COLUMBUS, Ohio - When national junior team evaluation camps begin next weekend in Lake Placid, the Blue Jackets will have two prominent names participating for Hockey Canada.
Kerby Rychel, the team's second first-round pick (No. 19 overall) at the 2013 NHL Draft in New Jersey is one of 20 forwards invited to Canada's 2014 evaluation camp. Dillon Heatherington, the rangy defenseman from the Swift Current Broncos who was Columbus' fourth pick (No. 50 overall) in that same draft, has also been invited to camp for Canada as one of 10 defensemen.
The 2014 national junior team evaluation camp is sort of a junior hockey summit, with the United States, Canada, Sweden and Finland all holding practices at the Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid during the week of Aug. 3-10.
Coming off back-to-back 40-goal seasons with the Windsor Spitfires, Rychel is a strong contender to be one of the forwards on Canada's final WJC roster. He could play a significant role on the team, as well, alongside a star-studded group of forwards that includes Connor McDavid, Max Domi, Hunter Shinkaruk, Bo Horvat, Sean Monahan and others.
The evaluation camp is another element of a busy summer for Rychel, who wrapped up the OHL season in the spring and was part of the draft festivities in New York and New Jersey, drafted by the Blue Jackets and in town for development camp two weeks later, and now has Canada's camp in August followed by Blue Jackets training camp in September.
Opportunity is also ripe for Heatherington, who had a solid year in Swift Current prior to being selected by the Blue Jackets. At 6-foot-3 and nearly 200 lbs., Heatherington is the biggest defenseman on Canada's evaluation camp roster other than Edmonton Oilers prospect Darnell Nurse.
Heatherington is a true physical presence on the back end with good positioning and underrated puck-moving ability, and could play a shutdown role for head coach Brent Sutter.
The 2014 national junior team evaluation camps represent the first step in roster assembly for the upcoming World Junior tournament, held Dec. 26 to Jan. 5, 2014 in Malmo, Sweden.
Blue Jackets prospects Oscar Dansk, Daniel Zaar and Alexander Wennberg have been invited to Sweden's evaluation camp in Lake Placid. We'll have more on their participation in an upcoming blog post.