As they usually do this time of year, the eyes of the hockey world will shift a bit next week as the world junior hockey championship begins in Vancouver and Victoria.
When Hockey Canada opened its selection camp last week, as is the case every year, talk of who wasn’t invited was almost as prominent as who was.
It’s a week later and some of the focus is on a player who won’t play in the tournament.
Forward Alex Formenton of the London Knights suffered a knee injury in a game against a Canadian University all-star team on Wednesday.
Hockey Canada announced on Friday that Formenton’s injury was serious enough that he wouldn’t be available for the tournament, meaning the Canadian entry will have just one returning player for the reigning gold medallists.
Anaheim Ducks prospect Max Comtois, who plays for the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s Drummondville Voltigeurs will be the lone holdover after the NHL’s St. Louis Blues decided the team would not be loaning Robert Thomas to Team Canada.
Thomas was a big part of Canada’s win one year ago with a goal and six points in seven games. The 19-year-old, who also won an OHL title last year with the Hamilton Bulldogs, cracked the Blues roster out of training camp and has played in 26 games with the NHL club this season.
As for Comtois, his previous experience at the tournament is supplemented by some pro experience this season as well. The 19-year-old started the season with the Ducks and had two goals and seven points in 10 games before playing four more games at the American Hockey League level wth the San Diego Gulls on a conditioning stint before being sent back to junior.
Comtois was injured in late-October and returned to action with the Gulls before being sent back and making his debut with Drummondville at the end of November.
With 14 forwards remaining with the Canadian team, one more player will be cut in order to complete the roster.
That decision will come once the status of Gabriel Vilardi, on loan from the Los Angeles Kings, and Jaret Anderson-Dolan of the Western Hockey League’s Spokane Chiefs have been confirmed. Both have practised with Canada but did not play in any of the three exhibition games last week.
Vilardi has not played this season and Anderson-Dolan, who started the season in the NHL, has been out of action since late-October.
One forward who is sure to draw attention for the Canadian team will be Prince Albert Raiders veteran Brett Leason.
After being passed over in the last two NHL drafts, Leason has put himself on the radar this season with an impressive first half.
In 31 games with the hottest team in the West, Leason has 28 goals and 36 assists for 64 points.
To put that into perspective, in 135 career WHL games prior to this season, Leason had 24 goals and 27 assists for 51 points.