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Hockey Canada streamlines camp roster for WJC

by Arpon Basu

BROSSARD, Quebec -- There will not be nearly as much drama surrounding the Canadian National Junior Selection Camp as there has been in past years.

Hockey Canada announced its roster Monday for the selection camp to be held Dec. 12-15 at the MasterCard Centre in Etobicoke, Ontario, and it looks very similar to the team that will ultimately go to Malmo, Sweden for the 2014 International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship.

With 25 players invited to attend, including two goalies, eight defensemen and 15 forwards, Canadian coach Brent Sutter and his staff will need to make three cuts at camp, likely to be one defenseman and two forwards.

A year removed from finishing off the World Junior podium for the first time in 15 years, Hockey Canada wanted to streamline the selection process and base it more on play during the season rather than simply looking at a three-day camp.

As a result, it invited the smallest number of players it ever has to its selection camp.

"No matter how many players you invite or when you make your decisions, you have to make hard decisions," said Scott Salmond, Hockey Canada's senior director of hockey operations for national teams. "Our idea this year was to make the harder decisions earlier."

One of the immediate benefits Salmond pointed to was allowing Sutter and his staff to begin preparing the team for the tournament right away rather than getting bogged down in evaluating players for cuts.

"The mindset from Day 1 is different," he said. "If you're coming into a 25-player camp, you already have a feeling that it's a team. So we're going to start competing together as opposed to against each other, and I think that's an important message to our players."

Nowhere is that philosophy more evident than at goaltender, with Zachary Fucale of the Halifax Mooseheads and Jake Patterson of the Saginaw Spirit already assured of going to Malmo as the only two goalies invited to the selection camp. The lone remaining decision in goal is which player will be given the No. 1 job.

"The thinking was we have the two guys we know can do the job," said Sean Burke, a member of the Hockey Canada management team and the Phoenix Coyotes goaltending coach. "To cloud that situation, to have to make other decisions at the last minute just didn't seem to make sense. These are both very capable goaltenders and we feel either one of them can win a gold medal."

Two of the highest profile omissions both came from the Ontario Hockey League, defenseman Darnell Nurse of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds and left wing Max Domi of the London Knights.

Nurse, a first-round pick of the Edmonton Oilers (No. 7) at the 2013 NHL Draft, is the second-leading scorer among OHL defensemen with 28 points in 26 games.

Hockey Canada's new head scout for men's national teams, Ryan Jankowski, said Nurse was a difficult player to leave off the roster, but the feeling was Nurse often tried to do too much on the ice. In order to be certain that wasn't a function of the role he plays for the Greyhounds, Hockey Canada wanted to see how Nurse played when surrounded by better players in the Canadian Hockey League's Subway Super Series against Russia.

"It was the same thing," Jankowski said. "He didn't show an ability to simplify his game."

As for Domi, a first-round pick (No 12) of the Coyotes at the 2013 draft, Jankowski said it was a difficult decision that came down to finding him a spot in an offensive role. Ultimately there were too many players ahead of Domi already competing for a role among the team's top-six forwards.

"We do not assemble an All-Star team," Jankowski said. "We need players who play certain roles and meet certain criteria to play at the World Junior Hockey Championships, and not just the top players in the country."

The camp roster is highlighted by Halifax Mooseheads left wing Jonathan Drouin, selected in the first round (No. 3) of the 2013 NHL Draft by the Tampa Bay Lightning, who is second in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League with 47 points (15 goals, 32 assists) in 21 games this season.

While many people in the hockey world thought Drouin would be starring in the NHL this season, Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman opted to return him to Halifax in order to give him the necessary ice time he needed to improve his overall game. That plan also enabled Hockey Canada to have one of the country's finest hockey talents available to them a second straight year.

Drouin is one of three players invited to camp from the team that finished fourth in Ufa, Russia last year along with defensemen Griffin Reinhart, a New York Islanders prospect, and Paterson, a Detroit Red Wings draft pick. Paterson was named Canada's emergency goalie last year and did not see any action.


GOALIES: Zachary Fucale, Halifax, QMJHL (Montreal), *Jake Paterson, Saginaw, OHL (Detroit)

DEFENSEMEN: Aaron Ekblad, Barrie, OHL (2014 eligible), Chris Bigras, Owen Sound, OHL (Colorado), Adam Pelech, Erie, OHL (New York Islanders), Matt Dumba, Red Deer, WHL (Minnesota), Joshua Morrissey, Prince Albert, WHL (Winnipeg), Derrick Pouliot, Portland, WHL (Pittsburgh), *Griffin Reinhart, Edmonton, WHL (New York Islanders), Damon Severson, Kelowna, WHL (New Jersey)

FORWARDS: *Jonathan Drouin, Halifax, QMJHL (Tampa Bay), Frederik Gauthier, Rimouski, QMJHL (Toronto), Felix Girard, Baie-Comeau, QMJHL (Nashville), Bo Horvat, London, OHL (Vancouver), #Charles Hudon, Chicoutimi, QMJHL (Montreal), Taylor Leier, Portland, WHL (Philadelphia), Scott Laughton, Oshawa, OHL (Philadelphia), Josh Anderson, London, OHL (Columbus), Curtis Lazar, Edmonton, WHL (Ottawa), Anthony Mantha, Val-d'Or, QMJHL (Detroit), Connor McDavid, Erie, OHL (2015), Nicolas Petan, Portland, WHL (Winnipeg), Sam Reinhart, Kootenay, WHL (2014), Kerby Rychel, Windsor, OHL (Columbus), Hunter Shinkaruk, Medicine Hat, WHL (Vancouver)

*- Returning player

#- Selected to 2013 team but missed tournament because of injury
A fourth player on the selection camp roster, Montreal Canadiens prospect Charles Hudon, made the team last year but was unable to play in the tournament due to an injury sustained in pre-competition play.

Minnesota Wild defenseman Matt Dumba was the only player invited currently on an NHL roster. The Wild agreed to loan him to Canada not only for the tournament, but also for the camp on Dec. 12.

Salmond said Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon and Washington Capitals right wing Tom Wilson will not be made available by their teams to play for Canada at the WJC, but that Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Morgan Rielly and Calgary Flames center Sean Monahan have not been ruled out by their respective clubs.

Though Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle told reporters Monday morning that Rielly would not be made available to Canada, Salmond said he spoke with Maple Leafs general manager Dave Nonis as recently as Saturday and was given no indication Rielly's inclusion was impossible.

"Dave was real clear with us that if Morgan Rielly is playing and playing big minutes with Toronto he won't be available, and if he's in and out of the lineup he may be available," Salmond said. "At no point has Dave Nonis, who is the only person I've talked to from the Leafs, said that he's not going to go."

As for Monahan, he is recovering from a hairline fracture in his foot but is scheduled to return sometime around Dec. 10, Salmond said. Hockey Canada hopes the Flames will see an opportunity to play in the WJC almost like a rehab stint that would double as a great experience for Monahan.

"We're real hopeful the Flames see this as a big opportunity for Sean to be a big part of the team and to play in some real meaningful, big games," Salmond said. "We have a good relationship with the Flames and we're hopeful they're going to support us. But if they don't, we understand that too."

If Griffin Reinhart makes the final cut, he'll have to sit three games as part of an IIHF suspension received for a high-stick infraction against the United States during the 2013 WJC semifinal round. He would be eligible to return in time for Canada's final game of the preliminary round, which is against the United States.

Canada hasn't celebrated a gold medal at the WJC since 2009, and with just three returning players it could be a young team going to Malmo in an effort to break that drought.

Three players, Kootenay Ice center Sam Reinhart, Erie Otters center Connor McDavid and Barrie Colts defenseman Aaron Ekblad, will earn plenty of attention from NHL scouts. Reinhart and Ekblad are eligible for the 2014 NHL Draft and McDavid is eligible the following year.

Reinhart, who has 16 goals and 46 points in 29 games for Kootenay, is expected to be the first pick of the 2014 NHL Draft. The 18-year-old right-handed shot captained Canada to the gold medal at the 2013 IIHF World Under-18 Championship. He is the younger brother of fellow camp invite, Griffin.

McDavid, who made his debut in the OHL last season after being granted exceptional-player status from Hockey Canada, is expected to be the first pick at the 2015 NHL Draft. The 6-foot, 185-pound left-handed shot is bidding to be the first 16-year-old to play on Canada's WJC team since Sidney Crosby in 2004.

Ekblad, a 6-foot-3.5, 216-pound right-handed shot, was also granted exceptional player status by Hockey Canada to be eligible for the 2011 OHL priority selection draft as a 15-year-old. He captained Canada to the 2013 Under-18 Memorial of Ivan Hlinka title this past summer. He has nine goals and 23 points in 26 games.

Canada will compete in a group with the United States, Czech Republic, Germany and Slovakia. The U.S. scored a 3-1 victory against Sweden in the 2013 WJC gold medal game to garner its third championship at the tournament (2004, 2010).

The U.S. will announce its selection camp roster on Wednesday.

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