Penguins prospects Joseph Morrow
and Scott Harrington
thoroughly impressed at Pittsburgh’s training camp in September, earning long looks with the team.
Now they’ll be looking to shine just as bright at Team Canada’s National Junior Team Sport Chek Selection Camp that begins Saturday and goes through Dec. 14 in Calgary, Alberta.
The camp will determine Canada’s roster for the 2012 World Junior Championship, which will be played in Edmonton and Calgary Dec. 26, 2011-Jan. 5, 2012.
It’s become a high-profile event that’s made household names out of relative unknowns, and one that most Canadian families follow religiously over the holidays thanks to the extensive coverage by most major media outlets, namely TSN – Canada’s leading English-language sports channel, comparable to ESPN here in the United States.
Count Morrow and Harrington – Pittsburgh’s top two picks in the 2011 NHL Draft – among those who grew up watching (and aspiring to) this tournament. And being so close to making this team – which has made ten straight gold medal appearances – is an incredible honor for both young men.
“Besides the Olympics, there’s nothing bigger than World Juniors,” Harrington (2nd round, 54th overall) said. “I remember watching them every year as a kid. I don’t think it’s really sunk in yet. The opportunity to try out for the team and to be this close is very exciting for myself and my family.”
Morrow (1st round, 23rd overall) agreed, adding, “It’s awesome, actually. To be invited to this is a huge accomplishment in itself.”
After spending so much time with the Penguins this summer for both the prospect tournament and training camp after being drafted by the organization that June, Morrow and Harrington returned to their junior teams with a whole lot of confidence.
“I think Pittsburgh was huge just being able to hang out with all the Penguins at the rink every day and see what they do on a daily basis to make themselves a pro,” Harrington said. “I’ve taken that back with me in juniors and I think my confidence is a lot higher this year just knowing that I’ve seen what it takes to make it to the next level.”
Armed with that newfound sense of aplomb (and the knowledge that Hockey Canada staff and scouts would be watching), both players have gotten their respective seasons off to strong starts.
Besides the Olympics, there’s nothing bigger than World Juniors. I remember watching them every year as a kid. I don’t think it’s really sunk in yet. The opportunity to try out for the team and to be this close is very exciting for myself and my family. - Pens prospect Scott Harrington
Morrow, who turns 19 on Friday, has skated in 26 games this season for Portland of the Western Hockey League (WHL), leading all Winterhawks blueliners with nine goals, 27 points and five power-play goals.
Harrington, 18, has been a key contributor for London, which owns the best record in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL). Harrington leads all Knights blueliners with 15 points (2G-13A) in 25 games and has an impressive plus-21 rating.
“I knew that a good start to the season was important,” Harrington said. “They said that they’d be watching us.”
The competition will be fierce, with 41 players competing for just 22 spots. Of those invitees, 14 are first-round NHL picks, including 11 taken at the 2011 NHL Draft. The interesting part of it, however, is that there will be just three returning players at camp.
“It’s some of the best hockey I’ve played in a long time,” Morrow said. “It compares to Pittsburgh, competition-wise. Everybody is trying to make that team and keep that maple leaf on their chest. It’s a huge accomplishment for the country and for it to be in Canada, I think it inspires all the Canadian kids that they can play in their home country. The competition is phenomenal. It really doesn’t measure up to anything else.”
Morrow plans on using his physicality to separate himself from the other defensemen, while also letting his offensive instincts come front and center. Harrington believes that just going in and playing his game will give him the best chance for success.
Either way, it’s going to be a tall task to earn one of those 22 spots on this team – but both Morrow and Harrington are up for the challenge.
“I’m just going to try and do my best in camp and have no regrets,” Harrington said.