The 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship doesn't start for five months, but Canada coach Dominique Ducharme said the time to set the tone for the tournament starts now.
Ducharme will have 41 players at the Canada National Junior team Summer Evaluation camp. The first part of the camp will be held at MasterCard Centre for Excellence in Toronto from July 31-Aug. 2 before it shifts to USA Hockey Arena in Plymouth, Mich., from Aug. 3-6. The four days in Michigan will feature practices and games against the United States, Finland and Sweden.
The week will feature the early implementation of the style of play Ducharme wants for Canada, but there will be more off-ice discussions of philosophy, identity and camaraderie.
"The first thing is getting to know our players better and for them to get to know [the coaching staff] and our expectations and the way we want to be playing," Ducharme said. "Establish the mindset with which we want to be working with, including the start of the structure we're going to be using. And obviously evaluating the players and seeing how they react to that.
"It's really the basics. It's about the philosophy with which we want to be playing, even more than Xs and Os. We're going to talk about it a little bit, but we don't have that much time to go beat them to death. But it's establishing the philosophy with which we want to be playing and the way we want to be playing, the kind of mindset we want to be having and the identity of our team."
Ducharme, who was an assistant coach on Dave Lowry's staff with Canada when it finished sixth at the 2016 WJC, will have nine players at the camp from that team: Forwards Mathew Barzal (New York Islanders), Anthony Beauvillier (Islanders), Lawson Crouse (Florida Panthers), Julien Gauthier (Carolina Hurricanes), Travis Konecny (Philadelphia Flyers), Mitchell Marner (Toronto Maple Leafs), Mitchell Stephens (Tampa Bay Lightning) and Dylan Strome (Arizona Coyotes), and defenceman Thomas Chabot (Ottawa Senators). Barzal will not skate during the camp because of a hip injury.
"Experience you can't buy," Ducharme said. "Obviously those guys that were there last year, it wasn't the result that we wanted. We went through different situations, different things. For sure they're important in our process and the way that we want to establish right away what we want to do from the summer."
That experience, however, doesn't guarantee them spots on the team that will play in Montreal and Toronto at the 2017 WJC, which takes place from Dec. 26-Jan. 5.
"They still have to compete," Ducharme said. "This is a national team and there are good players everywhere. I think it's great for them and for everyone that has a chance to go back for a second time after having not the result that we wanted. They want to bounce back."
Among the first-timers at the camp are two players expected to be selected high at the 2017 NHL Draft, center Nolan Patrick of Brandon in the Western Hockey League and defenceman Callan Foote of Kelowna (WHL).
Foote, a 6-foot-3, 200-pound right-shot defenceman, had 36 points and a plus-16 rating in 71 games last season. He's the son of former NHL defenceman Adam Foote.
"To be invited to the camp you need to be in a position, or you have a chance, to make the team," Ducharme said. "Doesn't mean that if you're not there you don't have a chance at Christmastime. But right now he's a guy that we want to see. I heard about the way he plays the game and I'm looking forward to it."
Patrick, a 6-foot-2, 190-pound center who was the most valuable player of the WHL playoffs last season with 30 points in 21 games, will not skate at the camp because of groin surgery earlier this month. However, Ducharme said he's looking forward to getting to know Patrick, a candidate to be the first pick of the 2017 draft. He had 41 goals and 61 assists in 72 regular-season games.
"I know he's got skills and size," Ducharme said. "We have a couple guys that won't be able to skate, but they'll be around. They'll see what we want to achieve, they'll see what we want to do. For sure we'll sit down individually with them like we're going to do with guys that are skating."
Ducharme said spots on the team won't be won or lost based on what happens in a week of summer hockey. But there will be evaluation done and judgements made based on how players handle different situations.
"Who's going to be special enough to make it?" Ducharme said. "That's the challenge for them."
CANADA NATIONAL JUNIOR TEAM SUMMER EVALUATION CAMP ROSTER
GOALTENDERS: Evan Cormier, Saginaw, OHL (New Jersey Devils); Carter Hart, Everett, WHL (Philadelphia Flyers); Connor Ingram, Kamloops, WHL (Tampa Bay Lightning); Zachary Sawchenko, Moose Jaw, WHL (2017 draft eligible)
DEFENCEMEN: Jake Bean, Calgary, WHL (Carolina Hurricanes); Guillaume Brisebois, Acadie-Bathurst, QMJHL (Vancouver Canucks); Thomas Chabot, Saint John, QMJHL (Ottawa Senators); Jakob Chychrun, Sarnia, OHL (Arizona Coyotes); Dante Fabbro, Penticton, BCHL (Nashville Predators); Callan Foote, Kelowna, WHL (2017 draft eligible); Samuel Girard, Shawinigan, QMJHL (Nashville Predators); Connor Hobbs, Regina, WHL (Washington Capitals); Noah Juulsen, Everett, WHL (Montreal Canadiens); Jeremy Lauzon, Rouyn-Noranda, QMJHL (Boston Bruins); *Philippe Myers, Rouyn-Noranda, QMJHL (Philadelphia Flyers); Jeremy Roy, Sherbrooke, QMJHL (San Jose Sharks); Matthew Spencer, Peterborough, OHL (Tampa Bay Lightning); Mitchell Vande Sompel, Oshawa, OHL (New York Islanders)
FORWARDS: *Mathew Barzal, Seattle, WHL (New York Islanders); Anthony Beauvillier, Shawinigan, QMJHL (New York Islanders); Anthony Cirelli, Oshawa, OHL (Tampa Bay Lightning); Lawson Crouse, Kingston, OHL (Florida Panthers); Dillon Dube, Kelowna, WHL (Calgary Flames); Pierre-Luc Dubois, Cape Breton, QMJHL (Columbus Blue Jackets); Julien Gauthier, Val-d'Or, QMJHL (Carolina Hurricanes); Brett Howden, Moose Jaw, WHL (Tampa Bay Lightning); Mathieu Joseph, Saint John, QMJHL (Tampa Bay Lightning); Tyson Jost, Penticton, BCHL (Colorado Avalanche); Graham Knott, Niagara, OHL (Chicago Blackhawks); Keegan Kolesar, Seattle, WHL (Columbus Blue Jackets); Travis Konecny, Sarnia, OHL (Philadelphia Flyers); Mitchell Marner, London, OHL (Toronto Maple Leafs); Michael McLeod, Mississauga, OHL (New Jersey Devils); Nicholas Merkley, Kelowna, WHL (Arizona Coyotes); *Nolan Patrick, Brandon, WHL (2017 draft eligible); Nicolas Roy, Chicoutimi, QMJHL (Carolina Hurricanes); Zach Senyshyn, Sault Ste. Marie, OHL (Boston Bruins); Deven Sideroff, Kamloops, WHL (Anaheim Ducks); Tyler Soy, Victoria, WHL (Anaheim Ducks); Mitchell Stephens, Saginaw, OHL (Tampa Bay Lightning); Dylan Strome, Erie, OHL (Arizona Coyotes)
* - will attend camp but not skate
Author: Adam Kimelman | NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor