|Ryan Nugent-Hopkins during Team Canada's National Junior Team Development Camp, August 2011 (Photo by Andy Devlin)
Thirty-seven players, including Oilers/Oklahoma City Barons pivot Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
and Edmonton Oil Kings stars Griffin Reinhart and Laurent Brossoit have been invited to Team Canada's National Junior Team Selection Camp on Dec. 10-15 in Calgary.
Nugent-Hopkins, 19, is in his final year of junior eligibility and will be the lone representative from the American Hockey League. In 19 games with the AHL's Barons, the Burnaby, BC product has recorded eight goals and 20 points. Last season in an impressive rookie debut, Nugent-Hopkins' 18-goal, 52-point output earned him a nod as a finalist for the Calder Memorial Trophy as the NHL's Rookie of the Year.
With an eight-day break separating the Barons' most recent game in Houston and the next vs. San Antonio, RNH has come back to Edmonton to undergo an exam on his surgically repaired left shoulder -- deemed a precautionary "check-up" by agent Rick Valette.
Oilers prospect Travis Ewanyk was left off the list due to an injury he suffered on Nov. 15 during Team WHL's encounter with Team Russia at the Subway Super Series in Vancouver.
That same night, Brossoit, a sixth-round pick of the Calgary Flames, pitched a 30-save shutout, mirroring the dominance that saw him lead Edmonton to a WHL Championship seven months ago. The 19-year-old has put together an 11-2-2-3 record, a 2.56 goals-against average and .904 save percentage this season.
"I'm pretty excited," Brossoit said at Oil Kings practice Monday. It's a huge honour to be invited to the camp and I couldn't be happier.
"I went in (to the Super Series) knowing I had to make a statement."
That he did, shutting down the high-powered Russian attack featuring No. 1 overall pick and Oilers prospect Nail Yakupov.
Brossoit will be up against some stiff competition for the starting role. Three other goaltenders, all of the OHL -- Malcolm Subban (Belleville Bulls), Jake Paterson (Saginaw Spirit) and Jordan Binnington (Owen Sound Attack) -- have comparable numbers, making the decision for Goaltending Consultant Ron Tugnutt a tough one.
"Playing in the playoffs last year really helped me with that," Brossoit said of the immense pressure and notorious media scrutiny at the World Junior Championship. "Going through all those experiences and knowing you can play in those high-pressure situations and deal with the pressure -- last year helped with that."
Brossoit's most memorable moment watching the World Juniors came in 2007 when Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price shut the door in a shootout, sending Team Canada past the rival Americans in a heated matchup.
"I remember watching that and hoping one day I could be a part of it. Now I need to make sure that I do."
Growing up in the lower mainland, Brossoit is no stranger to Nugent-Hopkins either. While he was usually suiting up with the Cloverdale Minor Hockey Program in Surrey, RNH was close by with the Burnaby Winter Club.
"I grew up playing with and against him. I definitely enjoyed playing with him more than I did against him," Brossoit laughed. "He's an unbelievable player and I'm very happy that he's going to be on the team."
Reinhart was chosen fourth overall by the New York Islanders this past June. He, too, participated in the Subway Super Series at the PNE Coliseum. The 6'4", 202-pound defenceman was a force in separating Russia's skilled players off the puck and making them pay the price in all areas of the ice.
The native of West Vancouver, BC has posted three goals and 10 points in 28 games this season.
"It's huge -- I'm really looking forward to it," said Reinhart, who also had a chance to play midget hockey with Nugent-Hopkins when he was younger. "It's a great feeling. I had a pretty good Subway Series and that probably helped my chances. I haven't been thinking about it too much over the last couple days. It snuck up on me since I was really focused on the last couple games I had with the Oil Kings."
With 37 players invited to the camp, Reinhart respects the fact that making the team isn't going to be easy. With the work stoppage in the NHL nearing its third month, the 2013 squad is already drawing comparisons to the team Canada iced eight years ago, which was considered to be one of the greatest teams ever assembled.
"It's a great roster, a great group of players," he said. "It's going to be a hard team to make. The reason why I was selected is because of the way I play here (in Edmonton). I'm going to try and play the same way and take a lot of pride in my defensive game."
Making up the 37 invitees: seven OHL players, 11 WHL, 18 OHL and one (Nugent-Hopkins) from the AHL. Click here to view the invite list.
-- Ryan Dittrick, edmontonoilers.com with files from Ryan Frankson & Nyki Scheuerman