Friday, March 29, 2013

Team Canada Under 18 Preview

Hockey Canada recently named Vancouver Giants (WHL) head coach Don Hay as the head coach of Team Canada for the 2013 IIHF Under 18 World Hockey Championships (in Sochi, Russia). Peterborough's Jody Hull will be one of his assistants.

The tournament kicks off for Canada on Tuesday, April 23rd, against Sweden. The team earned its first medal in four years (a bronze) last year.

With the tournament occurring slightly later this year, there's actually a chance Hockey Canada could add some players from team's eliminated in the 2nd round of the CHL playoffs, and not just from non playoff teams and first round causalities. This is something Hockey Canada scout Kevin Prendergast suggests in his interview with Guy and Dean on the Pipeline Show (found here). That's certainly great news for our chances in the tournament.

Let's take a look at what OHL players could get the call for the prestigious tournament.

NON Playoff Teams

Erie Otters

Connor McDavid
This is traditionally a tournament for the current draft eligible age group (this year, 1995's), but Hockey Canada has been including more underagers as of late. McDavid is such a dynamic talent, it should come as no surprise that in the above interview (with Guy and Dean), Prendergast suggests McDavid is a lock for the team. His skating ability and tremendous vision on the ice will be an asset for Team Canada. Hopefully he's not too tired from his first OHL season, although the Otters did restrict his ice time down the stretch.
Chances of Being Selected: 99.9%

Stephen Harper
There's no question that Harper did not have the greatest of sophomore seasons. His goal production went down and he suffered from problems with consistency all season long. He's gone from a potential first rounder at the beginning of the season, to a likely 3rd/4th rounder. He's still a forward with a lot of potential. He's got a great goal scorers touch in close and he flashes a power forward type game. It's just a question of whether his inconsistencies this year have scared off Hockey Canada. This tournament could be huge for him to get his draft status back on track.
Chances of Being Selected: 50%

Ottawa 67's

Dante Salituro
Salituro was a great surprise for the 67's this year. The little guy has great offensive instincts and skill and looks like he's going to be a terrific contributor for them in the coming years. He did look tired down the stretch though (goalless in his final 9 games), and I'm just not sure he's strong enough yet for this type of challenge. He'll have a chance next year, in all likelihood as I can't see the 67's being significant players in the East in 2014.
Chances of Being Selected: 10%

Peterborough Petes

Nick Ritchie
While this year was another injury riddled one, Ritchie remains a terrific power forward prospect who combines size, skill, and grit. He looked re-invigorated down the stretch for Peterborough and I think he's got the potential to play a very important role for Canada at this event. His size will make him a very difficult cover near the crease and I think his versatility as a checker or scorer could make him very attractive to Hockey Canada brass. I'd be VERY surprised if he wasn't there.
Chances of Being Selected: 98%

Michael Giugovaz 
Had a very solid rookie year in the OHL, even stealing the number one job away from Andrew D'Agostini at different points of the season. He struggled a bit down the stretch, but I think he's a solid prospect for the middle rounds of the NHL draft. That said, I think there are probably other goalies Hockey Canada is looking at. However, with Jody Hull on the coaching staff, he could have a fan and advocate there.
Chances of Being Selected: 10%

Windsor Spitfires

Josh Ho-Sang
The talented rookie and first rounder from the 2012 Priority draft is clearly a very skilled player. He shows flashes of brilliance on the ice and I don't question the likelihood of him developing into one of the league's top scorers by his 19 year old season. However, right now he's not ready. And Kevin Prendergast alludes to this in the above interview.
Chances of Being Selected: 2%

Jordan DeKort
Goaltenders can be difficult to find for this event. DeKort has a ton of potential in this league, and he's got the size NHL teams are going to find attractive for this year's draft. But, I think Hockey Canada will likely find three other more experienced goalies for this event.
Chances of Being Selected: 2%

First Round Casualities

Kingston Frontenacs

Ryan Kujawinski
Was a solid player for Team Canada at this summer's Ivan Hlinka tournament, and even though he didn't have the greatest of seasons, I think he still holds a ton of value for this tournament. His versatility (scorer, checker, center, wing) will make him a solid option and I think he'd be really motivated to try and elevate his draft status. At this point, I can't see him not being part of the team.
Chances of Being Selected: 98%

