The final buzzer on Monday afternoon puts an end to the Hockey Canada U18 Summer Camp. The best 22 of the best 40 U18’s in Canada will move on to the ‘Memorial of Ivan Hlinka’ Tournament where they will wear the Red and White proudly in an effort to win Canada their 5th Gold Medal in a row. Over the 21 years of the summer tournament Canada has won 16 gold medals, 2 silver, 1 bronze and failed to medal in 2003 and 2007. Although this tournament may not have the cache of the Spring U18 Tournament that is IIHF Sanctioned, this is a cog in the wheel of Hockey Canada’s Program of Excellence.
After Game 1 on Saturday it was evident that some players were already locks for Team Canada and some looked completely out of place in this camp. After Game 2 on Sunday it was clear that some players got the message that this camp is almost over and needed to step up. At the same time, you saw the same gap and distance between certain players, putting them on the bubble and on the outside looking in.
Even though the Roster for Team Canada has not officially been named, it seems like there is not much discussion needed on who should be on the team, after watching 180 minutes of competitive Intra-Squad hockey. If I had a say in the 22 man roster for this tournament, here is who I would have wearing the red and white.
In goal Zachary Fucale from the Halifax Mooseheads will man the crease as the starter while Spencer Martin of the Mississauga Steelheads earned his way back into the back up role.
On the blue line, Sault Ste. Marie defenceman Darnell Nurse, arguably the best defenceman in camp, will be the leader of the 7 blue liners. Joining him will be Madison Bowey (Kelowna/WHL), Aaron Ekblad (Barrie/OHL), Dillon Heatherington (Swift Current/WHL), Shea Theodore (Seattle/WHL), Samuel Morin (Rimouski/QMJHL) and Jordan Subban (Belleville/OHL) as the 7th D.
The Forwards were almost a lock after the first game, but a good 2nd and 3rd game made the final four selections a bit harder than initially thought. Nathan Mackinnon (Halifax/QMJHL) and teammate Jonathan Drouin (Halifax/QMJHL) will lead the way. Morgan Klimchuk (Regina/WHL) came alive when playing with the two aforementioned Moosehead players. A pair of Knights will be on this team, Max Domi (London/OHL) and Bo Horvat (London/OHL). Horvat really looked dominant once paired with Nick Ritchie (Peterborough/OHL) who also had a spot locked up after game one, but not sure what role he could see. Anthony Duclair (Quebec/QMJHL) was absolutely ridiculous with the puck and can easily be thrown on to any line. Another pair of OHLers will represent Canada in Ryan Kujawinski (Kingston/OHL) and Nicholas Baptiste (Sudbury/OHL), Baptiste coming alive in game 2, and solidifying his place during game 3. Sam Reinhart (Kootenay/WHL) will be a big presence in this tournament despite looking a little hurt. He could easily turn it up and be a dominant player. The final 3 spots are a big toss up but I would have Jeremy Gregoire (Chicoutimi/QMJHL), Nic Petan (Portland/WHL) and Tommy Veilleux (Victoriaville/QMJHL). Each one of these three can easily play many roles. All shown they can play with the puck, pass it off, effectively chase and trap it in the corner and throw their weight around.
This is of course one man’s opinion who watched the entire Camp from practices on Friday August 3rd until the final buzzer today. No matter what I think, what you think, or what Hockey Canada thinks. Big congratulations to all 40 who showed up this weekend and played their hearts out. It is an honour to be selected and thought of as such an elite group amongst your peers. Let’s get this tournament started. Canada will face off against Switzerland in the opener August 12th, 8am Eastern time.