This is the second of a two-part series breaking down Team Canada’s World Junior roster. The focus of this one is the defencemen and goaltenders, and the first part looks at the team’s forwards.
As written in the first part, this year’s tournament will be a little different than most for Canadian supporters. Not only is the NHL lockout putting a different spin on the tournament, but the time difference has dramatically changed. In recent years, viewers in North America have been watching the games during primetime television. Such is not the case this year, as Ufa, Russia isn’t exactly near Alberta or New York.
Though live games will be broadcast during the middle of the night on this side of the planet, the calibre of hockey remains the same, if not even better this year. Thanks to certain players taking part in the tournament, when in most years they would be playing professionally, there will be numerous NHL-ready talents taking part.
With those thoughts now in your mind, let’s take a look at the defencemen and goaltenders Canada will be sending in search of gold at the World Juniors.
Team Canada’s Defencemen
When one begins to discuss Canada’s blueline, Dougie Hamilton is likely the first name that comes up. Hamilton’s a first-rounder of the Boston Bruins, and had a very good chance of making the National Hockey League this past October. He’s one of the best defensive prospects in all of hockey, and is averaging over a point-per-game with the Niagara IceDogs this season. At 6’5”, 205 pounds, Hamilton can more than handle himself physically. It comes as no surprise that he’s expected to be Canada’s stud on defence.
Scott Harrington will be another of Canada’s shutdown blueliners. The London Knights‘ captain is a rock in his own end, and will be focused on shutting down opposing teams’ offensive weapons. He’s led his Knights to an ongoing 21-game win streak this season, and Canadian fans are hoping for something similar in Russia.
Ryan Murphy finally made this team. After being cut in back-to-back years, Murphy was able to snag a spot on this year’s roster. The big, open ice this tournament will be played on will give him an advantage, as his skating is his game’s most valuable asset. Murphy’s one of those players who’s high-risk, high-reward. He was named Canada’s best player in their opening exhibition game against Finland.
On the opposite end of Murphy, Xavier Ouellet and Tyler Wotherspoon can be found. Ouellet will likely narrow in on being a defensive defenceman in this tournament. He’s a Detroit Red Wings prospect picked in the 2011 NHL Draft. Wotherspoon is Calgary Flames property who will act as an intimidating force on the blueline.
The two youngest defencemen on Canada are Griffin Reinhart and Morgan Rielly. They were picked back-to-back in the 2012 draft, with Reinhart going fourth to the New York Islanders, and Rielly being picked fifth by the Toronto Maple Leafs. Reinhart’s seen as a fairly mobile defensive blueliner, and Rielly’s a point-producer. Like Murphy, Rielly will benefit from the international-sized ice surface.
Team Canada’s Goaltenders
Malcolm Subban is expected to be Canada’s starting netminder. His first pre-competition game ended up being a loss to Finland, but Subban is without a doubt one of the best goaltenders in major junior hockey.
From the Owen Sound Attack, Jordan Binnington will be Canada’s backup ‘tender. Binnington is coming off a recent hot streak of three straight shutouts. He struggled in the OHL’s first game of the Subway Series, and didn’t come away from selection camp with great reviews. But his consistent play with the Attack gave him a spot on this team.
Jake Paterson is not likely to receive any playing time in this tournament. However, he’s being brought over to Russia in a supporting role. Since the tournament is so far away from home this year, Canada is taking three goaltenders to Ufa. The reason is, of course, in case of injury to either Binnington or Subban. He won’t be on the official roster, but Paterson certainly earned his way to Europe thanks to a terrific selection camp.
For more on Canada’s goalies, check out this recent article about the team’s goaltending condundrum.
Canada’s defence is seen as one of the major strengths of this year’s team. Combine that with some great goaltending prospects, and Team Canada should do just fine defensively.
David O’Connor is a managing editor with the Sunbelt Hockey Journal. His writing has been on the Los Angeles Times’ website, among other places. O’Connor also does some scouting work for the local Junior B hockey club. Please feel free to contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.