If age doesn’t get any consideration in Canada’s selection camp for the 2013 World Junior Championship, a youthful presence in Ufa, Russia could be on the way.
And that’s despite a bit of a hiccup from the head of the 2013 NHL Draft class.
After a strong performance during the camps first day, Nathan MacKinnon took a minor step back on Day Two.
The play that sticks out most vividly in my head from this afternoon’s game was early in the first period when Mackinnon pursued an opponent behind the net rather than keeping his position in front of the net. Seconds later the Golden Bears forward scored on a wrap around while Mackinnon was still in pursuit.
It was only one play, but it does bring up the question as to whether Mackinnon’s defense will be refined enough to make this team at this point. That said, Mackinnon also showed good anticipation and hockey sense throughout the rest of the game which made him seem just fine in his own zone. Mackinnon also showed the willingness to engage physically both on the forecheck and in his own zone.
The reason he is one of the top prospects in the 2013 NHL Draft is because of his incredible offensive abilities. Mackinnon impressed in this area again today not only with his hard wrist shot and elite skating, but also his ability to dish the puck off to his teammates. Mackinnon thrives in almost every area of the offensive game and prospects like him don’t come around too often.
I think Mackinnon has been one of the best forwards in camp and will definitely make the trip to Ufa, Russia for the tournament.
Halifax Mooseheads teammate Jonathan Drouin could certainly join him after ramping up his play against the University of Alberta, too.
After starting camp a bit slow yesterday, Drouin really turned it up. He took his game to the next level and seemed better in almost every facet of the game. His on-ice demeanor was miles better than it was in the Red-White game.
He seemed to play with desperation and intensity, attributes that most certainly caught the attention of head coach Steve Spott. He backchecked hard and did not seem like liability in his own zone at any time. Drouin was able to string together more passes and victimized his opponents with his slick hands on more than a few occasions. When given even a little time or space, he almost always created a scoring chance. In Day One, he stayed mostly to the perimeter, but today he spent a lot more time around the net battling with opposing defenseman.
Although his performance was much improved, Drouin’s style is best suited for a top-six role, which may be tough to crack for the youngster given the immense depth at the forward position for Canada.
It was more of the same from Hunter Shinkaruk, which in this case is a very good thing for his bid to represent Canada.
The small, feisty forward continued to impress using his tireless work ethic and impressive offensive skill set. Shinkaruk was noticeably effective on the rush where he used his speed to quickly change the tempo of the game. His flawless offensive zone positioning mixed with his aforementioned speed allowed him to pick his times to attack, or when needed, hound his opponents on the backcheck. Shinkaruk’s awareness in all three zones of the ice makes him a reliable and effective player with the ability to play the special teams.
The biggest thing working against Shinkaruk is his lack of size and strength, which hinders his ability to fight off opponents in one-on-one situations. Playing on the big ice in Europe will make this a bit less of an issue; nonetheless Shinkaruk will certainly be right in the thick of things when Team Canada makes its final roster decisions.
JC Lipon may not be on the right end of Canada’s final cuts, though.
Lipon came into camp as one of the hottest scorers in the Canadian Hockey League. His performance hasn’t been as strong as I expected. Through the first two days of camp, it seems as though Lipon has struggled to adjust to the faster tempo of international competition.
Whenever he touches the puck, it seems as though he is quickly overwhelmed by oncoming pressure and doesn’t make a strong play. Lipon’s skating has also seemed a bit behind the curve. On a few breakout rushes, he has struggled to keep up with his linemates, effectively making little to no impact offensively. Lipon has also showed a bit on an edge, getting under the skin of opponents and playing hard, but most importantly he has done so without taking bad penalties.
Unfortunately Lipon hasn’t seen the same success at Canada’s World Junior camp as he has with the Kamloops Blazers. I was a little surprised he survived the first round of cuts, and would be shocked if he cracked the final roster.