Monday, December 15, 2008
Stunning Final Roster for Canada
Hockey Canada released its final roster for the 2009 World Junior Hockey Championship this morning and all I can say is that there is more on the line now for the selection group than simply winning a gold medal.
Every year there are surprises both in who does and doesn't make the team. This time around there aren't just one or two names that jump off the sheet at me but several.
1) The first name that caught my eye as I read the release (which you can see here) is Keith Aulie. Not a guy who appeared on any prediction list I saw and was not considered a legit candidate to some knowledgeable people we spoke with either like Peter Loubardias last week on the show. I can only assume that his 6'6 frame is a large reason, pardon the pun, for his inclusion on this roster but everyone I've talked to about him has described Aulie as a big guy who plays like he's 6'. He's apparently a really nice guy though.
2) Cody Goloubef is an interesting addition and not that he's not deserving but both Dean and I thoguht that Brendan Smith and Patrick Wiercioch had better chances. The Wisconsin Badger that made the team (Goloubef and Smith are teammates) is smaller, younger and has less points than the one that was cut so it will be interesting to see how this one turns out. I certainly had Smith ahead of Goloubef on my list and I believe Dean did too. Wiercioch is scoring at a point-per-game pace...
3) Hockey Canada's choice to go with 8 defencemen is very interesting too. It's the first time ever that Canada has veered away from the 13-7-2 format and I'm a bit surprised that they've done it here. By doing so they run a huge risk should a forward get injured during the tournament plus, simply having an extra blueliner meant cutting a forward at the expense of a young but potentially offensive catalyst like Taylor Hall, Matt Duchene or Brayden Schenn. Apparently this was a decision centering around the wish to limit Ryan Ellis (pictured left)to a power play role and to protect the youngster from being exposed should an injury come to the top 6 on the back end. Apparently injuries up front aren't much of a concern. Both Dean and I had Ellis on our projected teams last week so we're not arguing his inclusion but rather the decision to go with 8 defenders raised our eyebrows a bit.
4) I theorized last week that this year's entry might be void of players from the QMJHL. To my suprise, all three forwards who were invited actually made the final team (although goalie Jake Allen and defender Kevin Marshall were sacked). Patrice Cormier, Chris Didomenico and even Angelo Esposito all make the grade and while I thought one might make it (I picked Didomenico) I as surprised all three are here. It sounds like Esposito's shootout skills helped his cause and really, even though all reports suggest he fully eanred his way onto the team, you know people will speculate Hockey Canada simply didn't want to cut a guy for the 4th year in a row.
5) The fact that there are 3 Q-League players on the team is a suprise (for me at least) and comes at the expense of the NCAA players who were trying out. I completely expected the number of collegians to exceed the QMJHLers but with only Goloubef making the squad... wrong again! Riley Nash (pictured) had 3 points in the exhibition games but that wasn't enough. I expected a talented center with size who could play a 2-way role would be something Hockey Canada would desire considering their general lack of forward size. Nash will be a guest on The Pipeline Show on Tuesday night and we'll find out what he was told after getting the bad news.
6) Lastly, the list of talented forwards who didn't make the team is a pretty impressive array of names. It's true that every year Canada could send two medal contending teams to the WJC so it's not a shock that talented players were cut. Still, to see names like Matt Duchene, Evander Kane, Brayden Schenn, Riley Nash and Nazem Kadri on the outside looking in... it's a little suprising. Working against those players (outside of Nash) must be their age; all will still be eligible for the 2010 and 2011 WJC tournaments and should be considered as shoe-ins for them.
So with the final roster set all that is left to speculate on are possible line combinations. Dean and I scibbled down some thoughts as to what our forward lines would look like and, although not perfect in the bottom six we think our top 6 is dynamite.
Team Canada forward lines according to TPS:
Jamie Benn - John Tavares - Brett Sonne
Zack Boychuk - Cody Hodgson - Jordan Eberle
Patrice Cormier - Angelo Esposito - Stefan Della Rovere
Dana Tyrell - Chris Didomenico - Tyler Ennis
I thought about playing the 3 QMJHL guys together but as Dean pointed out, that would leave a very small 4th line. Perhaps having Cormier centering Tyrell and Della Rovere would make for an interesting bang & crash line...
EDIT: Thanks to some comments from readers, here's another crack at potential line combos...
Jamie Benn - John Tavares - Chris Didomenico
Zack Boychuk - Cody Hodgson - Jordan Eberle
Dana Tyrell - Patrice Cormier - Stefan Della Rovere
Brett Sonne - Angelo Esposito - Tyler Ennis
Lots of potential with this line up even though it's much different than the ones that Dean and I proposed last week.
What say YOU?