After three days of watching and talking, there’s nothing left to see or say. Without further ado, I present you my Team Canada entry for the 2012 World Junior Championship.
Goalie Breakdown: After coach Don Hay anointed Mark Visentin the starter, Canada’s selection camp between the pipes became a three goalie race for the right to push the Niagara IceDogs netminder. After three days of camp, nothing became clearer in the crease.
Throughout camp, Hockey Canada stressed consistency in their goaltenders. There was no goalie more consistent over the span of the last year than that of Tyler Bunz. Bunz earned this role on Team Canada not by his play in camp, but in his play with the Medicine Hat Tigers over the course of the last 14 months. Scott Wedgewood will get considerable consideration for the position but ultimately, the team will be more comfortable with Bunz.
Murray – Hamilton
Gormley – Pysyk
Oleksiak – Murphy
Defense Breakdown: It wasn’t hard to slot Canada’s top three defensemen in Ryan Murray, Dougie Hamilton and Brandon Gormley. The duo of Murray and Hamilton was used consistently in camp and will head into the World Junior Championship as Canada’s top pairing. The two just go together so well with Murray’s poise and defensive prowess allowing the offensive Hamilton a little more leeway at the other end of the ice.
Brandon Gormley and Mark Pysyk also make an formidable pair. Both possess the qualities desired in a defenseman that can do it all. Individually, both Gormley and Pysyk have the physical ability and natural smarts to control the play at both ends of the ice. Together, the duo may be able to forge a formidable shutdown pair if used in that role. While neither is overly physical, the combination of great positioning, active sticks and good mobility will cause a lot of headaches for opposing forwards.
The odd couple, Jamie Oleksiak and Ryan Murphy compliment each other well. Murphy proved he can play in any area of the 200 foot sheet of ice, while Oleksiak’s size give him an immediate advantage over any opposing forward in the corners or off the rush. Should coach Don Hay take the leash off Murphy offensively, Oleksiak can pick up the slack left behind.
The choice to go with Cody Ceci over an offensive or power play specialist like Nathan Beaulieu is made easier by the fact that Ceci showed an ability himself to fill any other role among the top-six. Ceci is arguably the camp’s best multi-tasker. Need to shut an opposing forward down? Ceci showed strong defensive play. Need to generate some offense? Ceci put up points, both at even strength and on the power play. Need an injury replacement that can skate a regular shift? There isn’t much Ceci can’t do in a utility role.
Huberdeau – Scheifele – Stone
Schwartz – Strome – Gallagher
Howden – Hamilton – Smith-Pelly
Bulmer – Bournival – Connolly
Forward Breakdown: As much as coach Don Hay suggested that everyone had to earn their way on to Team Canada, there was a plethora of virtual locks up front from the onset of camp. Though he hasn’t skated a minute in camp, its hard to imagine that Jonathan Hubereau will not be given every opportunity to heal in time for the tournament. The same can be said for Quinton Howden, who recovers from concussion-like symptoms. Mark Scheifele, Brendan Gallagher, Jaden Schwartz, Devante Smith-Pelly, Mark Stone and Freddie Hamilton also fall into the category of automatic for Hay.
Ryan Strome was thought to be an automatic, but was challenged by Hay. Suffice to say, Strome answered that challenge with a spirited performance in the last day of camp. A strong showing from Strome solidified his role as a top-two centre heading into the World Junior Championship.
Also pushed in the last day was the line of Brett Bulmer, Michael Bournival and especially Brett Connolly. Connolly’s struggles in camp were highly publicized throughout. The trio performed admirably in the final showing of camp. In fact, they impressed Hay so much that the trio could re-unite as a unit when the World Juniors get underway.
With essentially 10 spots spoken for if you consider Bulmer and Connolly as players that weren’t going to relinquish positions given their NHL experiences this year, camp’s final day left three spots for 10 players to fight over. With Strome the most qualified to centre the second line, two spots remained for nine hopefuls.
There was no player on the bubble that impressed more consistently than Christian Thomas, who may very well have played his way onto this team. With his speed and tenacious nature, Thomas can check. With his offensive flair and lethal shot, Thomas is dangerous in the offensive zone. Simply put, Thomas is the best option as a replacement for any top-six or bottom-six position.
Reserve Breakdown: It is Hockey Canada’s policy not to carry reserves. If Howden and/or Huberdeau aren’t available to start the tournament, a player will be added to Canada’s roster. There will only be 22 players named to Team Canada Wednesday.
That said, if one or both of Howden and Huberdeau aren’t able to compete, coach Don Hay has to have a contingency plan. If Huberdeau’s ankle won’t allow him to play, expect Smith-Pelly to slide into a top-line role on his opposite wing. Boone Jenner, arguably the camp’s most physical forward, makes an admirable replacement for Smith-Pelly’s presence with Howden and Hamilton. Jenner’s addition allows Bulmer, Bournival and Connolly to remain intact.
If things get dire and both Howden and Huberdeau are ruled out, Phillip Danault offers an interesting replacement. Perhaps no player impressed more with the last 60 minutes of camp, which earns him another opportunity to participate for Canada at the World Junior Championship.
Aaron Vickers is the managing editor of Future Considerations and can be found on Twitter. For all the latest Future Considerations news and posts, follow FC’s Official Twitter Feed, on YouTube and on Facebook!