Monday, November 28, 2011

Canada Invites 41 - Initial Reaction

This morning Hockey Canada held two simultaneous press conferences in Edmonton and Calgary to announce the names of the 41-man selection camp who will compete for a roster spot beginning December 10th. As always, there will be as much talk about names not on the list as those that did make the cut. Here is the official list for the selection camp.

Both Dean and I will offer up our initial reaction today, starting with me...

With so much uncertainty around the goaltending position right now as Kevin Prendergast told us on the show recently, I thought there might be an off the board invite but I was wrong. Despite his unreal stats this year, Ty Rimmer won't leave Tri-City as all four of the 'tenders that were in Edmonton in August for the summer U20 camp have been asked back again.

I have to think Tyler Bunz (above) is the front runner right now but I don't know that anything is 'for sure' in net. Louis Domningue's numbers are great and he's apparently playing excellent hockey right now, the opposite of returnee Mark Visentin. Scott Wedgewood might be the quiet dark horse who ends up being the starter if he has a strong camp.

On the back end I was very pleased to see all of the guys I had in mind for my final roster. The problem is that "my group" consists of 9 players so a couple of them won't make the final roster in the end. Stu Percy, Duncan Siemens and Dylan McIlrath didn't get the call which is fine by me, none (except maybe Percy) were on my own list anyway. For me, McIlrath is too one dimensional, Siemens not reliable enough in his own end and Percy is a quality two-way defenceman but so are many others that did get the invite.

<A while ago I offered up suggestions of Matt Dumba and Alex Petrovic (above) as players Canada might do well looking to this year and both have received an invite. I especially like Petrovic for this club, but more on that when Dean and I make our team predictions in a day or so.

Up front I was surprised by the inclusion of Michigan's Phil Di Guiseppe although contacts I have that have watched him a lot this year have admonished me for describing it as a "surprise".

The line of Mark Stone, Mark McNeil and Michael Ferland that impressed so much during the CHL Subway Super Series was invited and we shouldn't be surprised to see them practice and play together during the camp.

I had hoped to see at least one of Sean Monahan (below), Hunter Shinkaruk or Nathan MacKinnon on the list but none of the underaged players will be in Calgary for camp.

Head coach Don Hay was at the press conference in Edmonton and I asked him whether any of the young CHL stars received much consideration.

"We looked at all three of those players but the history of this tournament is that it's an older tournament for more mature players, 19-year-old players," said Hay, "All three of those players have a high-end skill base and they'll get their opportunity but we just thought that the players that we selected for this camp are probably more ready to play."

Likewise with Erie Otters star forward Gregg McKegg and that's one of the bigger surprises of the day to me.

There are 8 players from the QMJHL attending the try out camp but not a representative from that league on the coaching staff. I asked Hay how familiar he is with the Eastern based players.

"I think of those 8 players, 7 of them were at the summer camp so I'm very familiar with them; Only Zack Phillips was not at the summer camp," said the Vancouver coach, "Kevin Prendergast has done a great job of identifying and watching players in all three leagues and he has a great read on how they will fit in and how they would play. It's going to be a short camp in Calgary; it's not an evaluation camp or a development camp, it's a try out camp. Players have got to be ready to play as soon as they get there. The players from Quebec are in the same category as the players from around the three leagues."

Injuries may be a concern moving forward although at this point Canada expects Ryan Murray Ryan Murphy and Jonathan Huberdeau (above) to be ready for the start of camp. That said, Hay suggested that they would give those players some flexibility as they get back to 100%. I asked what would happen if a player was not able to participate in the camp but was expected to be ready to go by Boxing Day.

"We'll make that decision on December 10th when they show up to camp and go from there," Hay explained, "We don't have to name our team until, I believe, until December 25th."

The single invitee that I'll be most curious to follow at camp is probably Prince Albert Raiders center Mark McNeil. Hay described the Hockey Canada process for selecting players as a 4-step system: (1) the summer U20 camp (2) the CHL regular season (3) the Subway Super Series (4) the December camp.

McNeil (above) was not part of the summer camp and has this far had a very mediocre regular season. I asked Hay if it was fair to suggest that McNeil earned his invite during the games against Russia and possibly even last week as he scored an overtime winner for the Raiders against his Vancouver Giants.

"I wish he hadn't of scored that overtime winner that's for sure but I definitely noticed him," Hay laughed, "I think that Mark played U17, U18 and as you said, he hasn't gotten off to a great start but he was invited to the Subway Series and he played very well in Moose Jaw. Definitely he's a player that brings a skill set that is very interesting for us to look at. You'd hate to leave a player at home that you think may have been able to help you. I'd rather see him at camp and then make the decision on him then."

I will offer up my choices for Canada's 2012 WJC team in the next day or two.


Bruce said...

Kevin Prendergast, from the linked article:

"We have a lot of great puck handlers and guys who distribute the puck very, very well and make players around them better. Last year's team had more of a blue-collar atmosphere around it."

Wasn't last year's team the one that cut Ryan Nugent-Hopkins?

Guy Flaming said...

Yes it was. I'm sure RNH wouldn't have hurt the team but he didn't win his way onto it either.

It sounds odd that guys like he and Matt Duchene, Tyler Seguin, etc didn't make the WJC team as 18 year olds but did stick in the NHL the next season... but that's the case.