Yes... that IS Justin Timberlake as a French goalie from the ridiculously bad Love Guru. Why is he on display here at Coming Down the Pipe? Because he's another Q product that's not going to make the WJC team either.
Zero returning players, one goalie, one blueliner and 3 forwards invited. That's the total contribution to Canada's 2009 World Junior camp which begins later this week in Ottawa. It's almost unthinkable to imagine but could this possibly be the year where there isn't a single player from the QMJHL that makes the team?
My first thought is that Hockey Canada wouldn't allow that to happen simply for political reasons - the uproar out East would be enormous.
My second thought is whether Hockey Canada would really take a player from the Q simply for that reason. Surely someone from the five players invited is good enough to earn a spot on his own merit but I'm willing to bet that if there is just one guy who makes it... someone is going to raise an eyebrow and declare that guy to be "the token Q representative".
The goalie in question is Jake Allen. This time last year no one outside of Newfoundland new who he was because he was stuck playing behind Timo Pielmeier with the Fog Devils. Once he got to the U18's though it was a different story and thanks to an outstanding tournament in Moscow (capped off with an 8-0 shutout in the final game) Allen is a legit contender for a roster spot.
Allen was a 2nd round pick by St. Louis last June and since the team relocated to Montreal, he's been the go-to guy in net (Pielmeier is now in Shawinigan). Allen's numbers a solid but not mind-blowing by any stretch of the imagination; 2.92 GAA, .919 SV% and 13 wins in 24 games played.
On his side he has fresh success with Hockey Canada and head coach Pat Quinn, both of which are a big deal. Working against him is his age, he's the youngest of the four invitees as the only '90 born of the group. There will be some who suggest that unless he's clearly in the top 2 then he should be cut with the knowledge that he'll be a frontrunner for the job next year.
On the other hand, the conspiracy theorists might point out that if you were going to go the "token Q player" route... the back up goalie spot would be an easy place to do it.
The only blueliner from the Q is Kevin Marshall of the Quebec Remparts. Marshall took part in the tryout camp in 2008 for Prague as well but fell short of making the final roster. The 2nd round draft pick of the Philadelphia Flyers in 2007, Marshall is a 6'1, 207 lbs defence first kind of guy. His career high for points is 35, earned last season while still a member of the Lewiston Maineiacs.
It's just my personal opinion but I don't have any trouble putting 8 of the other 13 rearguards at camp ahead of him on my depth chart.
Up front Patrice Cormier of the Rimouski Oceanic, according to Hockey's Future writer and TPS contributor Kevin Forbes, is "by far a much more complete player (than teammate Phil Cornet), able to make room for those less eager for the physical battles to show their stuff. I suspect that's why Cormier gets the invite, as he'll be competing for a third/fourth line spot".
Cormier fought through a myriad of injuries last year but the New Jersey Devils rolled the dice and grabbed him in the second round anyway. So far this year Cormier has 24 points in 27 games but, as Forbes and some others have said, points probably aren't why the forward is part of this camp.
I've never seen him play so I can't tell how he compares to guys like Stefan Della Rovere, Jamie Arniel, Brett Sonne, Riley Nash or Dana Tyrell but I know the last three names I just mentioned bring more to the table than simply an ability to check. However, Cormier's ace in the hole might be that at 6'2 and 205 lbs... he might be the biggest forward at camp.
Chris Didomenico, a 6th round pick of the Maple Leafs in 2007, enjoyed a 95-point campaign with Saint John last year. This season he's off to another good start with 34 points in 26 games. He was originally named to the ADT Canada-Russia Challenge but had to sit out due to "a lower body injury" that had him on the shelf for a couple of weeks.
It will be interesting to see how he matches up with some of the other offensive players in camp, assuming that is the role he'd be expected to fill for Canada. CHL guru Peter Loubardias will guest on The Pipeline Show tomorrow night and will be able to tell us much more about Didomenico and his chances of sticking.
Last but certainly not least is Angelo Esposito who has one last chance to try and crack the WJC roster. He's never really come close so is there any reason to think this year will be any different? Motivation certainly has to be a thing of the past as failure to make the squad would mean getting cut 4 years in a row.
Still, it's not like he's ripping up the scoring race in the Q this season; his 24 points in 20 games sounds great but doesn't put him in the top 50 - and yes I know he's played fewer games than most.
Is Esposito really a more deserving invite than say Ottawa 67's forward Logan Couture? They have similar point production and neither have had any success cracking the WJC roster in the past but this year it is being held in Couture's backyard.
It will be interesting to see how the 5 QMJHL players make out this week. For some reason I think Didomenico has the best shot but I won't be surprised at all to see Jake Allen joining him on the final roster.
Just my opinion though, what's your's?