Canada’s goaltending picture uncertain heading towards WJC

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For the first time in four years, Canada is entering the World Junior Championship with uncertainty around who will be the No. 1 netminder.

After two-straight years of Carter Hart in 2017 and ’18 followed by Michael DiPietro in 2019, the Canadians will have the next month to determine who will be between the pipes when play starts on Dec. 26 against the United States in Ostrava, Czech Republic.

“The year Carter Hart won gold, going into that event, I think we knew that Carter would be one of the two goalies and probably the starter,” Hockey Canada head scout Brad McEwen said in a phone interview. “So you had that to fall back on right away.

“I think right now we couldn’t say who we’re going to go with. We are comfortable, really comfortable with the names that we’ve evaluated and looked at through the process.”

One netminder who will definitely get some looks at Canada’s camp is Olivier Rodrigue of the Moncton Wildcats. The 19-year-old is no stranger to international competition for his country, winning gold at the 2017 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup while carrying the best goals-against average and save percentage at the 2018 under-18 world championships.

McEwen was complimentary of Rodrigue, saying he’s technically really good, calm and composed.

“He’s played in some important international games for us and has played well in those moments,” McEwen said. “So certainly gives us the belief that he should be in the mix and allowed to compete for a spot this year.”

An element Hockey Canada’s management group will take into consideration when selecting its goaltenders for training camp is their ability to compete in shootouts. As shown in years past — remember Jonathan Toews in 2007 or the 2017 outdoor game against the U.S. — the ability to do well when the game is on the line is crucial.

It even came up recently in the Canada-Russia series, which had to be decided by not one, but two shootouts.

“It’s certainly within our group internally, it’s discussed lots. Discussed how our coaches go about and coach that, whether it’s the goalie position or the shooters,” McEwen said. “There is some strategy everybody believes is important.

“It doesn’t seem like a big detail when you look from the outside looking forward to the event, but it is a critical piece of success.”

With that in mind, here’s four potential goalies who could crack Canada’s roster, with some insight on how they’ve performed in the one-on-one showdown:

Olivier Rodrigue

Team: Moncton Wildcats (QMJHL)
Drafted: Edmonton Oilers (2018 – 2nd round)
Age: 19
Height: 6’1”
Weight: 156 pounds
Stats: 12-3 | 2.70 GAA | .907 SV%

Shootout history: The Chicoutimi, Que., native was perfect in one shootout this year against Bathurst. He has a career .706 shootout save percentage in four QMJHL seasons.

Nico Daws

Team: Guelph Storm (OHL)
Drafted: Undrafted
Age: 18
Height: 6’4”
Weight: 202 pounds
Stats: 9-1-3 | 2.33 GAA | .934 SV%

Shootout history: The Burlington, Ont., native has two losses in shootouts this year where he’s allowed three goals on seven attempts.

Hunter Jones

Team: Peterborough Petes (OHL)
Drafted: Minnesota Wild (2019 – 2nd round)
Age: 19
Height: 6’4”
Weight: 198 pounds
Stats: 14-3-1 | 2.79 GAA | .906 SV%

Shootout history: Scored on three times against Russia in a Canada-Russia series shootout, but has no losses in the shootout this year with Peterborough. The Brantford, Ont., native played for Canada at the world under-17 hockey challenge where he won silver.

Joel Hofer

Team: Portland Winterhawks (WHL)
Drafted: St. Louis Blues (2018 – 4th round)
Age: 19
Height: 6’5”
Weight: 172 pounds
Stats: 13-3-1 | 1.90 GAA | .934 SV%

Shootout history: Stopped 5-of-10 attempts in a shootout against Russia to decide the Canada-Russia series. The Winnipeg native has only one shootout loss this year (stopped two of three shots) and three total in three WHL seasons.

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