Canadian National Junior Team coach Benoit Groulx has made it clear the type of player he feels will fit his profile to serve on the final roster for the country at the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship.
He'll begin the arduous process of forming that 22-man unit Thursday when Hockey Canada's selection camp begins in earnest with a practice at MasterCard Centre in Toronto. Groulx will hold practices Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The team will hold a morning skate Saturday before traveling to Mattamy Athletic Centre in Toronto for an exhibition match against CIS at 7 p.m. ET.
What type of player is Groulx seeking in attempt to end a five-year gold medal drought at the tournament?
Canada National Junior Camp Roster
Eric Comrie, Tri-City, WHL (Winnipeg Jets); Zachary Fucale, Halifax, QMJHL (Montreal Canadiens)
Chris Bigras, Owen Sound, OHL (Colorado Avalanche); Madison Bowey, Kelowna, WHL (Washington Capitals); Haydn Fleury, Red Deer, WHL (Carolina Hurricanes); Dillon Heatherington, Swift Current, WHL (Columbus Blue Jackets); Joe Hicketts, Victoria, WHL (Detroit Red Wings); Samuel Morin, Rimouski, QMJHL (Philadelphia Flyers); Joshua Morrissey, Prince Albert, WHL (Winnipeg Jets); Darnell Nurse, Sault Ste. Marie, OHL (Edmonton Oilers); Travis Sanheim, Calgary, WHL (Philadelphia Flyers); Shea Theodore, Seattle, WHL (Anaheim Ducks)
Anthony Duclair, New York Rangers; Nicholas Baptiste, Erie, OHL (Buffalo Sabres); Rourke Chartier, Kelowna, WHL (San Jose Sharks); Lawson Crouse, Kington, OHL (2015 draft eligible); Michael Dal Colle, Oshawa, OHL (New York Islanders); Jason Dickinson, Guelph, OHL (Dallas Stars); Max Domi, London, OHL (Arizona Coyotes); Remi Elie, Belleville, OHL (Dallas Stars); Robby Fabbri, Guelph, OHL (St. Louis Blues); Frederik Gauthier, Rimouski, QMJHL (Toronto Maple Leafs); Morgan Klimchuk, Regina, WHL (Calgary Flames); Connor McDavid, Erie, OHL (2015 draft eligible); Nicholas Paul, North Bay, OHL (Ottawa Senators); Nicolas Petan, Portland, WHL (Winnipeg Jets); Brayden Point, Moose Jaw, WHL (Tampa Bay Ligthtning); Sam Reinhart, Kootenay, WHL (Buffalo Sabres); Nick Ritchie, Peterborough, OHL (Anaheim Ducks); Jake Virtanen, Calgary, WHL (Vancouver Canucks)
"Recent history has shown us that being a hundred-point guy on a first line is no longer enough at the Juniors," Groulx said. "Our players have to raise their game. These are players who will one day be in the National Hockey League. They have the talent, but can they elevate their play? That's the message we're sending. The level we've competed at these last few years simply wasn't enough."
After celebrating five straight gold medal finishes between 2005 and 2009, the Canadians have only a bronze medal at the 2012 tournament on their resume.
Groulx, 46, was an assistant coach at the 2014 WJC in Malmo, Sweden, when Canada finished fourth after a loss to Russia in the bronze medal game. He also coached the Gatineau Olympiques in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League to three Memorial Cup appearances (2003, 2004, 2008).
"We need guys who are self-driven, who are relentless, guys who want to make the difference," he said. "We need hundred-point players who are ready to make changes, ready to play out of their comfort zones. To win that championship, you need world class players."
Groulx will likely reveal his final roster on Dec. 24 after the Canadians host an exhibition tournament against Russia on Dec. 19, Sweden on Dec. 21 and Switzerland on Dec. 23. After the exhibition games, Canada will open the 11-day tournament on Dec. 26 with a Group A match against Slovakia at Bell Centre in Montreal.
Canada will play its four preliminary-round games at Bell Centre. The Group A field consists of Canada, the United States, Finland, Slovakia and Germany. The gold-medal game will take place at Air Canada Centre in Toronto on Jan. 5.
Groulx is excited about the World Junior Championship returning to Canada for the first time in three years.
"Montreal and Toronto are two of the most passionate sports cities in Canada, and even in North America," he said. "It's a huge challenge that I look forward to. Pressure will be good for us. When there's pressure like that, people are very aware of it. Playing in Montreal and Toronto forces us to prepare adequately.
"People in Canada expect us to win. For us, that's the ultimate. But our focus is on the process more than anything else."
There are seven returning players from last year's team that were invited to camp this year. Additionally, the New York Rangers recently loaned forward Anthony Duclair to Hockey Canada for participation in the tournament. There are three other junior-eligible NHL players who could be in a similar position: Tampa Bay Lightning forward Jonathan Drouin, Vancouver Canucks forward Bo Horvat and Ottawa Senators forward Curtis Lazar.
Center Nathan MacKinnon of the Colorado Avalanche and defenseman Aaron Ekblad of the Florida Panthers will not be loaned because of their importance to their respective NHL teams.
WORLD JUNIOR CHAMPIONSHIP BLOG
Erie Otters center Connor McDavid, who has missed the past 12 games with a fracture in his right hand sustained Nov. 11, anticipates he'll be ready when the tournament begins. The 17-year-old, who is projected to be the first player taken at the 2015 NHL Draft, had his cast removed Tuesday, and has been skating and shooting with authority the past three weeks.
Though some countries will opt to have three goalies on their final roster, that may not be the case with Canada since two were invited to camp: Zachary Fucale of the Halifax Mooseheads in the QMJHL and Eric Comrie of the Tri-City Americans in the Western Hockey League.
Fucale is property of the Montreal Canadiens, and Comrie of the Winnipeg Jets.
The selection camp will ultimately determine which of the two will receive much of the work for at least the start of the tournament.
"You're not basing your evaluation on one game, 10 games or 20 games; you're basing it on two years of evaluation," Groulx said. "When you look at consistency, being competitive and success, the two of them were on top of the list. We know them, we know what they can do and we're very comfortable with both of them."