Canada’s world junior camp roster is out and there weren’t a lot of surprises. The biggest was previewed by TSN’s Bob McKenzie, who revealed on the weekend that St. Louis Blues prospect and star Providence College defenseman Jake Walman was deemed ineligible for Team USA by the IIHF. Walman is a dual citizen and will now try his luck with Canada.
“We’re excited to have him,” said Ryan Jankowski, Hockey Canada’s director of player personnel. “It gives us another element on the blueline, with his ability to score goals. He’s got a nice shot.”
Otherwise, the Canucks are once again going with just two goalies at camp – New Jersey pick Mackenzie Blackwood and Calgary prospect Mason McDonald. With no other competitors, these two can now spend camp fighting for the starter’s role. This is the third year in which Canada has gone into camp with just two netminders, but it’s not a snap decision – rather a strategic one.
“We take their whole body of work into account from the past two or three years,” Jankowski said. “Historically it’s been tough to make decisions on goalies based on the CIS (exhibition) games, so this streamlines the process.”
Canada is always deep in terms of talent, so there will be hard decisions to make, though I also believe there are plenty of roster spots yet to be locked up here, making for an interesting camp (which begins next Thursday).
With all that in mind, let’s take a look at the world of prospects, as per custom:
Alex Nylander, RW – Mississauga Steelheads (OHL): When the Steelheads selected Nylander in the CHL Import Draft, they admittedly did not know if he would come over from Sweden. After all, Mississauga had whiffed on his brother, Toronto first-rounder William Nylander, the year prior. But Alex was coming into his draft year and with William already in the area, GM/coach James Boyd thought his squad had a shot.
Nylander first got an inkling to come over from Sweden when he played at the World Under-17 Challenge in Sarnia last year. Boyd still didn’t know if his gamble would pay off until months after the Import Draft, but in early September Alex committed. Father and former NHLer Michael Nylander then joined the Steelheads as an assistant coach, so the landing was easy for Alex.
“It’s always good to have the family near you,” he said. “My brother gives me lots of tips – he tries to watch as many of my games as possible and I try to watch as many of his games as possible.”
And while you may think that playing for your dad is cozy, that’s not necessarily the case.
“He’s a tough coach, he’s strict,” Nylander said. “Everything has to be great in practice and you gotta work hard every day.”
If results are any indication, Nylander hasn’t let his dad down. The right winger has rung up 17 goals and 39 points through 28 games, making him the top scorer on his team, the top rookie in the league and top-10 overall. Nylander has excellent vision, sick hands and a knack for finding seams in the offensive zone.
Though the Steelheads are middle-of-the-pack right now, scoring is not an issue. Mississauga plays very fast and Nylander has excellent reinforcements including fellow 2016 prospects Mikey McLeod and Nathan Bastian.
“It’s a lot of fun; it’s quick hockey,” Nylander said. “You have to be quick out there and make fast decisions.”
And the one he made over the summer may have been the most important of all.
In the Pipeline
Brycen Martin, D (Buffalo): There was a flurry of trades in the WHL this week and Martin, a smooth-skating blueliner, was one of the big names. The 2014 Sabres pick was moved from Saskatoon to Everett, where he brings his 24 points in 25 games.
Christian Dvorak, C (Arizona): The OHL player of the week with nine points in three games, Dvorak is definitely a strong contender for Team USA’s world junior squad. The 2014 Coyotes pick racks up numbers thanks to his smarts and ability to make plays at high speeds.
Joonas Korpisalo, G (Columbus): In his first year with the AHL’s Lake Erie Monsters, Korpisalo is proving to be a great asset. The 2012 third-rounder has two shutouts and a .941 save percentage in nine games this season, using his size and athleticism to his advantage.
Anthony Beauvillier, C (NY Islanders): A born leader who also happens to put up a ton of offense, Beauvillier has 10 points in six November games for the high-flying Shawinigan Cataractes. The squad sits second overall in the Quebec League and Beauvillier, the 2015 Islanders first-rounder, is the captain.
Dynamic Duo: Colin White may be a freshman, but the Ottawa first-rounder is ruling in Boston College thanks to some quick chemistry with junior and Boston Bruins pick Ryan Fitzgerald. White (21 points in 13 games) and Fitzgerald (19 in 12) rank 1-2 in Eagles scoring and only a pair of New Hampshire Wildcats are ahead of them in conference offense.
2016 Draft Stars
Auston Matthews, C – ZSC Lions (Swi.): How would the American phenom respond to missing a month of hockey due to a back ailment? Pretty well, apparently! Matthews returned to Zurich’s lineup last week for a Swiss Cup game and hung two goals on Ambri-Piotta in a 5-2 Lions win. He now has 16 points in 16 games.
Michael Graham, C – Eden Prairie Eagles (Minn. HS): Playing on a potent high school squad with 2017 phenom Casey Mittelstadt, Graham will put up numbers this year. The Notre Dame commit notched four points in his first game and has been known to do things like this.
Carl Grundstrom, RW – Modo (SHL): A solid team player who goes to the net and has a great work ethic, Grundstrom is also one of the leading junior-aged scorers in Sweden’s best league. The youngster has seven points in 23 games while playing on Modo’s second line.
Injury Report: One of the most intriguing names on Canada’s world junior roster is Tampa Bay pick Mitchell Stephens. The OHL Saginaw right winger was excellent for his national team at the world under-18s last year and his combination of speed and drive is laudable. Stephens hasn’t played much this season due to a broken foot, but he is scheduled to return this Friday against Flint, giving him at least a couple games to get back in the swing of things.