The 2005 Canadian Under-20 World Junior team was dubbed the “best world junior team ever assembled” as Hockey Canada had the opportunity to handpick the nation’s best junior eligible players because of the NHL lockout. Sidney Crosby, Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Mike Richards, Patrice Bergeron, Jeff Carter, Shea Weber, Dion Phaneuf and Brent Seabrook were just a few names that starred for Team Canada in Grand Forks, North Dakota that year. Fast forward eight years and hockey is experiencing another NHL lockout under Gary Bettman. Fortunately, the NHL’s loss is Hockey Canada’s gain.
As the 2013 World Junior Championship quickly approaches it could be the first time in a while that Team Canada has had the chance to ice their best players since 2005, when the National Hockey League was last locked out. In recent years, the Canadian squad has sacrificed some of its top junior-aged talent for the World Juniors as these players jump immediately to the NHL missing the international tournament altogether. Every participating nation loses players to the National Hockey League come World Junior time but Canadians are hit the most likely because of its proximity to the NHL. At the 2012 U20 World Junior Championships, Canada competed without the likes of Ryan-Nugent Hopkins, Jeff Skinner, and Sean Couturier, all players who could have played vital roles for the red and white. Their absences opened up opportunities for other (great) Canadian kids to compete but Canada wasn’t sending their absolute top players.
Canada has failed to capture gold in three consecutive World Junior Championships causing many to question their supremacy in the annual tournament. As they travel to Ufa, Russia for the 2013 event, Hockey Canada is looking to put an end to their gold drought. As the NHL and NHLPA continue their lockout, let us take a look at the potential star-studded roster coach Steve Spott and Hockey Canada could ice in Russia later this year.
2012 WJC Graduating Players: Mark Visentin (G, Phoenix Coyotes), Scott Wedgewood (G, New Jersey Devils), Brandon Gormley (D, Phoenix Coyotes), Nathan Beaulieu (D, Montreal Canadiens), Jamie Oleksiak (D, Dallas Stars), Mark Pysyk (D, Buffalo Sabres), Michael Bournival (F, Montreal Canadiens), Brett Connolly (F, Tampa Bay Lightning), Freddie Hamilton (F, San Jose Sharks), Quinton Howden (F, Florida Panthers), Tanner Pearson (F, Los Angeles Kings), Jaden Schwartz (F, St. Louis Blues), Devante Smith-Pelly (F, Anaheim Ducks), Mark Stone (F, Ottawa Senators), Brendan Gallagher (F, Montreal Canadians)
As a result of these fifteen departing players, Canada will look to fill both goaltending spots, four defensemen and nine forward spots. Below is a list of returnees who could vie for a spot as well as some other notable talented players who could be made available due to the lockout.
Returning Star Talent:
2011 NHL Drafted Players:
Forwards: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (19, Edmonton Oilers), Mark McNeil (19, Chicago Blackhawks), Matt Puempel (19, Ottawa Senators), Phillip Danault (19, Chicago Blackhawks), Ty Rattie (19, St. Louis Blues), Brett Ritchie (19, Dallas Stars), Lucas Lessio (19, Phoenix Coyotes), Nick Cousins (19, Philadelphia Flyers), Michael St. Croix (19, New York Rangers)
Defensemen: Ryan Murphy (19, Carolina Hurricanes), Duncan Siemens (19, Colorado Avalanche), Stuart Percy (19, Toronto Maple Leafs), Xavier Ouellet (19, Red Wings), Joel Edmundson (19, St. Louis Blues), Ryan Sproul (19, Detroit Red Wings), Tyler Wotherspoon (19, Calgary Flames)
Goaltenders: Jordan Binnington (19, Colorado Avalanche), Laurent Brossoit (19, Calgary Flames)
2012 NHL Drafted Players:
Forwards: Tom Wilson (Washington Capitals), Scott Laughton (Philadelphia Flyers), Mark Jankowski (Calgary Flames), Brendan Gaunce (Vancouver Canucks), Phil Di Giuseppe (Carolina Hurricanes), Colton Sissons (Nashville Predators), Raphael Bussieres (Minnesota Wild), Brock McGinn (Carolina Hurricanes), Mike Winther (Dallas Stars), Chris Tierney (San Jose Sharks), Scott Kosmachuk (Winnipeg Jets), Charles Hudon (Montreal Canadiens), Seth Griffith (Boston Bruins), Anthony Camara (Boston Bruins)
Defensemen: Griffin Reinhart (New York Islanders), Morgan Rielly (Toronto Maple Leafs), Mathew Dumba (Minnesota Wild), Derrick Pouliot (Pittsburgh Penguins), Slater Koekkoek (Tampa Bay Lightning), Cody Ceci (Ottawa Senators), Michael Matheson (Florida Panthers), Matt Finn (Toronto Maple Leafs), Dillon Fournier (Chicago Blackhawks), Dalton Thrower (Montreal Canadiens), Adam Pelech (New York Islanders), Damon Severson (New Jersey Devils)
Goaltenders: Malcolm Subban (Boston Bruins), Daniel Altshuller (Carolina Hurricanes)
2013 NHL Eligibles (reasonable chance):
With the extensive (yet still not complete) list of potential Team Canada members, it is easy to appreciate the difficult decision that Hockey Canada has if the lockout lasts into the Holiday season and NHL clubs allow these players to participate. Edmonton Oilers’ 2011 first overall selection, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins would be Canada’s biggest boost up front and considering that last year’s Calder candidate has never suited up for Team Canada at the World Juniors, he would likely be excited to don the coveted Canadian junior jersey. With already a year of NHL experience, Nugent-Hopkins would enter the 2013 World Junior Championship as the heavy favourite to lead the tournament in scoring. Additionally, Hockey Canada would benefit from several returnees that should otherwise be competing for NHL roster spots including Mark Scheifele, Ryan Strome and Jonathan Huberdeau on forward as well as Dougie Hamilton, Ryan Murray, Ryan Murphy and Scott Harrington on defense.
To entertain our hockey fans, here is a potential lineup for the upcoming 2013 World Junior Championship.
PROJECTED FORWARD LINEUP
Huberdeau — Nugent-Hopkins — Strome
Jenner – Scheifele – Rattie
Lessio – Laughton – Griffith
Danault – Monahan – McNeil
Huberdeau, Nugent-Hopkins, Strome, Jenner, Scheifele, and Rattie would all be locks, in my opinion. Rattie is coming off a fantastic Canada-Russia Challenge showing where he finished tied for the team scoring lead.
Lessio and Griffith are two players who know how to raise their game to elite levels when games are on the line and can be moved easily throughout the lineup.
Laughton would serve as a perfect two-way forward capable of logging tough minutes.
Danault and McNeil are replaceable but experience and versatility give them the edge. Their spots would be challenged by Nick Cousins, Tom Wilson, Phil Di Giuseppe, Michael St. Croix, Charles Hudon, Colton Sissons and Matt Puempel.
The two draft-eligible forwards, Nathan MacKinnon and Sean Monahan, will be in tough to crack this roster but I do prefer their size, skill and game breaking talent to a few of the elder statesmen listed above.
PROJECTED DEFENSIVE LINEUP
Murray – Hamilton
Harrington – R. Murphy
Rielly – Sproul
Reinhart/Ouellet (one of)
Dougie Hamilton, Scott Harrington and Ryan Murray are locks on the blue line, in my opinion.
Morgan Rielly is coming off an outstanding Canada-Russia Challenge series where he displayed his two-way prowess and finished tied with Ryan Murphy for the team defensive scoring lead.
Ryan Murphy would serve as the team’s true power-play quarterback.
Ryan Sproul’s time is beyond due as he’s been underrated for several years now. His astute two-way play is exactly what Team Canada needs.
The extra defenseman is always the most difficult to project and there are a number of worthy candidates including Griffin Reinhart, Xavier Ouellet, Derrick Pouliot, Mathew Dumba, Slater Koekkoek or Cody Ceci.
In between the pipes, Malcolm Subban’s play spoke for itself at the Canada-Russia Challenge as he elevated his play for Team Canada when the other Canadian goaltenders struggled mightily. Jordan Binnington would be slated in as the potential starting goaltender and he has the experience in big games that this team needs to capture gold once again.
Projecting potential World Junior line-ups at this point in the season is strictly for fun and as most avid followers of this tournament would understand, there are bound to be some early season junior standouts that could easily fight their way onto the Canadian roster. One thing is for certain, if the NHL remains locked out into late December, then Hockey Canada will have prime pickings to construct a potent roster. With a potential star-studded lineup on its way to Ufa, Russia, Canada will have no excuses if they fail to bring home a gold medal for the fourth straight year.