THOROLD, Ont. – Michael DiPietro mixed sorrow with levity after being among the final cuts from the Canadian world junior team.
“I’m just trying to weather the storm. It’s not something you expected coming into camp,” the 18-year-old goaltender said, his voice breaking as he fought off tears. “But I respect their decision and wish them all the best.
“I told them that they’re going to win gold. They don’t look good with silver around their necks anyways.”
DiPietro, a Memorial Cup champion with the Windsor Spitfires last season, was the last of the goalies to be released Friday as Canada set its roster.
The crease belongs to incumbent Carter Hart and NCAA standout Colton Point, and represents a perceived area of strength for the Canadians.
Along with DiPietro, a Vancouver Canucks prospect, defenceman Mario Ferraro (UMass/SJS), blueliner Josh Mahura (Regina/ANA), forward Tanner Kaspick (Brandon/STL) and centre Nick Suzuki (Owen Sound/VGK) were the last five cuts.
Here’s what else you need to know about the final roster.
LET’S GET TOGETHER
Canada didn’t have to name its roster until Christmas afternoon.
Coach Dominique Ducharme felt it was imperative to get a jump on that deadline though.
“We need that time,” he said. “It looks like a lot, but it goes by quick.”
Selection camp opened Tuesday and Canada’s schedule consisted of two practices on the first day and an exhibition game on each of the following three days.
As a result, Ducharme hasn’t been able to put his offensive stamp on the team.
“We need to work on our game,” he said. “Offence is something we haven’t talked much (about). We let our guys play.
“There are different ways to be scoring goals. I think you need that on a team. You need those guys that are going to be scoring goals on top of the blue paint and other guys that are going to be preparing plays and scoring more away from the net.”
SPREADING THE PRODUCTION AROUND
Jordan Kyrou and Sam Steel are expected to carry the load offensively and there are plenty of others with big goal totals on the roster. The two players that have spent time on their line in exhibition games – Jonah Gadjovich and Tyler Steenbergen – come to mind.
Throw in Sault Ste. Marie’s Boris Katchouk, who’s been a force this season with 27 goals, second in the OHL.
But this is largely a group with a dearth of star power evident from teams in recent years.
What this team does have, however, is great depth.
London’s Robert Thomas should be an impactful two-way centre. Teammate Alex Formenton started the season in the NHL with Ottawa, but is expected to play down in the lineup and on the penalty kill.
“I don’t see them just as checkers,” Ducharme said. “They play a complete game.
“It’s about balancing lines and chemistry.”
LOW ON HIGH FIRST-ROUNDERS
Speaking of star power, or lack thereof, this team is short on elite prospects.
Only 12 of the 33 players invited to camp were first-round picks. Four of them, including 2017 Vegas picks Cody Glass (sixth) and Suzuki (13th) were cut.
“I came here wanting to make the team and just came up a bit short,” said Suzuki, who mostly saw short-handed ice time.
“I thought I played well. I thought I played a good role they could have used. I tried to do my best to show my game.”
The only top-10 pick is Cale Makar, a late-birthday player chosen fourth by Colorado in June.
Draft status had no impact on Ducharme’s choices.
“I think they’re all pretty big names,” he said. “It’s not about what they become in the NHL. Some guys are picked early and they’ve got great potential. But where are they right now? It’s not where are they going to be in two years, three years.”
Buoyed by returnees Dante Fabbro, Kale Clague and Jake Bean, as well as Montreal Canadien Victor Mete, the defence corps is considered a strength of the team.
Makar, Conor Timmins and Cal Foote round out the group.
“I think we’re pretty deep on defence, well balanced,” Ducharme said. “We’ve got different kinds of guys. Same with upfront. I think we’re going to be a complete team.”
Mobility is their greatest collective plus.
What they’re lacking is size. Only the six-foot-four Foote is taller than six foot one.
“Cal is doing a good job on the PK. He’s well-positioned. He’s a good defender. He’s moving the puck good. He’s a bigger body,” Ducharme said.
While no proclamations have been made about goaltending, Hart is expected to see most of the action once the tournament begins.
Canada hasn’t boasted the top goaltender at the event since Steve Mason earned the honours in 2008. Hart’s numbers with WHL Everett – 13-3-1, 1.32 goals-against average and .961 save percentage – give confidence he’s up to the task.
What Canada has in Point is a six-foot-four, 220-pound backup who’s 19.
“He’s having a great year,” Ducharme said. “We like what he’s bringing in net. (With) his presence, the way he plays, and the way we see our team and our structure, the style that he has, we’re comfortable.”
That, of course, left DiPietro on the outs.
He’s eligible for another tryout next year.
“This is definitely something I’m not used to,” he said. “I can definitely learn from it and hopefully use it as motivation come next year.”