Sam Bennett
Easily one of the most impressive 1996' I saw in the league this year. I also thought he was one of Team Ontario's best performers at the Under 17's. He's skilled, slick, and aggressive without the puck. I think he'd be the perfect energy guy for a 4th line role this year and I really hope Hockey Canada looks at him as an underager.
Chances of Being Selected: 50%

Spencer Watson
Just as skilled, if not more than Bennett, but Watson doesn't quite have the strength or aggressive that Bennett has thus far acquired. Watson's health is also up in the air currently, following that Ryan O'Connor hit. While he was impressive, I think he's got less chance than Bennett.
Chances of Being Selected: 20%

Roland McKeown
Was impressive as a big time minute eater in Kingston this year, especially when you consider he's a '96. Has terrific potential to develop into a strong two-way defenseman. At times this year, I saw him get outmuscled for pucks and have some difficulty with quick forwards in transition, so I'm wondering if Hockey Canada thinks he'll be effective on the big ice right now. I think he's a toss up at this point, especially when you consider he's an underager.
Chances of Being Selected: 50%

Saginaw Spirit

Nick Moutrey 
Doesn't get a ton of press from the Canadian media because he plays in Saginaw, but Moutrey is a very solid player. He's a big body who can play a cycle game and tire out opposing defenses. He's also got enough puck skill and playmaking ability to be a factor offensively. His skating ability isn't awful for a big guy either, so I don't think he'd have too much trouble adjusting to the big ice. Has a better chance of making this team than many give him credit I think.
Chances of Being Selected: 75%

Sarnia Sting

I don't see anyone from Sarnia being a serious candidate for the team.

Likely First Round Casualties (at this point)

Niagara IceDogs

Carter Verhaeghe
One of the most underrated players in this draft class IMO. He's been a consistent performer for Niagara all season long and I think he'd be the perfect candidate for a checking line role on the team. He's already a solid two-way player and great forechecker. He's also underrated offensively and with the puck. I'm not quite convinced Hockey Canada sees the same things, but I'd like to hope that he has a chance.
Chances of Being Selected: 25%

Brampton Battalion

Brandon Robinson
Even if he didn't put up the type of numbers some people expected of him in his sophomore season, I still really like Robinson's game and potential. Big body with terrific goal scoring potential. And he really increased his physical play this year and was more consistent in that department. I guess the question for Hockey Canada is whether his skating is going to be good enough for the big ice. Definitely has a chance.
Chances of Being Selected: 50%

Nick Paul
Every year, Hockey Canada brings a few guys to this event that make people go "who?" Paul has the potential to be one of those guys this year. I think he'd be the ideal 4th liner for Hockey Canada. He's a load to handle on the cycle and I think he'd do great as an energy type of guy. He's also got underrated playmaking ability and could be a workhorse on a line with some more skilled guys. Like Robinson, the question is whether the skating will hold him back on the big ice.
Chances of Being Selected: 40%

Guelph Storm

Jason Dickinson
Even if he's been inconsistent this year, Dickinson should still be a no brainer for this team should he be available. He's got everything going for him, it's just that most of the time it's not all working at once. This tournament could really do wonders to re-establish himself as a first round caliber player. The best thing about Dickinson is that (like Kujawinski), even if he's not scoring, he could be moved to a 4th line role and provide strong two-way play and penalty kill ability.
Chances of Being Selected: 98%

Hunter Garlent
Garlent didn't have the greatest of seasons, but he's still a tenacious little skilled guy who wears his heart on his sleeve. At this point, there could be other players that Hockey Canada is looking at because he's had a hard time with injuries this year, but if selected, I think Garlent would do a terrific job in whatever role they'd ask him to fill.
Chances of Being Selected: 25%

Tyler Bertuzzi
A potential candidate for a checking line role, Bertuzzi is a physical crease crasher who could find some success being the garbage man on a line with some more skilled players. I'm sure there would be some concerns as to whether he can stay out of the box though.
Chances of Being Selected: 10%

The Other Teams (Still Battling)

I'll organize these players simply according to their likelihood of being selected should their team be eliminated.

Near Locks: Aaron Ekblad, Jordan Subban, Max Domi, Bo Horvat, Spencer Martin, Michael Dal Colle, Zach Nastasiuk, Chris Bigras, Matthew Mistele, Darnell Nurse, Nicholas Baptiste

50% Chance: Charlie Graham, Jared McCann

Longshots (but still a shot): Brent Pedersen, Remi Elie, Josh Burnside

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