Monday, August 8, 2011

Updates from Team Canada WJC Camp - Take 2

In place of our usual Memory Monday feature, we bring you a second recap of activity from Hockey Canada's summer camp in preparation for the World Junior Hockey Championship which takes place in December/January every year. If you missed it, click here to see part 1.

While Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was appropriately a show stealer throughout camp with the event taking place in Alberta (with honourable mention to Jonathan Huberdeau), Habs fans can be encouraged by multiple glowing reviews of the play of Montreal prospect Brendan Gallagher. Given that Don Hay, who will coach Team Canada at this year's Worlds, has been Gallagher's coach with the Vancouver Giants of the WHL for the past 3 seasons, the 19 year old came into camp as a favourite to earn a roster spot. But he has far from sat on his laurels. Here's a couple of pieces on him:

Gallagher made it all the way up to the December camp a year ago, but did not earn a spot on the final roster.

Another player who was at the December camp and was amongst the final cuts of the team is Canadiens prospect Michael Bournival. He has had a quiet camp for the most part, but played hard, spending some time on Gallagher's line, and picking up a goal in Sunday's game. He may find himself on the bubble again this year depending on his start to the season in the QMJHL.

The final Canadiens prospect at the camp, Nathan Beaulieu, has earned some praise but faces stiff competition to earn a spot on the blueline. Initially credited with an assist during Saturday's intersquad game (but it was changed on the official scoresheet), Beaulieu's Team Red blew a 4-1 lead in the third period, falling 5-4 to the Whites, but then rebounded with an 8-2 win on Sunday. All of Bournival, Beaulieu, and Gallagher were on the same side for the games, which may have facilitated the task of Canadiens assistant coach Perry Pearn who was in attendance to watch the three high profile youngsters according to the Edmonton Journal.

With only Erik Gudbranson returning from last year's team on defense, there are jobs to be won. However, there are 3 other 2010 draftees who have the advantage of being one year more mature and experienced, and, including Beaulieu, there are 7 2011 1st round choices in attendance. Given that Beaulieu's biggest strength is his offensive touch from the back end, the best impression he could have made would have been all over the scoresheet during the two "official" games, but there he was outshone by the behemoth Jamieson Oleksiak who had 1 goal and 1 assist on Saturday (and, as he was mostly paired with Gudbranson in camp, Oleksiak would appear to have an inside track at a spot). In Sunday's game, it was Brandon Gormley who produced offensively with a goal and 2 assists, and he should be considered a lock for a spot on the team.

While lots can still happen between now and December, if I had to pick Team Canada today, my prediction would look something like this:

Ryan Johansen - Jonathan Huberdeau - Mark Stone
Jaden Schwartz - Sean Couturier - Brett Connolly
Quinton Howden - Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - Brendan Gallagher
Ryan Strome - Michael Bournival - Ty Rattie
Brett Ritchie

Brandon Gormley - Erik Gudbranson
Jamie Oleksiak - Mark Pysyk
Duncan Siemens - Dougie Hamilton
Nathan Beaulieu

Mark Visentin
Scott Wedgewood

The final roster will likely be different than this, depending on who sticks in the NHL and is thus not made available to Hockey Canada by their respective clubs, and the starts to the season had by many players as well.

No comments: