon||L||6'4"||222||7/27/91||Laval, QC||Saint John (QMJHL)||1/30, '09 (PIT)|
|de HAAN, Calvin||L||6'1"||189||5/9/91||Carp, ON||Oshawa (OHL)||1/12, '09 (NYI)|
|ELLIS, Ryan||R||5'10"||184||1/3/91||Freelton, ON||Windsor (OHL)||1/11 '09 (NAS)|
|GORMLEY, Brandon||L||6'2"||192||2/18/92||Murray River, PEI||Moncton (QMJHL)||1/13 '10 (PHX)|
|GUDBRANSON, Erik||R||6'4"||211||1/7/92||Orleans, ON||Kingston (OHL)||1/3 '10 (FLA)|
|McNABB, Brayden||L||6'4"||219||1/21/91||Daivdson, SK||Kootenay (WHL)||3/66 '09 (BUF)|
|MURPHY, Ryan||R||5'11"||176||3/31/93||Aurora, ON||Kitchener (OHL)||'11 Eligible|
|MURRAY, Ryan||L||6'1"||190||9/27/93||White City, SK||Everett (WHL)||'12 Eligible|
|OLSEN, Dylan||L||6'2"||223||1/3/91||Calgary, AB||Minnesota-Duluth (WCHA)||1/28, '09 (CHI)|
|PYSYK, Mark||R||6'1"||187||1/11/92||Sherwood Park, ON||Edmonton (WHL)||1/23, '10 (BUF)|
Defense, despite my objections, remains the strong point of the Canadian team. Ryan Ellis almost seems like a lock to be the team's captain, as this will be his third WJHC tournament and he's pretty much done everything at the junior hockey level. Calvin de Haan and Jared Cowen are also returning, although Cowen is not considering a lock for the team (he's probably 90% likely, though). Gudbranson seems like a solid bet, and given the choices, Despres and Olsen seem like strong candidates as well. I'd wager that the Ryan Murphy debate will come into play in a battle with Tyson Barrie and Brayden McNabb. Ryan Murray will be a lock for next year's team if he keeps up his rapid development. Brandon Gormley has a knee injury that seems certain to miss both camp and the tournament, but Team Canada gave him some recognition of how well he's done so far by giving him a token invite.
|ASHTON, Carter||L||6'3"||219||4/1/91||Saskatoon, SK||Regina (WHL)||1/29, '09 (TB)|
|BOURNIVAL, Michael||L||5'11"||179||5/31/92||Shawinigan, QC||Shawinigan (QMJHL)||3/71, '10 (MTL)|
|CIZIKAS, Casey||L||5'11"||191||2/27/91||Mississauga, ON||Mississauga (OHL)||4/92, '09 (NYI)|
|CONNOLLY, Brett||R||6'2"||181||5/2/92||Campbell River, ON||Prince George (WHL)||1/6, '10 (TB)|
|COUTURIER, Sean||L||6'3"||192||12/7/92||Bathurst, NB||Drummondville (QMJHL)||'11 Eligible|
|EAKIN, Cody||L||6'0"||187||5/25/91||Winnipeg, MB||Swift Current (WHL)||3/85, '09 (WAS)|
|FOLIGNO, Marcus||L||6'1"||200||8/10/91||Sudbury, ON||Sudbury (OHL)||4/104, '09 (BUF)|
|GALLAGHER, Brendan||R||5'8"||175||6/5/92||Delta, BC||Vancouver (WHL)||5/147, '10 (MTL)|
|HAMILTON, Curtis||L||6'3"||202||12/4/91||Kelowna, BC||Saskatoon (WHL)||2/48, '10 (EDM)|
|HISHON, Joey||L||5'10"||171||10/20/91||Stratford, ON||Owen Sound (OHL)||1/17, '10 (COL)|
|HOWDEN, Quinton||L||6'3"||192||1/21/92||Oak Bank, MB||Moose Jaw (WHL)||1/25, '10 (FLA)|
|HOWSE, Ryan||L||5'11"||194||7/6/91||Prince George, BC||Chilliwack (WHL)||3/74, '09 (CAL)|
|JOHANSEN, Ryan||R||6'2"||193||7/31/92||Port Moody, BC||Portland (WHL)||1/4, '10 (CLB)|
|KASSIAN, Zack||R||6'3"||226||1/24/91||LaSalle, ON||Windsor (OHL)||1/13, '09 (BUF)|
|LEBLANC, Louis||R||5'11"||181||1/26/91||Point-Clare, QC||Montreal (QMJHL)||1/18, '09 (MTL)|
|NUGENT-HOPKINS, Ryan||L||6'0"||166||4/12/93||Burnaby, BC||Red Deer (WHL)||'11 Eligible|
|PIRRI, Brandon||L||6'1"||171||4/10/91||Toronto, ON||Rockford (AHL)||2/59, '09 (CHI)|
|ROSS, Bradley||L||5'11"||174||5/28/92||Lethbridge, AB||Portland (WHL)||2/43, '10 (TOR)|
|SCHWARTZ, Jaden||L||5'10"||184||6/25/92||Emerlad Park, SK||Colorado (WCHA)||1/14, '10 (STL)|
|SHEAHAN, Riley||L||6'2"||204||12/7/91||St. Catherines, ON||Notre Dame (CCHA)||1/21, '10 (DET)|
|SMITH, Reilly||R||6'0"||161||4/1/91||Mimico, ON||Miami U. (CCHA)||3/69, '09 (DAL)|
|VEY, Linden||R||6'0"||185||7/1/91||Wakaw, SK||Medicine Hat (WHL)||4/96, '09 (LA)|
|WILSON, Garrett||L||6'2"||205||3/16/91||Elmvale, ON||Owen Sound (OHL)||4/107, '09 (FLA)|
The toughest choices will be up front for Head Coach Dave Cameron. The availability of Brayden Schenn comes into focus here, as his arrival could mean a lot for a guy like Jaden Schwartz or Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Down the middle it wouldn't be too surprising to see Johansen, Hishon and Couturier get prime spots, as I think Louis Leblanc will see time on wing in this tournament. The wingers could be both big and skilled: Brett Connolly looks like this team's go-to offensive sniper, while Kassian and Ashton could provide some muscle. It really looks like one player will have to play a bigger role than expected for this team here, either a guy who would be a checker most years playing on the top 6 or a younger player filling in a top role instead. There are a few collegiate players here, which also adds a bit of an interesting element. And pint-sized Brendan Gallagher could be a real factor as well: normally I'd say he wouldn't make it at 18, but his offensive punch could be very welcome, even if he isn't the fastest of skaters.
In short, it's pretty wide open up front, and it's why this 38 man roster is pretty ridiculous: they've got to go from 23 to 13 forwards, you'd think the scouts and coaching staff would just decide what kind of team they'd want and leave it for maybe 5 position battles at max for the camp. At forward, Canada will likely rely a bit on their more physical players to counter the skill of Russia and Sweden in their group. While it might be interesting to see Canada go for skill first and throw in the likes of Nugent-Hopkins in a prominent role, they will probably take their advantages where they can get them with this group.