In a lot of ways, the roster for Canada’s World Junior team is a breeding ground for the future stars of the NHL.
The tournament annually features the top players in the world under age 20 in a high stakes international competition that runs from late December-January and it routinely highlights most of the players who will one day become NHL All-Stars. Especially for Team Canada.
Sidney Crosby. John Tavares. Steven Stamkos.
Those are the sorts of names that Canadian World Junior teams are used to icing. At the recent World Junior showcase in Calgary – the beginning of the process of determining Canada’s 2016 roster – the level of talent was exactly as it always is: elite.
NHL Draft Pick Breakdown of Canada’s Roster Hopefuls
First-round picks: 18
Second-round picks: 7
Third-round picks: 2
Fourth-round picks: 1
Fifth-round picks: 0
Sixth-round picks: 1
Seventh-round picks: 1
Undrafted players signed by NHL teams: 1
Players eligible for 2016 NHL Draft: 1
Although Canada won’t finalize its roster until December, there is something pertinent to the Sharks that lies buried within the draft status data of Canada’s camp invitees: Of the 32 remaining candidates for 23 roster spots, only seven weren’t taken in the first two rounds of the NHL Draft. Two of those seven, Dylan Sadowy (third round, 2014) and Rourke Chartier (sixth round, 2014) belong to the Sharks, who are the only team in the NHL with two ‘hidden gems’ that still have the chance to make Team Canada.
“The draft, to me, is really just a snippet of where you’re at on that day,” Chartier said. “For me, after I got drafted, I just really wanted to improve and show that I was maybe a better player than where I went.”
From his draft day in 2014 to World Junior camp in Calgary, that’s exactly what Chartier did. He doubled his goal total in 2013-14 (24) and scored a whopping 48 goals during the regular season this past season, finishing third in the Western Hockey League. He added a league-best (tied) 13 more goals in the playoffs, leading the Kelowna Rockets to a league championship and a berth in the Memorial Cup.
“I think I’m a good two-way player,” Chartier said. “I guess you can say I have a goal scoring touch, too, to put it the simplest way.”
It’s a similar story for Sadowy, who used his hard-working, blue-collar approach to torch the Ontario Hockey League for 42 goals with the Saginaw Spirit last season, only two years after a disappointing two-goal season made it look like he wouldn’t even be drafted.
“After my first year in the OHL, I got my confidence,” Sadowy said. “I know the game I play is going to have to be that hard-nosed, go to the net kind of game that some players don’t want to get into those dirty areas. That’s what I have to do and why I go hard to the net to do what I have to do to get those goals. It’s working and knowing what it was going to take to get to the next level for me to compete against those top players.”
The thing is, Sadowy and Chartier are no longer just competing against top players. They are the top players. And for an organization like the Sharks which has been competitive enough for years to not have been given the luxury of picking at the top of the draft, there’s a definite need for lower drafted players like Sadowy and Chartier to bloom late and become franchise cornerstones.
“I don’t think there were too many teams in camp that had multiple guys,” Chartier says. “Great organization. Hopefully we’ll get a chance to play for them one day.”