We were recently asked if we had any thoughts on a potential Canadian roster for the World U18s about that are about to start in Fargo on April 9th. Hockey Canada has named their coach but not the roster as they await for the first round playoff series to wrap up across all three CHL leagues before they do.
Obviously they have a list of players they're looking at though and I have heard a few of the names that have been bandied about. What the final roster will look like is a great question but here are a bunch of guys I would imagine are in the discussion.
I would have to think that Scott Stajcer of the Owen Sound Attack would be a leading candidate. He's ranked #2 by Central Scouting and #6 by ISS, but he's the highest ranked goalie available (Olivier Roy and Eduard Pasquale are still playing).
There are a couple of WHL goalies worth consideration in Red Deer's Darcy Kuemper and Steven Stanford of the Prince Albert Raiders. Kuemper is #6 in North America for Central Scouting although ISS does not rank him inside their top 15. Kuemper was strong for a weak Rebels team and at 6'4 and 193 lbs is already pro sized.
A fourth candidate is Brandon Foote of the Guelph Storm who is ranked 7th overall (goalies) by ISS. Central Scouting doesn't like him nearly as much though, they have Foote pegged at 30th just in North America.
There is no doubt that Simon Despres is on the team (unless there is an injury I've not heard about). As soon as the Sea Dogs were eliminated I'm sure Hockey Canada wrote his name down in marker. Despres is a concensus 1st round pick for 2009 and quite likely a top 15 guy.
Another Q-League rearguard who should get a look is Eric Gelinas of the Lewiston Maineiacs. Gelinas had 39 points with Lewiston and at 6'2 and 190 lbs is a player that both Central Scouting and ISS have rated well. Central has him pegged at 31st NA and ISS slots him 72nd overall.
Kingston Frontenacs defenceman Taylor Doherty could be in the mix as well. He's a monster at 6'6 and 215 lbs... and he just turned 18 on March 2nd! Speaking of giants on the blueline, how about Portland Winterhawks defender Brett Ponich? The Beamount product stands 6'7 and dents the scale to the tune of 205 lbs.
You know that Calvin De Haan is going to be there. The Oshawa Generals defender is a 2nd rounder by both Central and ISS and with 63 points in 68 regular season games, De Haan looks like he could be Canada's go-to guy on the back end in terms of offence.
The WHL will provide options as well including P.A. Raider Ryan Button. The Edmonton native had 37 points this year and plays a strong 2-way game. He's ranked 64th overall by ISS and 36th in NA by Central Scouting.
Kootenay Ice defenceman Brayden McNabb is bound to be on the team after a strong season. He's 44th on the ISS list and everyone I've spoken with seem to agree that he's a second rounder for 2009. He had 36 points and 140 PIMs this year in Kootenay.
Brenden Dillon of the Seatlle Thunderbirds is the 41st player in NA according to Central Scouting. He only had 10 points this year but good teams need those defensive speacialists to win too. The BC native is 6'2 and just a hair under 200 lbs.
New Coming Down the Pipe! guest blogger Dylan Olsen appears to have his name on the short list as well. The Camrose Kodiak had a good season on an average team, his last AJHL campaign before heading off to the NCAA next year. Olsen has some history with Hockey Canada after playing in the 2008 WJAC in Camrose back in November of this past season.
A couple of Q options are Guillaume Goulet and Gabriel Bourque from the Baie-Comeau Drakkar. Both netted more than a point per game this year including a 45-goal season for Goulet. Both come listed at 5'9 though so maybe there is only room for one of them?
The Saint John Sea Dogs could contribute more than just Despres on the back end. Both Steven Anthony and Michael Kirkpatrick should get consideration after the duo were in the top 3 of team scoring. Anthony gets more love from ISS and Central as both have him ranked around the 100 mark.
18-year-old Benjamin Casavant led the PEI Rocket in scoring with 80 points in 68 games. The big winger had 39 goals. He's way back on the rankings though.
The OHL will offer up some very talented forwards including Ethan Werek of the Kingston Frontenacs (and Coming Down the Pipe!). Werek ended the year with 64 points in 66 games including 32 goals. The big winger is considered a mid-late 1st rounder by both ISS and Central.
Peterborough's Zack Kassian will be there. He's got a history with Hockey Canada too and they'll need some big brusing forwards to help the smaller skilled guys survive. Kassian had 24 goals of his own this year so can definitely contribute too.
The Erie Otters lost to London in round 1 thus freeing up Ryan O'Reilly in time for Fargo. The 2-way power forward was almost a point per game player this year but is better known for his tenacious style of play.
Hockey Canada could be taken by Storm as a number of Guelph forward should be in the conversation beginning with Peter Holland. Another point-per-game guy this year, Holland is ranked as a top-15 pick by both ISS and Central Scouting.
Also available from Guelph are Michael Latta and Taylor Beck. Latta ranks 57th by ISS while Beck outscored him by 22 points and comes in at 53rd on the list.
Out west the Red Deer Rebels could provide a complete line if all 3 players are healthy enough to go. Landon Ferraro leads the pack after a 37-goal campaign but he's followed closely by Cass Mappin (missed the last 3-4 weeks with injury) and Willie Coetzee. Mappin is 27th for Central Scouting and Coetzee comes in 77th. The trio finished 1-2-3 in scoring for the Rebels in 2008-09.
Chilliwack Bruins forward Ryan Howse should be in the mix after a 31-goal season on a really poor team. The former 3rd overall pick could be much better once he's surrounded by quality teammates.
Hockey Canada will be watching the Lethbridge/Saskatoon series intently. Hurricanes forward Carter Ashton (pictured) would be an obvious addition should Lethbrdige lose while the Blades could supply Burke Gallimore up front and Stefan Elliot on the blueline.
With the Kamloops Blazers done for the year, Jimmy Bubnick is free to head to Fargo if Hockey Canada calls. He's big at 6'2 and 195 lbs and can play a checking role if need be. He comes in ranked 79th by ISS and 54th NA for Central.
I'm not sure about the status of these two Jr.A players, they may still be playing in their league playoffs, but David Pacan and Brandon Pirri were both part of the 2008 WJAC with Team Canada East so have that history with Hockey Canada. Both are listed as mid-round picks.
If there aren't enough 17 and 18-year-olds then Hockey Canada might consider some top calibre underagers too. Here's a few that come to mind:
- Brett Connolly (Prince George): led his team in scoring this year and is up for Rookie of the Year award. Already ranked as a top-10 pick in 2010.
- Jordan Weal (Regina Pats): The other name on the ballot for WHL Rookie of the Year. Weal finished with 4 points less than Jordan Eberle and led the Pats with 54 assists.
- Mark Pysyk (Edmonton Oil Kings): A solid 2-way defenceman that logs a ton of ice time in Edmonton and plays with the maturity of a seasoned junior vet.
- Joey Hishon (Owen Sound Attack): Had a whopping 81 points and led his OHL team in scoring with a 25 point gap from second place.
- Jeff Skinner (Kitchener Rangers): Had 51 points, third on his team in scoring, but led the Rangers with 27 goals.
Those are just a few names to think about, I'm sure there are several worthy candidates that I have overlooked so feel free to list those guys in the comment section below.
Hockey Canada is expected to announce the team shortly with their first official gathering sometime around April 2nd.