Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Canada Camp Almost Perfect

Hockey Canada revealed the 38-name list of players who will be trying out for the 2009 World Junior squad that seeks the nation's 5th consecutive gold medal. You can find the official release here.

Dean and I discussed the list earlier today, each of us seeing a couple of areas where players we would have invited were not and also a couple of interesting additions that caught us a bit by surprise.

The four goalies invited are the same four who were involved in the summer sessions - Dustin Tokarski, Chet Pickard, Jake Allen and Tyson Sexsmith. Hard to say that any of the four don't deserve the recognition to be invited but my first thought was that Mike Murphy probably deserved to be there too. You can only invite four but Murphy has the best stats in the entire OHL with a .944 save percentage and as of this minute, with a 1.98 GAA he's one of only three starting goalies in the CHL with a sub-2.00 GAA (Interesting to note that the other two also didn't get an invite).

Murphy would have been on my invite list, probably at the expense of Tyson Sexsmith, but right now Tokarski and Pickard are my two goalies so in the end it doesn;t change the final roster for me.

On the blueline it was Millard that pointed out right away that 2009 eligible Jared Cowen, a consensus top-4 pick, is not on the list. Ryan Ellis is thanks to a blazing hot offensive start to the season, but the top North American defensive defenceman in the draft didn't even garner an invite to camp. Cowen's Spokane teammate Jared Spurgeon got a nod but at 5'8 he's not a defensive force and with just 12 points it's not like Spurgeon is racking up the numbers. I would have taken Cowen (pictured) ahead of Spurgeon but I assume that with Keith Aulie, Tyler Myers, Colten Teubert and Patrik Wiercioch all filling the rough-and-tough job description, Hockey Canada felt they had it covered. Cowen is only 17 so you know his time will come very soon.

I am a fan of the choice to invite Denver Pioneers rearguard Patrick Wiercioch who has 13 points in 13 NCAA games this year. He was drafted by Ottawa in the 2nd round last June but I get the impression that everyone is very much pleasantly surprised at how far he's developed in a very short time. It will be interesting to see how he matches up at the short camp - a darkhorse for now but an interesting one to watch for.

Up front the first name both Dean and I looked for we couldn't find and both of us just snickered a bit that once again, Kyle Beach doesn't rate an invite from Hockey Canada. I guess the ADT Canada-Russia Challenge isn't as big of a deal as most thought because clearly his game winning marker in game 6 didn't help his cause and more than his 22 points in 22 WHL games this year.

The Pipeline Show officially gives Hockey Canada two thumbs down for not inviting Beach to the tryout camp (not that you have to put him on the final roster, but just an invite). Had Dean been writing this blog entry, it may have not have been thumbs that were used to signify our opinion. Suffice to say, Millard's going to rant about this one on Tuesday's show!

Dean, a well known Brandon Wheat Kings supporter, said he found it a bit interesting that both Matt Calvert and Brayden Schenn were invited yet Scott Glennie was not despite having outperformed his two teammates for most of the year. Glennie leads the Wheaties with 32 points, a slight lead over Schenn.

All eyes on Angelo Esposito who is back for yet another kick at the can; is this finally the year he makes the team? It's his last chance but Dean and I differ on our prediction here - Millard votes 'Yay' but I can't see who he beats out so it's a 'Nay' for me.

Patrice Cormier gets a ticket to camp yet might not even be the best player on his team - Oiler prospect Philippe Cornet leads Rimouski in scoring by a fair margin while Cormier is in third.

Obviously being here in Edmonton The Pipeline Show is pleased to see both Jordan Eberle (pictured) and Riley Nash on the list. Back on November 23rd Jim Matheson wrote in the Edmonton Journal:
"Word is Oilers first-round draft Jordan Eberle, even if he has 18 goals with the Regina Pats, will need two strong games in the Western Hockey League vs. Russia Selects series this week to ensure an invite to the national junior camp. Riley Nash, who has played almost no games at Cornell University, will be scouted against U of North Dakota shortly. If he doesn't light it up, he probably won't get an invite."

Eberle did shine against the Russians and Nash also played well against North Dakota. I tend to think both can be solid additions in different roles - Eberle as a scoring winger and Nash as a 3rd line center who could play more of a defensive role than he is asked to at Cornell.

The name that jumped out at me from the list that did make it was Stefan Della Rovere, a winger with the Barrie Colts with stats that don't blow you away but appears to be in the mold of a Jordan Tootoo (Dean's suggestion) as someone the team has invited to play a specific checking role.

Camp gets underway on December 11th and concludes on the 15th. Join us on December 9th and the 16th for our pre and post-camp coverage.
(photos courtesy: Spokane Chiefs, the WHL, Regina Pats, the NHL, TSN, CP)


Brock Otten said...

Guys, love reading your blog.

In regards to Della Rovere. He's not really a Tootoo type player at all. Tootoo (at least in the times that I saw him in the WHL and at the WJC's), was much more of a north/south type of player who used speed to succeed.

Rovere is the type of player who likes to slow the game down. While he can generate some offense off the rush, he's much more effective as a real "grinder." A guy who works the cycle, keeps pucks in the offensive zone, and really tires out the defense. He does a great job at finding the open position for scoring opportunities as well. On top of that, he's excellent defensively, especially in his positioning.

I think he's more likely to play a role like Dan Paille played for Canada in the two years he played for Team Canada at the WJC's. Forecheck hard, play physical, and work the cycle.

