Canada Already Has World Junior Camp Shake-Up

There wasn’t the same level of shock and controversy as when USA Hockey announced their 2016 World Junior Selection Camp roster, but Hockey Canada is keeping things interesting with some major changes already on the way with their own camp.

It’s just been a week since Hockey Canada announced the initial World Junior camp roster and there have already been injuries, suspensions and players added before camp even opens.

Blackwood Suspended

Hockey Canada made the decision to start selection camp with just two goaltenders, though they’re permitted to roster three. That meant that the competition between Mackenzie Blackwood and Mason McDonald was about who was the starter.

The situation got a little more murky on Tuesday when the OHL handed down an eight-game suspension for Blackwood. He was tagged with the infraction after tomahawk-ing an opponent with his stick during a December 4 game against the Sudbury Wolves. (video)

The eight-game suspension includes six games with the Barrie Colts in the OHL, followed by two games at the World Junior Championship.

That makes the eight-game timeframe interesting. He’s ostensibly only suspended for two games. He was going to be missing those OHL games for camp anyway, so that may have weighed on the OHL’s decision for the length of the suspension. He basically just gets two games for a pretty big swing of his stick, but they’re two pretty significant games for the 19-year-old.

Walman Out

19-year-old Providence College defenseman Jake Walman has had a great season and a terrible time finding his way onto a World Junior team. The blueliner holds dual citizenship and was planning on playing for the U.S. in Helsinki this year, but the IIHF ruled just days before selection camp rosters were announced that he was ineligible to play for the U.S. team.

The decision was largely that he needed to have played two seasons of hockey in the country that he wishes to represents in Helsinki. He’s currently in the middle of his second season at Providence, making him ineligible.

It wasn’t clear at that point if he’d get an invite from Canada, but he did.

Now, he’s injured and it looks like he’s not going to be able to play. Walman was injured on December 5 and it appears to be a week-to-week kind of thing that will extend beyond the tournament, which starts on December 26.

Two Added to Camp

The solution in net for Canada is simply to bring in another goalie. The team is allowed to carry three during the tournament, all three of which are eligible to play. There were some who thought that Calgary-native Adin Hill of the Portland Winterhawks might be the choice, but Canada will be bringing in Samuel Montembeault of the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada in the QMJHL.

Montembeault has posted a .886 save percentage — 14th overall in the Q — while playing in 22 of the team’s 32 games thus far.

Given Blackwood’s suspension, the assumption is that Motembeault will be on the final roster.

On the blue line, Hockey Canada has invited Jeremy Lauzon to selection camp to replace Walman, according to Bob McKenzie. The 18-year-old 2nd round draft pick of the Boston Bruins has suited up 26 games for the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies in the QMJHL.

He currently sits third on the team with five goals and 29 assists this season, which is good for second in points among defensemen league-wide. With the late addition status, it likely means the cards are stacked against Lauzon and it may take a very strong camp for him to crack the roster.

On the other hand, his skill set may replace Walman’s in a way where his omission from the initial roster was less about being at the bottom of the heap and more about him being behind Walman in terms of how the team would like to use Walman or Lauzon.

The Cavalry is Coming

Canada may get a late addition up front from Vancouver Canucks rookie Jake Virtanen, who has been a strong presence for the Canucks, but has yet to discover the scoring touch that had him as a point-per-game player the last two years with the WHL’s Calgary Hitmen.

There are no guarantees that Vancouver will let him go, but it may be nice for his development. He’s keeping pace as a NHLer, but some confidence couldn’t hurt his game. He’s got just one goal and three assists through 19 games for Vancouver.

As of right now, the Canucks have sent Virtanen to the AHL on a conditioning stint as he recovers from a “hip pointer.” Once he’s through two games with the Utica Comets over the weekend we should get a decision on whether or not he’ll join Team Canada, according to McKenzie.

Virtanen was a part of Canada’s gold medal-winning team last year. He scored one goal and three assists through seven games in the tournament. His addition would bring a veteran presence to the team that’s notable missing. Last year’s roster has largely aged out or become a contributing part of the a NHL roster.

The only players who could be returning to the roster from last year’s team at the moment are defenseman Joe Hicketts and forwards Brayden Point and Lawson Crouse.