Hockey Canada is hoping three current NHL players along with one American Hockey League forward will be available to represent Canada at the upcoming world junior championship.
Head scout Brad McEwen said Chicago Blackhawks forward Kirby Dach, New York Islanders defenceman Noah Dobson, Arizona Coyotes forward Barrett Hayton and Detroit Red Wings prospect Joe Veleno are on Canada’s wish list for the upcoming holiday tournament.
“You hope you get them all,” McEwen said in a phone interview. “It makes your roster that much deeper and stronger. Joe has been through it, Noah’s been through it, Barrett’s been through it and that’s critical, I think, whenever you can bring back a few veteran guys.”
Dach, drafted third overall in the 2019 NHL Draft by the Chicago Blackhawks, has been having a standout season even though he started the year late due to a concussion. In 17 games, the 18-year-old centre has five goals and five assists.
Despite not playing at last year’s world juniors, where Canada lost in overtime during the quarterfinals against Finland, Dach played for the Canadians at the 2018 Hlinka Gretzky Cup when they won gold.
Veleno had two assists last year for Canada and started this season with the Grand Rapids Griffins in the AHL where he’s having an up and down year.
After being held off the scoresheet in the first six games with the Griffins, Veleno now has three goals and five assists in 20 games while carrying a team-worst minus-16.
In an interview during the Canada-Russia Series, world junior management group member Mark Hunter said Hockey Canada had its “fingers crossed” for Veleno being available.
“I think that Ty Smith and Joe Veleno are going to be a big part of it,” Hunter told Peter Robinson. “They were there last year and wouldn’t have liked how it ended. We’ll be counting on them to lead us.”
Dobson, of Summerside, P.E.I., and Hayton of Peterborough, Ont., have both seen stretches of playing time for two NHL clubs who have had good starts to the season.
Dobson, who scored once at last year’s world juniors in Vancouver and Victoria, has two assists in six games for the Islanders.
Hayton has a goal and three assists in 12 games for the Coyotes, but has been held off the scoresheet in six-straight games. He had four assists during the 2019 world junior championship.
“We know that they would be a critical piece to our team if they’re available and if they’re not, then we march on with the group of guys we have that we like very much,” McEwen said.
McEwen added that Hockey Canada would reach out to each of the players’ respective teams this week, but wouldn’t bug the franchises.
Hockey Canada will announce its selection camp roster on Monday with training camp taking place in Oakville, Ont., from Dec. 9 to 12. The selection process includes a pair of exhibition games against U Sports all-stars.
The Canadians open play on Boxing Day against the U.S., in Ostrava, Czech Republic.