Nate said...

Cormier isn't there to be the best player. If you read what Murray and Quinn have been saying about him, he's got a good chance at being a bang and crash guy for that team. But he has the skill that he can score as well. Speaking of goalies with sick stats getting snubbed, how about Moncton's Nicola Riopel?

sachia said...

I have season tickets to the Océanic and I'm not at all surprised that they chose Cormier over Cornet. Sure Cornet leads the team in points but a fair bunch of those have come at the expense of second-rate competition. You could say the same thing about Cormier's but he's far better defensively, more physical and a better leader. Cornet wouldn't embarrass himself but he would be expected to play a role different to the one he plays currently so why not choose a guy like Cormier who already plays that way?

Guy Flaming said...

Good feedback everybody, nice to get input from across North America from people who have seen some of the guys more than we get to out west.

Nate - I noticed his stats too but what has Riopel done before this year? (honest question). Murphy at least got Belleville to the Memorial Cup last year, I can't say I've heard much about Riopel before this season and his last two seasons resulted in less than impressive stats.

Sachia - Thanks for the description on Cormier. Sounds like he and Della Rovere might be competing for the same job. I'd still much rather have a guy like Dana Tyrell filling that role though.

Again, thanks for the opinions.

Doogie2K said...

Question: How is it that the second-leading goal-scorer in the WHL, Brandon Kozun, tied with Jordan Eberle with 20 goals, is left off the team? I understand that there's politics involved, and that it's very hard to get an invite unless you were in Ottawa in August, but surely there's got to be some latitude for surprising performances in the CHL and NCAA.

Then again, the Oilers did blow a draft pick on Jordan Bendfeld over all of Kozun, Kule Bortis, and Martin Jones, all of whom have a better chance of turning into NHL players than Bendfeld, so maybe I shouldn't be surprised.

Guy Flaming said...

You could make a good argument for Kozun for sure.

I think what works against him is that he's got no history with Hockey Canada (that I know of, did he maybe play for Team Pacific once upon a time?) and is also undrafted. Sucks but there it is.

You threw out the Eberle comparison but he DOES have history with Hockey Canada and IS drafted. Honestly, who would you expect Hockey Canada to invite between the two if their WHL stats this year were identical?

I hear what you're saying though and I won't be the least bit surprised if Kozun gets drafted by a NHL club in 2009 much like Colin Long went undrafted his first time through, had 100 points, and got picked up by PHX last year.

I'm loving the discussion!

Vik said...

Just a couple points...

"I would have taken Cowen (pictured) ahead of Spurgeon but I assume that with Keith Aulie, Tyler Myers, Colten Teubert and Patrik Wiercioch all filling the rough-and-tough job description, Hockey Canada felt they had it covered."

Keith Aulie is big but you couldn't really call him a "rough-and-tough" player. He's willing to stand up for his teammates but he doesn't throw his weight around much and really needs to do a lot of filling out. I'll also mention that I can't understand his invite (and I'm a Wheat King fan). He doesn't have the mobility, strength, or puck skills to make the team. He's solid defensively but you need more than that to make Team Canada.

"Dean, a well known Brandon Wheat Kings supporter, said he found it a bit interesting that both Matt Calvert and Brayden Schenn were invited yet Scott Glennie was not despite having outperformed his two teammates for most of the year. Glennie leads the Wheaties with 32 points, a slight lead over Schenn."

I haven't been in Brandon, but I've heard that Glennie has been the best of the sophomore trio. However, Schenn and Calvert are both much more multi-dimensional. Glennie's got a good skill level but both Schenn and Calvert like getting in on the forecheck and throwing their weight around (even if Calvert doesn't have too much of it). They're also superior defensive players. Glennie isn't good enough to make a scoring line for the team (at least not this year) and so Schenn and Calvert are both better for the available roles.

My bet is that Schenn's the only Wheat King on the team this year though.

Kevin Forbes said...

Hey Guy,

As mentioned, Cornet might be putting up the points, but it's that whole line that is driving the offense this year for Rimouski. Cornet just seems to be benefiting from it the most statistically at this point. Cormier is by far a much more complete player, able to make room for less eager for the physical battles (like Cornet) to show their stuff. I suspect that's why Cormier gets the invite, as he'll be competing for a third/fourth line spot, whereas Cornet has no chance at a scoring line spot (the only place he'd probably be effective at this point). The third member of the line is Jordan Caron, a 2009 eligible who might end up being the best out of the trio.

As for Riopel, he's been consistently a strong goaltender in the Q, but was saddled behind some pretty porous defense with the post-Memorial-Cup-hosting-Moncton-Wildcats. He's consistently dropped his GAA and raised his SV% year after year and has been awarded a half-dozen or more defensive player of the week awards over his three year QMJHL career. As a 19-year-old, he's clearly coming into his own, at the right time with a team that seems to be buying Coach Flynn's system and stringing up some wins. The problem of course, is that he's not part of the Team Canada "system" and thus it hurts him for things like this. He's a pretty good bet to play professional hockey (got a look at the Habs camp in the fall) when all is said and done.

Kevin Forbes said...

Oh and Angelo Esposito? Put me down as a nay.
He's looking better this year for Montreal, but I just can't see him cracking a scoring line for Canada and he's definitely not going to play any sort of defensive or checking role.
The only way he makes it is as some sort of 13th forward afterthought in case of injuries, but even then, there are more versatile options for that role.