The morning skates were both cancelled on Monday. With one more game of evaluation before the first round of cuts Tuesday, the coaching staff didn’t want any of the players to have fatigue as a reason for not performing up to their capabilities.
In the meantime, players who are banged up were able to receive treatment, while others took part in some off-ice conditioning. Jonathan Huberdeau had his foot X-rayed and returned with a walking cast. He also tried on a pair of skates and walked around the dressing room and it is expected he will get on the ice in the next day or so, but his activity will be very limited. It is unknown as to when he may be available to participate in full workouts, but it’s all but guaranteed his spot will be saved for as long as possible.
As for Brett Connolly, he suffered lower body bruising, most likely on the left knee that was injured in the third period of Sunday’s Red-White game. He’ll give it a test drive in the pre-game skate to determine whether or not he can play.
One more injury issue that has not been talked about a whole lot is the injury to Brad Ross. Ross skated on his own during media availability, but the results of that were not known prior to my leaving the rink this morning. I’m sure we’ll know more before game time, but it likely was sustained during the Friday Night Hockey game featuring Ross’ Portland Winterhawks and the Vancouver Giants.
Kevin Prendergast, Hockey Canada’s head scout, mentioned Phillip Di Giuseppe, Brandon Gormley, Ryan Murray and Brendan Gallagher as those who stuck out to him in Sunday night’s game. He also mentioned the play of all four goalies.
Head coach Don Hay reiterated that he wants his defenceman to be concerned about taking care of business in their own end of the ice first, and then worry about contributing offensively. As he explained to me during the Subway Super Series, “We’d like to get the puck to the forwards as quickly as possible.” It will be interesting to see if this defensive corps features an all-out offensive guy like Rimouski’s Jerome Gauthier-Leduc or Kitchener’s Ryan Murphy. The more conservative puck-moving defenceman include Brenden Kicthon of Spokane, Cody Ceci of Ottawa and of course Ryan Murray of Everett, but he’s as good a lock as anyone on this team.
Ceci is NHL Central Scouting’s 10th-rated skater out of the Ontario Hockey League (you can see a feature on him in the video section of our CHL page at sportsnet.ca). Ceci worked out with the Gudbranson brothers, Alan Quine and Joey West from the Peterborough Petes and NHLer Mark Fraser during the off-season at JR Leger’s Base Conditioning. Ceci also gives credit to Chris Byrne, Ottawa’s head coach and GM as well as former 67 Tyler Cuma for his development.
As for Kichton, he was a plus-55 on a high scoring, tight-defensively Spokane team last year. That team lost offensive stalwarts Tyler Johnson, Levko Koper and all-world defenceman Jared Cowen and Kichton’s game has improved as a result. Last year he was able to record 81 points, knowing he could take risks playing with the defence-minded Cowen. This year he has credited head coach Don Nachbaur with developing his all-around game and felt that was evident in the Subway Super Series. Kichton’s brilliant passing came to the fore Sunday night, especially on the Devante Smith-Pelly goal. Kichton likes to pattern his game after another former Chief Jared Spurgeon, who found himself in Canada’s world junior camp in 2009 but did not make the team. Spurgeon is now strutting his stuff with the resurgent Minnesota Wild. A great story in his own right, Spurgeon went unsigned as an Islanders draft pick in ’08 and ended up earning a three-year entry-level deal as an invitee with Minnesota before the 2010-11 season. Since then he’s played in 83 games with the Wild, contributing 25 points and a respectable plus-2.
Be sure to tune into the Sportsnet 590 The Fan for all of Canada’s world junior games:
Monday, Dec. 26: 3:00 p.m. vs. Finland
Wednesday, Dec. 28: 7:30 p.m. vs. Czech Republic
Thursday, Dec. 29: 7:00 p.m. vs. Denmark
Saturday, Dec. 31: 7:30 p.m. vs. USA
*Quarterfinals: Monday, Jan. 2 – 4:30 p.m. or 8:30 p.m. Semifinals: Tuesday, Jan. 3 – 4:30 p.m. AND 8:30 p.m.
*Bronze medal game: Thursday, Jan. 5 – 3:00 p.m. Gold medal game: Thursday, Jan. 5 – 7:30 p.m.