The 2011 World U18 will be held in Dresden Germany beginning on April 9th. As always, that start time means Canada will be severely shorthanded as most of their best players will still be playing in the CHL playoffs. That will also affect some European teams as they may have two or three players overseas in the same situation.
Team USA, however, is hardly affected at all since the vast majority of the team that will head to Germany next month will consist of the U18/U17 program out of Ann Arbor. There may be a player added from outside that mix, perhaps two like last year when Austin Watson (Peterborough, OHL) and Connor Brickley (Des Moines, USHL) were added. It's not a coincidence that USA has had their way at the event over the last several years because of this.
Canada will enter a team made up of players who failed to reach the post season in the CHL or were eliminated quickly in the first round. They will be able to draw from some of Jr.A teams and NCAA clubs too. With the Frozen Four ending ending on April 9th, that may be cutting it too close for the two teams in the Finals but, for the purpose of today's list, let's assume it's not.
We'll also go by the WHL standings as of today - things may change but the team outside of the playoffs and therefore available for Hockey Canada are: Calgary, Regina, Swift Current, Lethbridge, Kamloops and Seattle. Also keeping in mind that players must be born in 1993 or more recently.
Here now are the top 5 players available to Hockey Canada that meet all the above terms and conditions...
5. Myles Bell (D) - Regina Pats (WHL)
The 6', 205 lb blueliner began the season with a certain amount of hype for the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. Over the course of the season his stock has dropped several degrees based largely on his questionable conditioning and average on-ice decision making. Flaws aside, Bell is a tough customer with a booming slap shot that can be the triggerman on the power play. The Calgary native has manged to contribute 44 points thus far for the Pats. Ranked #37 by Central Scouting.
4. Destry Straight (C) - Coquitlam Express (BCHL)
The dynamic forward lead the BCHL in rookie scoring with 67 points which included 26 goals through 59 games. The Express did not last long in the BCHL playoffs getting bounced by the Surrey Eagles in four straight games. Straight, who made his first appearance on The Pipeline Show on February 1st, has committed to Boston College for next season although his CHL playing rights are held by the Portland Winterhawks and he hasn't completely ruled out a turn to the WHL. Just to note, there was not a Jr.A player on Canada's roster last year. Straight is ranked #82 by NHL Central Scouting.
3. Reece Scarlett (D) - Swift Current Broncos (WHL)
A likely member of the team is Edmonton-area product Reece Scarlett who has become somewhat of a polarizing prospects for scouts. I've talked to scouts who are big fans of the way that he skates and moves the puck yet others I have chatted with feel his decision making has gotten worse as the year has gone on. The fact is that he's logging a ton of ice time on a team that has really gone downhill in the second half and I wonder if he's getting fatigued. When playing up to his potential, Scarlett might be one of the top blueliners who will be available to Hockey Canada for the U18s. He was listed #50 by Central in their mid-term ranking.
2. Dillon Simpson (D) - North Dakota Fighting Sioux (NCAA)
He's the youngest player in Division 1 college hockey having just turned 18 last month. As NCAA rosters have gradually gotten older and older over the last decade, it's become rare to have a player on the U18 team that is already enrolled at a NCAA program. It's even rarer for a player so young to be taking a regular shift for a team as deep as the #1 ranked Fighting Sioux. The fact that Simpson is regularly playing against players who are 3 or 4 years older than he is, that's experience that should make him an easy selection for Canada. The one potential stumbling block is the fact that UND is the #1 team and therefore a Frozen Four appearance is quite realistic. The timing of that event and the start of the U18s may be a conflict. The 6'2, 205 lb rearguard is ranked #115 by NHL Central Scouting.
1. Adam Lowry (LW) - Swift Current Broncos (WHL)
The 6'4, 185 lb winger has the NHL in his genes as his father Dave Lowry was a long time player in the league for a handful of teams. The younger Lowry often played on Swift's top line along with Stepan Novotny and Justin Dowling (or more recently with Brad Hoban and Taylor Vause) but thanks to a bout of mononucleosis out of training camp, he didn't get off to the greatest of starts. Lowry has collected 17 goals and 39 points with the Broncos who have absolutely plummeted in the WHL standings since the trade deadline. Ranked #62 by NHL Central Scouting.
Other players who received consideration:
Colin Smith (C) - Kamloops Blazers (WHL)
Tyler Hansen (D) - Kamloops Blazers (WHL)
Luke Lockhart (C) - Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL)
Mitch Elliot (LW) - Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL)
Sam Mellor (C) - Trail Smoke Eaters (BCHL)
Peter Kosterman (D) - Calgary Hitmen (WHL)
Jaynen Rissling (D) - Calgary Hitmen (WHL)
Jan Obernesser (G) - Brooks Bandits (AJHL)
Feel free if you think other players deserving credit have slipped my mind.