After four days of watching 46 of the best under-20 players compete on and off the ice for spots on Canada's 2011 World Junior Championship roster, coach Dave Cameron said he feels good at how the process for picking the team has started.
The players gathered in St. John's, Nfld., from Aug. 4-7 to showcase themselves to Cameron, his coaching staff and the Hockey Canada brain trust that will field the team to go to Buffalo in December looking to avenge an overtime gold-medal game loss to the U.S. last January in Saskatoon.
"We do very little in this camp as far as systems," Cameron told NHL.com. "We talk about the special teams, but we just give them the basics. We gave them an aggressive forecheck, but the best way to describe it is it's summer time and we didn't think it would do any good to give them too much. We just wanted to allow them to play to their strengths. Don't worry about making mistakes, this is a game based on mistakes. Strut the stuff that got you here. For us it was all about the effort, the compete, and we were very happy with that."
The players skated in two intrasquad scrimmages, with a White team led by Washington Capitals
' prospect Cody Eakin
and Montreal Canadiens
' 2009 first-round pick Louis Leblanc
beating the Red squad twice. Both players were late cuts from last year's team, and admittedly rode that bitterness into this year's camp.
"I still have a bad taste in my mouth from being cut from camp last year," Leblanc told reporters after the first intrasquad game, a 6-3 White win that saw him score a pair of goals. "I came here ready and when the puck dropped I think our line was ready with (Sean) Couturier and (Quinton) Howden."
The second game saw Leblanc and Couturier teamed with Eakin, who scored twice and added an assist in a 5-2 White victory.
"Me and Louis were talking about it on the bench," Eakin said of their mutual disappointments. "We both said it was a pretty bad feeling and we're not going to let it happen again this year."
"He (Eakin) played on two different lines," Cameron said, "and both of his lines that he played on were the better lines in both games. Certainly Louis was one of the better forwards in both games. Some of the guys, there was a difference in games one and two, and in their cases there was no drop-off."
Other players who had solid camps include Los Angeles Kings
' prospects Kyle Clifford
, who led all scorers in the two games with a goal and 3 assists, and Brayden Schenn
, who scored twice in the first game; Couturier, a center with the QMJHL's Drummondville Voltigeurs and an early candidate to be the first pick of the 2011 Entry Draft, who had a goal and 2 assists; Columbus Blue Jackets
' 2010 first-round pick Ryan Johansen
, who had a pair of assists in the first game; and Tampa Bay Lightning
2009 first-rounder Carter Ashton
, who had a goal and an assist.
"Certainly nobody did anything at the camp where they took themselves off the radar," Cameron said. "From that point of view it was a successful camp. Everybody gave an honest effort. They were asked to do a lot of off-ice stuff. There was no negative vibe … the camp certainly served its purpose."
"We just wanted to allow them to play to their strengths. Don't worry about making mistakes, this is a game based on mistakes. Strut the stuff that got you here. For us it was all about the effort, the compete, and we were very happy with that." -- Dave Cameron
Cameron also got a chance to begin sorting out the team's goaltending situation. He said Olivier Roy
, a 2009 fifth-round pick of the Edmonton Oilers
, has taken an early lead on the other candidates -- Phoenix Coyotes
' 2010 first-round pick Mark Visentin
, Colorado Avalanche
prospect Calvin Pickard
and Kings prospect Jean-Francois Berube
"I think it would be fair to say Olivier Roy
distanced himself a little bit as having a better camp," Cameron said. "He had the advantage of being at last year's camp, had the advantage of going through it. They all acquitted themselves well, but Olivier Roy
separated himself from the other three."
Success now, however, in no way guarantees a spot on the team. Cameron said he'll start having weekly conferences calls with his staff -- including assistant coaches Ryan Huska
of the Kelowna Rockets, George Burnett of the Belleville Bulls and Andre Tourigny of the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies -- to discuss and update the depth chart starting in mid-October. A final camp will be held sometime in mid-December to set the final roster.
Contact Adam Kimelman at email@example.com