Canada’s final roster for the upcoming World Juniors has been released. Upon first glance, the 2010 edition of Team Canada lacks some of the firepower that has been on display in recent years. However, there still is a lot of talent and grit at all positions, and Canada has to be considered a favourite as they look to win a record-setting sixth straight gold medal. If you haven’t had a chance to check out my article on the WJHC and how you can use it to your advantage in your hockey pool, do so now.
Here is my piece on Team Sweden from December 3rd (the Swedish roster was the only one finalized early). I will also have pieces covering the teams from the US and Russia leading up to Boxing Day, when the tournament kicks off.
Jordan Eberle (2008 1st round pick, Edmonton Oilers) – Eberle will be the go-to-guy for Canada at this tournament. He has terrific hands and is a very cerebral player (not unlike Zach Parise). He leads the WHL in scoring with a Brett Hull-like 29 tallies in 28 contests. He was very close to making the Oilers out of camp, and his fitness and physical testing was right at the top among all Oiler training camp participants. Eberle will assuredly be among the scoring leaders for both Canada and the tournament. But perhaps more importantly, which past Canadian great will Pierre compare him to? The way he has stepped up in big situations has drawn a few lofty comparisons between himself and Joe Sakic. You never know…
Taylor Hall (2010 draft eligible) – Hall is the odds-on favourite to be the first pick at the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. He is big, he is fast, and he is skilled. I have seen him a few times, and he has a dynamic flair that reminds me a bit of Pavel Bure. Hall will most likely suit up alongside his Windsor teammates Adam Henrique and Greg Nemisz at even strength, but expect him to play on the top power play unit with Eberle for Canada. If he isn’t a household name now, he will be in a few weeks.
Brayden Schenn (2009 1st round pick, Los Angeles Kings) – Schenn, like Eberle, came very close to making the NHL out of training camp. He impressed the Kings enough that he earned a one-game stint with the team after being signed on an emergency basis. He has NHL size already, and will play key minutes Canada. His Brandon Wheat King linemate Scott Glennie was projected to make this team, but he was forced out of the selection camp with a concussion.
Nazem Kadri (2009 1st round pick, Toronto Maple Leafs) – Kadri is an electrifying offensive talent, but will have to earn his ice time, as Bob McKenzie speculated that he would at least begin the tournament on the fourth line. He has a great shot at making the Leafs next season, and should be among the scoring leaders at this tournament. If you can somehow swing a trade for him before Boxing Day, do it.
Stefan Della Rovere (2008 7th round pick, Washington Capitals) – Della Rovere, the current captain of the Barrie Colts, will have to control his aggression and edge better than he did at the tournament last year. He is a devastating hitter and a solid two-way player – expect him to be a key part of Canada’s checking line.
Brandon McMillan (2008 3rd round pick, Anaheim Ducks) – McMillan had a bit of a coming out party at the Super Series between the WHL and Russia back in November, skating on a line with Canadian teammate Brandon Kozun. McMillan is a very versatile player – he actually played a lot of defense with Kelowna last season. He has great speed and is a very smart player defensively. Not much offensive upside but he will be a valuable role player for Canada.
Patrice Cormier (2008 2nd round pick, New Jersey Devils) – Cormier will return to center the checking line with Della Rovere and another player (all signs point to Jordan Caron). Cormier is big, fast, feisty, and like Della Rovere, a devastating hitter. He projects to be a high-end checking line player at the professional level.
Adam Henrique (2008 3rd round pick, New Jersey Devils) – The Devils selected Henrique 82nd overall in 2008, and since then his play has made the selection look genius. He will skate on the potentially awesome all-Windsor line with Hall and Nemisz. It is tough to project Henrique in the NHL because his stats are inflated playing on such a strong team. However, they do prove he is a dominant offensive player at the junior level, and Canada is hoping that translates over to this tournament, where Henrique will center the top scoring line.
Greg Nemisz (2008 1st round pick, Calgary Flames) – Like many big wingers, Nemisz receives criticism for not playing with a consistent physical edge. He isn’t a great skater either, but has a lethal shot, soft hands, and is very dangerous in the offensive zone. He may see some time on Canada’s top power play unit if they want a net presence there, as he is already 6’4” and over 200 pounds.
Gabriel Bourque (2009 5th round pick, Nashville Predators) – Bourque was a standout at the selection camp, earning the final left wing spot after Hall, Della Rovere, and McMillan. He is the captain in Baie-Comeau, and plays with an edge (a common trend among Canadian players this year). Bourque is great on the forecheck and he may work well on a scoring line where his role is to get on the puck and open the ice up.
