Thirty-one players converged in Oakville, Ont., Monday for the first day of Canada’s WJC Selection Camp. The camp will run from Monday through Thursday and roster cuts will be made along the way.
Here’s a few notes and observations from the first day:
1. Thanks U: A big thank you to the USports All-Stars who will compete against the world junior hopefuls this week. Head coach Gardiner MacDougall gave me the opportunity to speak to the USports All-Stars in preparation for the two-game series. MacDougall, along with assistant coaches Brett Gibson (Queen’s), Todd Johnson (Regina) and Clarke Singer (Western), are dead serious about competing in this event. And that’s a good thing for all of their players and especially for Hockey Canada to make a true evaluation of its players.
2. Mighty Joe: The Detroit Red Wings released Joe Veleno to play for Canada. He is currently on a western swing with the Grand Rapids Griffins and will join the team at some point next week in the Czech Republic.
3. No Q and A: Quinton Byfield had travel issues and did not make it for the start of practice. Meanwhile, Alexis Lafreniere was given a maintenance day after earning QMJHL Player of the Week honours. Lafreniere missed both CIBC Canada-Russia games with a lower body injury back in early November. Lafreniere leads the CHL with 70 points through 32 games played with Rimouski.
4. Experience Between the pipes: Olivier Rodrigue has the most Program of Excellence experience of any of the four goaltenders, having played in the 2016 Youth Olympic Games, the 2016 U17s, the 2017 Hlinka-Gretzky Cup and the 2018 World U18 Championships. All told he’s played 16 international games. Hunter Jones is next with two international games at the 2016 U17s. Joel Hofer and Nico Daws have never participated in the program.
5. Three’s Company: Whenever the tournament is overseas, Canada brings three goalies.
6. Zary In: Kamloops Blazer Connor Zary was called upon to replace the injured Jakob Pelletier. Zary is sixth in WHL scoring with 19 goals and 22 assists for 41 points. Pelletier was injured in Moncton’s game in Victoriaville on Thursday, Dec. 5.
7. Let Youth Serve: With the addition of Zary, there are now eight first-year draft eligible players on the selection camp roster. In the previous five years, a combined total of six first year draft eligible players earned camp invites.
8. Dudas in Question: Aiden Dudas injured his left arm in Owen Sound’s game at Kitchener on Nov. 29. He was scheduled for a check-up Monday and was put through the paces before practice by his Owen Sound coach Al Letang, who is also a WJC assistant. He does have a modified protective sheath that he can play with if given the green light. The sheath frees up the first two fingers on his left hand to allow him to grip the stick.
9. Pros or Nos?: Mark Hunter and Hockey Canada President Tom Renney have split the duties to chase down NHL GMs in terms of player availability. Here’s a list of the players available, their NHL team, and the GM of that team, through NHL games of Sunday night:
Noah Dobson, NY Islanders
8GP | 0G | 2A | 14:02 ATOI
GM: Lou Lamoriello
Last Game Played: Dec. 9
Barret Hayton, Arizona Coyotes
14GP | 1G | 3A | 11:08 ATOI
GM: John Chayka
Last Game Played: Nov. 29
Kirby Dach, Chicago Blackhawks
24GP | 5G | 5A | 11:59 ATOI
GM: Stan Bowman
Last game played: Dec. 8
10. Freeze Time: Keep in mind, NHL rosters are frozen on Dec. 19 and if a player is not released before the deadline, he will not be eligible for the WJC.
11. Making the Cut: Hockey Canada head scout Brad McEwen says he expects the team to be picked after Thursday’s game and doesn’t anticipate bringing players overseas who would be cut and sent back.