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Canada cuts Chychrun, Dal Colle from junior team

by Tim Wharnsby

ETOBICOKE, ONTARIO -- Defenseman Jakob Chychrun was a surprise cut from the Canada junior team selection camp on Sunday.

Coach Dave Lowry released three other players: New York Islanders prospect Michael Dal Colle, left wing Spencer Watson and center Pierre-Luc Dubois.

Chychrun, 17, who plays for Sarnia of the Ontario Hockey League, was not made available after being informed that he would not accompany Canada to Europe to begin preparations for the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship that begins in Helsinki, Finland, on Dec. 26.

Chychrun and Dubois were two of three players on Canada's roster who are eligible for the 2016 NHL Draft; forward Julien Gauthier remains on the team.

Dal Colle, 19, was the Islanders' first-round pick (No. 5) at the 2014 NHL Draft. He was among New York's final cuts at training camp. The left wing has seven goals and 16 assists in 27 games for Oshawa of the OHL.

Watson was a seventh-round pick (No. 209) by the Los Angeles Kings in 2014. He has 17 goals and 15 assists in 30 games this season with Kingston of the OHL.

Dubois, 17, has 47 points (20 goals) in 33 games for Cape Breton of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League this season.

Canada will travel abroad Monday with 27 players (15 forwards, nine defensemen and three goalies), including forward Jake Virtanen, who the Vancouver Canucks on Sunday agreed to loan for the tournament.

The roster must be trimmed to 22 before Canada opens the tournament against the United States on Dec. 26.

This was the second time Dal Colle was cut during the selection camp. It may have been the only chance Chychrun had to play at the WJC; he is considered to be a top-three selection for the 2016 draft and likely will be playing in the NHL next season.

The 6-foot-2, 194-pound Chychrun has been lauded as a three-zone defenseman who can skate, make a sound first pass and is mature beyond his years.

"It's an honor to get invited to this camp," Chychrun said on Friday. "It's a tournament I wanted to play in all my life. To be here with some of the best players in Canada is a great experience. I'm not looking at any outside pressure. I'm just coming in, I know I'm young, but I'm going to try to be a leader, try to be vocal and do everything I can to make the team."

Chychrun was born in Boca Raton, Fla., played minor hockey in the renowned Little Caesars system in Detroit and spent his minor midget season with the Toronto Jr. Canadiens.

Even though he could have played for the U.S., Chychrun, whose father is from the Ottawa area, said there was little discussion about whether he would play internationally for Canada. He has been part of Canada's junior program at the under-17 level.

In his development, Chychrun has been surrounded by NHL experience. His father, Jeff, played 262 NHL games with the Philadelphia Flyers, Los Angeles Kings, Pittsburgh Penguins and Edmonton Oilers in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

His uncle is former NHL defenseman Luke Richardson and his coach in Sarnia is former NHL All-Star and United States Hockey Hall of Fame member Derian Hatcher.

"He's an impressive young man who I would call a typical hockey player," said Richardson, who is coach for Binghamton of the American Hockey League and is related to the Chychruns through marriage. When I say typical hockey player, I mean a person who can have that edge on the ice but be a nice guy away from the rink who will do anything for you off the ice.

"He has good parents. His mother [Nancy] is a kind, thoughtful person with outstanding social skills. She keeps the family together."

When Chychrun was younger, he spent summers and the holiday season at the family's White Lake cottage near Ottawa. In 2009, he took in Canada's tournament-opening 8-1 win against the Czech Republic.

Richardson recalled that he knew his nephew was a true talent early on at a summer hockey school where Richardson used to help.

"It was at [former NHL defenseman] Garry Galley's camp," Richardson said. "I can't remember how old he was, but he was at least a couple years younger than the midget-age players at the camp. Garry would get Jakob to demonstrate the different drills. He has a high hockey IQ and skill to match."

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