Hockey Canada named their 32 man selection camp roster for the upcoming World Junior Championships (WJC), and the Edmonton Oilers are without a prospect on that list. Edmonton has several notable junior prospects but when it comes to Canada both forward Tyler Benson and defenseman Ethan Bear did not receive invites to camp.
Of the two Benson is the most notable snub, if not the most notable left off the entire list. Sportsnet’s John Grigg and Sam Cosentino delved into the topic, and Grigg had Benson third on his list of omissions. Arguably the two other big names left off the camp roster were 6’7″ defenseman Logan Stanley and London Knights forward Cliff Pu.
Team Canada is bringing a total that breaks down to 19 forwards, 10 defenseman and 3 goaltenders to camp with just five returnees in Dylan Strome, Mathew Barzal, Julien Gauthier, Mitchell Stephens and defenseman Thomas Chabot. That said, it’s still hard to imagine Benson not being able to crack the bottom six.
The Oilers 32nd overall pick from the 2016 NHL Draft is currently the captain of the WHL Vancouver Giants and has 25 points in 23 games. Only teammate Radovan Bondra has more points (27) but has played three more games.
Benson has comparable stats to Canadian returnee Julien Gauthier who has 26 points in 20 games with the QMJHL Val-d’Or Foreurs. Gauthier was a late first round pick in 2016; he went 21st overall to the Carolina Hurricanes.
Both play a similar finesse game and have a two-way acumen, but it’s clear Canada is looking to load up on a fast skating, high offensive squad and there might be a knock on Benson’s overall skating.
There are hopefuls that have forced Hockey Canada’s hand as well. Mathieu Joesph has had an impressive start to the year. The 2015 fourth round pick was a long-shot for the team, but the Tampa Bay selection is averaging nearly a goal-per-game with 23 goals in 24 games. Joesph, 19, has 37 points this season and leads the QMJHL Saint John Sea Dogs in scoring.
There’s even Taylor Raddysh, another Lightning selection (58th overall, 2016) that is off to an incredible start with 55 points in 24 games playing for the OHL Erie Otters.
Edmonton fans upset with the Benson snub might have argumentative grounds with the 19-year-old having a year that is statistically on par with invitees Austin Wagner, Pierre-Luc Dubois, Dillon Dube and even Barzal to name a few.
The Edmonton-native would’ve been a solid addition with his 6’0″ 200-pound frame in the bottom-six. Benson has already represented Canada three times internationally between the U-17 (twice) and U-18 tournaments scoring seven points in 18 games.
Bear’s omission from camp is a little easier to digest due to the sheer depth of the Canadian blue line. As said, they invited ten defensemen to camp, and as much as the Oilers 2015 fifth rounder has a bright future, there’s no leapfrogging some of the names ahead of him.
If you’re a fan of the 19-year-old, who do you take out? Thomas Chabot and Jake Bean are two of the best offensive defensemen in junior right now. Noah Juulsen and Dante Fabbro are two prized first round picks of the Montreal Canadiens and Nashville Predators respectively.
Then there’s Kale Clague who many felt should’ve been a first-rounder last June and Samuel Girard and Jeremy Lauzon all second-round picks.
|Jake Bean||6’1||170||06-09-1998||Calgary, AB||Calgary (WHL)|
|Guillaume Brisebois||6’2||187||07-21-1997||Saint-Hilaire, QUE||Charlottetown (QMJHL)|
|Thomas Chabot||6’2||188||01-30-1997||Sainte-Marie-de-Beauce, QUE||Saint John (QMJHL)|
|Kale Clague||6’0||177||06-05-1998||Lloydminster, AB||Brandon (WHL)|
|Dante Fabbro||6’1||190||06-20-1998||Coquitlam, BC||Boston University (HE)|
|Samuel Girard||5’9||165||05-12-1998||Roberval, QUE||Shawinigan (QMJHL)|
|Noah Juulsen||6’2||185||04-02-1997||Abbotsford, BC||Everett (WHL)|
|Jérémy Lauzon||6’2||207||04-28-1997||Val-d’Or, QUE||Rouyn-Noranda (QMJHL)|
|Victor Mete||5’10||180||06-07-1998||Woodbridge, ONT||London (OHL)|
|Philippe Myers||6’4||206||01-25-1997||Moncton, NB||Rouyn-Noranda (QMJHL)|
Bear is off to a decent start to the 2016-17 season with 18 points in 22 games. He’s the WHL Seattle Thunderbirds best defenseman, but he’s 14th in defenseman scoring.
If you’re going to give Bear a shot in camp, then you might as well give the undersized David Quenneville who leads the WHL in defenseman scoring a chance too. The 5’8″ 185-pound defenseman leads with 33 points.
What Does It All Mean?
Are these snubs or is Canada just that deep that these two have been left off the selection camp roster? It might be more of the latter. If this was any other hockey nation, you could see both playing in the tournament.
Should Edmonton fans feel slighted? No, both still have bright futures as NHL prospects. Benson could very well develop into a decent top-six forward, and Bear might be one of the Oilers best defensive prospects next to Caleb Jones.
The tournament is in Canada this year, and there will be heavy scrutiny on the team. Anything less of a gold medal win and fans will be disappointed and question the construction of the team. This happens every time Canada loses, and if it happens on home soil, the omission of Benson becomes even more peculiar.