Canada Has No College Hockey Players for 3rd Consecutive year at WJC

Remember 2007, at the World Junior, when Jonathan Toews scored what seemed like ten shootout goals against American goaltender Jeff Frazee in the Semifinal, leading Team Canada to the finals against Sweden and the eventual Gold Medal? I do too. But with Canada’s WJC roster having ZERO NCAA College Hockey Players for a 3rd consecutive year, amazing performances from Canadian College Hockey players at the WJC are apparently a thing of the past. Why?

Canada, No Need to Cross the Border

Canada named its final roster earlier today, and agin there are no College Hockey players. That is nothing new for the Red and White, having not had a NCAA product on a WJC roster since Jaden Schwartz, Colorado College, captained the team in 2012. Not only did no College players make the roster, there were no College players even on the radar.

At Canada’s 2014 summer evaluation camp for the WJC, 40 players were invited, and all them played Major Junior in Canada.

We’re about 8 years removed from the showdown between North Dakota’s Jonathan Toews and Minnesota’s Jeff Frazee in the Semifinal of the 2007 WJC shootout-to-remember. Since that epic World Junior, Canada has only had four NCAA players on the roster from 2008-2012, Kyle Turris, Cody Goloubef, Dylan Olsen, and Jaden Schwartz. Since Jaden Schwartz captained the 2012 team to a Bronze medal, Canada has been College player-less.

(Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports)
(Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports)

No Token College Player?

So what happened the token College Hockey player on the Canadian World Junior team?

We are in no way debating the NCAA route as opposed to the CHL route, that drum has been beaten to a pulp and will continue to be beaten for as long as the two options remain. No, everyone is well aware of young players having the option to sign with agents at the age of 14 and 15, and if they go to Major Junior they can have an agent during the early part of the career to hopefully help guide them, while if they go the NCAA route they can not. So it makes plenty of sense why young Canadian players choose the CHL route early on if they hope for a career in the NHL one day. But there are still hundreds of young Canadians who play in the NCAA.

At the beginning of the 2013-2014 NHL season, there were over 300 players who played College hockey playing in the NHL. Making up over 30% of the league. Of those 300 or so players, over 100 of them are Canadian.

College Hockey’s competition and popularity has been steadily increasing in the States over the last decade, and is starting to catch on more in Canada as well with games being shown on TSN this season. And with that, the number of NHL players with College-ties have increased as well. Recruiting young Canadian players will always be a challenge for College coaches, being that they can not legally contact a player until his senior year of high school, unless the player contacts them first. While the CHL has the ability to draft these kids during their Freshman and sophomore years of high school, and contact them even before that.

Schwartz Blues
Schwartz was drafted in 2010 (TSN Photography)

College Hockey in the WJC. The Numbers

There are currently 27 players on Team USA’s preliminary roster for the 2015 WJC, seven currently play in the CHL, and 20 either are currently playing College Hockey, or are committed to play College Hockey. Three other Countries have NCAA players on their primary roster heading into next week, Sweden, Finland, and Germany, totaling seven more current and future NCAA players.

Heading South

Out of the hundreds of Canadians playing in the NCAA, yes, most of them are older than the age requirements for Junior Hockey competition. It does not look like Canada is missing any “of-age” big-time players tearing up College Hockey, that they just didn’t select to their team. Canada’s team is top-notch and is made up of the best Junior aged players the country has to offer. With NCAA hockey primarily being made up of 18-24 year olds, and Major Junior being made up of 16-20 year olds, it seems like Canada’s World Junior team would greatly benefit from having some of their best young talent playing in a “Men’s League” like the NCAA.

Couldn’t hurt right? Canada’s Gold Medal drought has spanned longer than ever before, and one can’t help but notice that a lot of those successful teams benefitted greatly from having a few Canadians who play their hockey south of the border.

Every year I go into the WJC with the same wishes; I hope the hockey is great, and I hope to see an All-North American Final. The past handful of years I have got to see some terrific hockey, but I can’t get my second wish unless both the US and Canadian players are at their best. And in my opinion, the College Hockey competition better prepares these young men for the rigors of a long and physical tournament like the WJC. That may not be the case, and I’m sure that a number of my friends up north would strongly disagree with me. But look at these three facts:

1. Canada hasn’t won a medal since they had at least one NCAA player on their roster, back in 2012.

2.USA has had two Gold Medals in the last five years being made up primarily of NCAA players.