Brandon Kozun (2009 6th round pick, Los Angeles Kings) – living in Vancouver, I make it out to a handful of Giants games each year. Last season, I caught them play the Calgary Hitmen, who at the time were a runaway train in the WHL. While Brett Sonne let the team offensively, Kozun impressed me the most with his speed and skill. He finished the season with 108 points and added 19 more in the playoffs. He is on pace for over 130 points this season, and many teams are kicking themselves for letting him slide to the Kings in the 6th round this past summer. Kozun isn’t big, but he is lightning quick and has great hands. He may start out on one of the lower lines with Canada, but I have a hunch he may be the darkhorse to watch for in this tournament.
Luke Adam (2008 2nd round pick, Buffalo Sabres) – Adam has been the most dominant forward so far this season in the QMJHL. He also outshone Cormier and Caron during the recent games against the touring Russian team. He is a decent skater, but some feel his lack of foot speed may be exposed at the World Junior level. He may make the roster because of his size and ability to be a physical force around the net, but I have him on the outside looking in right now.
Jordan Caron (2009 1st round pick, Boston Bruins) – I wonder if Caron will be rooming with defenseman Colton Teubert? Teubert knocked Caron out cold with a devastating hit at the August orientation camp, a hit that broke Caron’s collarbone and forced him to miss the first month of the QMJHL season. Like current Bruin Milan Lucic, his playing style is reminiscent of the big bad Bruins of yesteryear.
Ryan Ellis (2008 1st round pick, Nashville Predators) – Ellis dazzled last year at the World Juniors, posting an impressive seven points as a 17 year old. He has an absolute bomb from the point, and he can get it off very quickly (not unlike a past Canadian junior star, Dion Phaneuf). Ellis will be the quarterback of Canada’s top power play unit. He is apart of the Windsor dynasty-in-the-making that is once again running wild on the OHL.
Alex Pietrangelo (2008 1st round pick, St. Louis Blues) – The Blues made the right move allowing Pietrangelo to return to play at this tournament. He scored his first NHL goal this season, and the experience he gained in nine games with the Blues will undoubtedly help him, as Canada will be relying on him to log important minutes in all situations. He is silky smooth with the puck and his upside is sky high.
Marco Scandella (2008 2nd round pick, Minnesota Wild) – Scandella has experience playing internationally, as he starred on the shutdown pairing with Teubert at the U-18’s last year. He is a solid two-way defenseman, but had a few hiccups at the most recent camp. Canada’s shutdown pairings have earned a lot of praise in past years (pairings like Marc Staal and Ryan Parent, Tyler Myers and Keith Aulie, and most notably Phaneuf and Shea Weber). Look for that to continue with Scandella and Teubert.
Jared Cowen (2009 1st round pick, Ottawa Senators) – On paper, Cowen is a towering force. He is close to 6’6” and weighs in the neighborhood of 220 pounds. However, he is still very raw, and is prone to defensive mistakes at times. That being said, he could easily be a dominant two-way force for Canada at this tournament – his combination of size and mobility is rare.
Calvin de Haan (2009 1st round pick, New York Islanders) – De Haan is a superb offensive talent from the back end. He is fast, moves the puck very well, and possesses excellent mobility and skating speed. His best attribute is his ability to slow the play down and make the right decisions – two things that are crucial at a short, high-energy tournament like the World Juniors.
Colton Teubert (2008 1st round pick, Los Angeles Kings) – Teubert is all kinds of nasty, as Pierre McGuire would say. He doesn’t always make smart reads defensively, but he is a terror to play against. Expect him to fill the highlight reels with bone crushing hits all tournament.
Travis Hamonic (2008 2nd round pick, New York Islanders) – Hamonic is a steady, dependable defensive defenseman. His tough, simple game has garnered comparisons to NHL veteran and recent car crash victim Brendan Witt.
Jake Allen (2008 2nd round pick, St. Louis Blues) – Allen has had an inconsistent start to his season, and did not stand out at camp either. However, he has the skill and pedigree to be the go-to guy for Canada. Unless he really struggles in the early games, expect him to be the starting goalie.
Martin Jones (undrafted, signed by Los Angeles Kings) – Jones had a terrific camp with Canada, and he plays a very safe game. With the studs patrolling the blue line this year, Canada will just need a goalie to make the necessary saves, and Jones has a lot of experience with that playing behind the juggernaut Calgary Hitmen.
This Canadian team reminds me quite a bit of the squad from 2006 that won Gold in Vancouver. The 2005 team was arguably the deepest and most talented team ever assembled (due in large part to the lockout), and the only returnee for the 2006 tournament was rarely used defenseman Cam Barker. The 2006 team did not have the same level of offensive firepower, but instead won by consistently out-working opponents. The 2010 team lacks its two best players from last year in John Tavares and Cody Hodgson. Of the top 10 producing forwards from 2009, only Jordan Eberle returns. The Swedes, on paper at least, are the strongest team this year, but it is awfully tough to count out the Canadians, especially when they will be playing on home soil in Saskatoon.
Teubert – Scandella
Pietrangelo – Ellis
Cowen – de Haan