Friday, December 7, 2012

Nervous nights for Hockey Canada

The architect of Canada's World Junior team should get double pay, after all he's put together 2 different teams.  Not entirely different but 6 or 7 players are missing from one of them.  Kevin Prendergast will tell you it's worth it if he gets to take the best in Canada to Russia in two weeks, but until then he'll have a few sleepless nights. 

Photo:Claus Anderson
Prendergast - who will join TPS this Saturday - and the coaching staff will watch closely starting Tuesday when they hope 37 healthy players hit the ice in Calgary.  Every camp a few players limp in, last year it was Jonathan Huberdeau.  He's healthy this year, but Blainville-Broisbriand defenceman Xavier Ouellet, a guy Canada will be leaning on,  is recovering from an ankle injury.  He was to begin skating in the middle of this week.  

Oullet's status creates opportunity on the blueline.  Matt Dumba of the Red Deer Rebels has struggled a good portion of this year, has been better as of late, and it's no coincidence it's happened since Brent Sutter stepped back behind the bench.  When Dumba is on he uses his cannon shot and physical play to lead the way.  He's done that in the past with Hockey Canada.  But when he's off, he runs around and forgets about his own end.  

Here's hoping Griffin Reinhart and Morgan Rielly get paired together, they really play well off of each other and have for awhile.  They grew up together near Vancouver, played minor hockey together and are still very good friends.  Reinhart is the 'steady Eddy' while Rielly can roam free.  In fact dialing Rielly back will be the biggest challenge with the Toronto prospect. In Moose Jaw he's not surrounded by oodles of talent, and sometimes tries to do to much.  That was evident in the second Subway Super Series game when Canada fell behind. 

Scott Harrington will no doubt anchor one half of Canada's shut down pair and Tyler Wotherspoon could be looked at to fill the other half.  While Wotherspoon might not be on a lot of pre camp lists (my hand is up) he could end up following the path of Keith Aulie in 2009 when he surprised many and teamed up with Tyler Myers to help Canada win gold.  
Photo:OHL Insider

Up front if all goes well you can expect Ryan Nugent-Hopkins to skate with Jonathan Huberdeau and Mark Schiefele as a possible top trio.  Ryan Strome will blaze a trail from Niagara to Calgary as he's not just leading the OHL in scoring, but the CHL to boot with 22 goals and 62 points in 31 games.  Charles Hudon and Ty Rattie could fill out the top 6 as both have skill and will.  

Where it gets really interesting is the bottom 6 beef.  There are some big bodies that will be battling for roster spots.  Tom Wilson and Brett Ritchie are both 6.04 while Mark McNeil and Boone Jenner are no shrinking violet at 6.02.  Canada will look to these guys, who can also play and produce offensively, to grind down the opposition.  But every team has a lightning rod, and this year that could be Anthony Camara from Barrie.

The 19 year old has 36 of his 98 career points this year in just 29 games.  20 of his points are goals and he's only spent 39 minutes in the box while still playing his rugged on the edge style.  The Bruins prospect could be a momentum changer during the tournament.  However with all types of energy players, coaches worry about blow ups that could cost a team the tournament.  When Canada lost Devante-Smity Pelly in last year's event, they lost a lot of their edge with him. 

So that's a look at one of the team's Hockey Canada likely has going.  Take RNH, Strome, Jenner, Hamilton, Huberdeau, Scheifele and maybe even guys like Rielly and Reinhart off the list and you have a look at the 2nd team.  Because if the NHL goes back to work before this team gets to Russia, the super 7 or excellent 8 will be gone.  

Getting clarification from the Oilers about Nugent-Hopkins took longer then it should have and his possible shoulder situation has clouded the issue now and while he would be the biggest nut to fall from the tree should the lock out end he's part of a talented group.

Some teams want their players in training camp day one.  I ask you, what's a better training camp then the World Junior Championship????  Ask Sam Gagner how the 2007 Super Series worked out for him before he made the Oilers as an 18 year old.  Is it going to kill the Islanders if Ryan Strome or even Griffin Reinhart miss some of training camp or the first 2 games?  

If ever the saying 'everyone has a chance' was close to being true, it's this year, simply because of the uncertainty with the NHL lock out.  Until a deal gets done or the year gets cancelled some players status will be up in the air. 

We'll be talking about this and more with Kevin Prendergast on Saturday. Show starts at 10 am mst and you can listen live here

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Just my wild guess at what the roster will look like:

Jonathan Huberdeau - Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (C)- Mark Scheifele

Charles Hudon- Ryan Strome- Ty Rattie

Mark McNeill (A) - Boone Jenner - Brett Ritchie

Anthony Camara- Phillip Danault- Tom Wilson

Sean Monahan

Dougie Hamilton (A)- Morgan Rielly

Scott Harrington (A)- Xavier Ouellet

Ryan Murphy - Frank Corrado

Matt Dumba/Griffin Reinhart

Malcolm Subban

Jordan Binnington

Laurent Brossoit