3. Sweden and Finland have NCAA players on their preliminary roster, and have combined for 4 medals in the last 3 years.


Final Thoughts

The young Canadian players are no doubt talented and are some of the best players in the world, and the majority of them will have successful careers in the NHL or pro hockey some day, NHL scouts don’t just draft players in the 1st round just because they are from Canada. These kids can play, and will 100% be one of the favorites in 2015. But if I’m building a team for a tournament such as the World Junior, I want as many players as possible who play against fully developed men on a nightly basis, like the NCAA players do. I may be wrong, but the NCAA in recent years has readied their players for the NHL, and is comparable to any junior or amateur league in the World in this regard. And that is because of the level of competition. If I’m a young Canadian hockey player with options, I am strongly considering heading down south for a few years to develop. And that just may be what the Canadians need to start another “Drive-for-Five” Gold Medals at the WJC.



9 thoughts on “Canada Has No College Hockey Players for 3rd Consecutive year at WJC”

  1. It looks like your availability heuristic didn’t pan out so well this year. Canada steam rolled everyone on its way to the final, while the college boys returned to campus early.

    I am curious how the NCAA’s 34 game regular season complete with limits on the number of practice hours better prepares players for the WJC when compared to the CHL’s 68 game regular season with horrendous travel schedule. Tack on multiple best of seven playoff series plus the Memorial Cup tournament, and it is pretty easy to see why the CHL produces the best players at the WJC.

    • Best and most talented players. absolutely goes without saying. every year canada has the mod talent. and this year thy were the best WJC team any country has had in at least 5 years.. I think the scheduling would have some issues. But don’t think it is too much of a concern for either country leading up to the tournament. could be though.. But still there are a number of positives via the NCAA now for young canadians. yes canada and the CHL is a melting pot for high end talent in the NHL. But id say NCAA produces just as many long-term 2nd-4th liners who compete over a long period of time in the NHL because of their competition over their 2-4 years in the NHL. really prepares you for the grit you see in the NHL. CHL does it as well, long season prepares you for that as well.. both great. Just wondering if there will be another wave of young talented canadians choosing college again? Always seems like some are coming, and than back out to play CHL. ex. Sam Gagner.

  2. Good article. Just a quick preamble, I’m a WHL fan, but I try to catch the Frozen Four every year, and am enjoying the NCAA hockey TSN is showing. I have a friend that works with a team in the British Columbia Hockey League (Junior A), and he was telling me that Hockey Canada and the CHL work extremely close with one another, and come World Junior time, it’s an exclusive relationship. No outsiders needs apply. We won’t see any more NCAA players on the Canadian team until we see a player like Toews, Turris or Schwartz who CHOOSES the NCAA route at an early age, and by early, I mean before Midget. But since BC and Alberta’s Major Midget and Midget AAA leagues respectively are funded by the WHL, I’m not expecting to see it any time soon as some of these young promising players are burning their NCAA eligibility as 15 year olds.

    • One more comment, right or wrong, the NCAA is viewed up here as a late-bloomer opportunity. The BCHL currently has 88 players who have signed DIv 1 commitments for 2015 and 2016, however not one will be playing as an 18 year old freshman.

    • Great Points Bruins fan.. I know that the CHL and Hockey Canada has a pretty open and straight forward relationship. As does UNTDP With USA Hockey, specifically for the WJC. You;ll see a lot of current or former UNTDP players on the WJC roster more often than not.. Again, i feel like some are taking this article as, “Hey, why no canadian college players? there used to be some. where are they, canada is wrong.”.. and in no case at all was that the point.. Canada had the best team they’ve had in 5 years this year, and were dominant all the way. and i picks them to win, just as most should of.. The article was essentially asking, “Do young candian players even debate going the NCAA route anymore?” I understand why the attractive option in the CHL, and playing there earlier than you can in the NCAA. of course, goes without saying.. and its hard because you can’t play NCAA obviously until 18 or HS graduation. But some great young candians used to see the appeal in playing adult hockey against big guys.. ANd the USHL is comparable to a large portion of the CHL, not all the teams of course, but its not like the USHL isn’t developing high quality talent year in and year out as well.. and with the NCAA having a bigger and bigger presence in the NHL now, i would think canadians would tend to come down south a bit more to develop because of the success rat.. but its seems opposite.. And you’re right in it being seen as a “late bloomers league”. which is viable. BUt if your a young talented first 2-round entry draft selection, wouldn’t you want to play against older and more intelligent players to develo? or do you think the 45 games to the CHL’s 68 game makes a difference? that may be big, more nhl-like in that regard. but than you have the fantastic atmospheres at a large number of schools that can’t be matched by a lot of chl or nhl teams for that matter with its electricity.. But, we could go on and on. thanks for commenting bruins fan

  3. Sophomore year as of Jan 1 in many cases yes. you are right cliff. I know for years it was senior year, but they can reach out technically right before their junior year

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