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Canada thrilled with goalie depth, has no problem with five at WJSS

Staff believes situation will sort itself out despite limited games, practice time

by Adam Kimelman @NHLAdamK / NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

PLYMOUTH, Mich. -- Canada having five goalies at the World Junior Summer Showcase seems like an unwieldy number, especially when there's only four games on the schedule and only so much ice time for practice.

But Shawn Bullock, Hockey Canada director of men's national teams, sees it differently.

"I think it's a testament to the depth we have and the ability that we have with these five goalies," Bullock said Sunday. "They're all deserving to be here. We're excited to have them and get to know them as well throughout this process and let things play out. We see it as an opportunity to look at our depth here."

Colten Ellis (St. Louis Blues), Alexis Gravel (Chicago Blackhawks), Hunter Jones (Minnesota Wild) and Olivier Rodrigue (Edmonton Oilers) have done their best to find time in games and practices to make an impression in hope of earning a spot for the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship in the Czech Republic from Dec. 26-Jan. 5. Zachary Emond (San Jose Sharks) took part in meetings but was unable to skate because of a groin injury and left camp Wednesday.

"There's going to be two new guys so I think it's anybody's spot," Ellis said Monday. "For me, I just want to prove to them that I'm able and capable of playing on this team."

Rodrigue is the only goalie back from last year's WJSS, which gives him an edge in experience. He also has played for Canada at the 2017 Hlinka Gretzky Cup and the 2018 IIHF World Under-18 Championship.

"I have a lot of experience with Hockey Canada so everything I've learned from here, from past events, it's to my advantage," Rodrigue said. "I have to bring everything on the ice and keep pushing and be ready for every step."

Rodrigue said he feels physically stronger than he did last year and more confident after he tied for the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League lead with 35 wins with Drummondville last season. He made the save on all 17 shots in 30:00 in a 4-1 win against the United States on Tuesday.

"If you saw some of those scramble plays you could tell he's been working and getting stronger," goaltending coach Jason LaBarbera said Wednesday. "Whether he's lifting weights more or working on his skating ability on the ice, he made some saves that were a direct result of that."

Gravel also has international experience, playing for Canada at the World Under-18s and the Hlinka Gretzky Cup in 2017. He also led Halifax of the QMJHL to the Memorial Cup Final last season.

Gravel made six saves in 29:03 in relief in Canada's 8-3 loss to Finland on Wednesday.

Alexis Gravel

 

"For me, it's showing Hockey Canada what I can do and trying to just show them I'm the best and I'm the one to be in net at Christmas," Gravel said. "Yes, it's a competition, but I just focus on myself. For me, I always see it as I control what I can, and I can't control what the other goalies do. I'm just going to go out there and do the best that I can and see what the results are."

Jones is the only goalie who doesn't play in the QMJHL. Last season, his first as a starter with Peterborough of the Ontario Hockey League, he had a 3.31 goals-against average and .902 save percentage in 57 games.

"I had ups and downs during that year," Jones said. "I had to go through some adversity and test my mental strength a bit as well as my physical strength with fatigue and stuff like that."

Jones (6-foot-4, 194 pounds) made the save on 13 of 14 shots in 30:00 in relief of Rodrigue on Tuesday.

"He's a physical beast," LaBarbera said. "He's got a lot of power, a lot of athletic ability for a big guy."

Hunter Jones

 

Ellis started the loss to Finland and allowed eight goals on 31 shots in 30:57. Canada coach Dale Hunter said Ellis was a victim of poor defensive play in front of him, especially during a five-goal first period.

"It was backdoor plays on him, wasn't really fair for him," Hunter said. "We weren't sharp early. They came on us hard and it surprised our guys. You saw the goals in the first period, he had no chance on them, wasn't his fault."

Ellis, who had a .910 save percentage in 46 games with Rimouski of the QMJHL last season, likely will have another opportunity to showcase himself, as will his goaltending competition. Canada has two more games, against Sweden on Friday (1 p.m. ET; NHLN) and the United States on Saturday (4 p.m. ET; NHLN).

LaBarbera hopes the goalies continue to make Hockey Canada's decision a tough one.

"It's a competition that started all through their season last year, it's going on right now, it's going on through the start of their season this year," he said. "That's a good thing, to have that. Makes the choice, the decision a lot more difficult and that's what you want."

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