A few thoughts on the World Junior championships . . .
When the Canadians open camp Saturday, Moose Jaw Warriors defenceman Travis Hamonic will try to clear the final difficult hurdle to making the Canadian world junior team.
Hamonic has had a fantastic season so far. He’s shown he can add some offensive spark and can be a force on the power-play. His bread-and-butter is still being a simple, but effective puck-moving defenceman who can skate at the next level and also be physical despite only standing six-feet tall.
If you look at the list of defencemen invited to camp and it’s quickly pretty evident just how tough this team will be to crack.
Ryan Ellis, Alex Pietrangelo and Colten Teubert are eligible to return. It’s always possible that a returning vet could be bumped, but it’s unlikely. Ellis made it as a 17-year-old and is a lock. Pietrangelo with 17 NHL regular season games under his belt may be captain. I wouldn’t bet against Teubert either. Having training camp in your home rink can’t hurt either.
Jared Cowen seemed highly likely to make the team last year until he was shelved with a knee injury. He would seem to be a very strong bet this time around.
Calvin de Haan was taken 12th overall in the draft and lasted longer at New York Islanders camp than Hamonic despite being a year younger. After the first four it starts to get less easy to predict, but if I were a betting man, de Haan seems a safe bet for a roster spot. He had six points in six games at the IIHF world under-18s last year and brings a little more finesse to his game than Teubert or Cowen.
That leaves two spots (in all likelihood — it’s possible head coach Willie Desjardins will settle on six defencemen, but seven is the norm) and a lot of different people battling for them. Hamonic has to be in the mix, but the NCAA players — Patrick Wiercioch from Denver and Dylan Olsen from Minnesota-Duluth — are both contenders and in my mind Hamonic is going to need to beat out one of these two to crack the line-up.
Wiercioch is a late bloomer who is now 6-4 and earned a camp invite last year. He and Hamonic are the only two players who were cut last year and are back again a year later. Olsen had an excellent IIHF world under-18s last year in North Dakota.
Shawn Lalonde and Marco Scandella are both in their final year of eligibility (as is Hamonic) and both are averaging a point per game to date. Lalonde is more of a finesse player and Scandella is more of a physical presence.
Former Notre Dame Hound Brandon Gormley is a great talent, but as the youngest player in camp, it may be a year too soon for the Moncton Wildcat.
Nicolas Deslauriers still has a year of eligibility left and the third rounder isn’t as heralded as some of the other defencemen mentioned.
This is a deep group and there aren’t a lot of open spots. There’s no doubt Hamonic has the desire to crack this team. If he has a great camp you would have to think a roster spot is his for the taking, but there are a lot of good players thinking the same thing.
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Antonin Honejsek and Jakub Herman have both been left off the Czech’s preliminary roster for the IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships. The decision will help the Warriors — who could use the forwards in their line-up — but has to be disappointing to the players. Honejsek, in particular, looked like a contender to crack the line-up as an 18 year old.
The Czechs will play the U.S. in Moose Jaw on Dec. 22.
Everett’s Radko Gudas, Chilliwack’s Roman Horak, Swift Current’s Stepan Novotny, Kootenay’s Dominik Pacovsky and Edmonton’s Tomas Vincour all made the short list. Vancouver’s David Musil is listed as an alternate.
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Speaking of Czech hockey, the the Czechs have named Washington’s Tomas Fleischmann and Atlanta’s Pavel Kubina — both former Warriors — to their preliminary roster for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. Head coach Vladimir Ruzicka has named a ‘short-list’ of 70 that is being considered for the Games.
Given the size of the list — and the quality of the players on it — there is no guarantee that either player will end up playing in Vancouver.
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The U.S. released their preliminary roster for the WJC and only features two WHLers — Spokane’s Tyler Johnson and Portland’s Luke Walker.
There’s no way of telling who may make the team when they play in the Civic Centre, but there are some high end talents who would be a treat to watch. Defenceman Cam Fowler is expected to be one of the top picks in this coming NHL draft.
Also defencemen John Carlson (drafted 27th overall to Washington in the 2008 NHL draft), Jake Gardiner (Anaheim 17th overall to in 2008) and John Moore (21st overall to Columbus in 2009). All three are quality young players and Moore is a phenomenal skater.
The U.S. could also feature three more first round picks from 2009 up front — Chris Kreider (New York Rangers), Jordan Schroeder (Vancouver) and Kyle Palmieri (Anaheim).