We are just more than a month away from puck drop in Regina and Saskatoon for the 2010 World Junior Championship, so what better time to give a little primer on what once again promises to be an excellent display of elite hockey?
Once again the tournament is on Canadian soil, so the Canucks will be extra-motivated to take home gold yet again. But half the journey may just be making the team. Based on Team Canada’s camp rosters, here’s a first crack at which players will don the maple leaf in Saskatchewan:
Goaltenders: Not as clear-cut as in recent years. Matt Hackett (Plymouth, OHL) is having the best season of the top candidates, leaving Jake Allen (Montreal, QMJHL) and Olivier Roy (Cape Breton, QMJHL) to battle for the other spot. Martin Jones (Calgary, WHL) is a dark horse, even though he too boasts excellent stats.
Defense: Definitely a strong suit. Locks would include Saskatchewan boy Jared Cowen (Spokane, WHL) and returnees Ryan Ellis (Windsor, OHL) and Colten Teubert (Regina, WHL). Patrick Wiercioch (Denver, WCHA) is also having an excellent year, as is Travis Hamonic (Moose Jaw, WHL). I expect Tyler Cuma (Ottawa, OHL) to be there based on past camps, with Charles-Olivier Roussel (Shawinigan, QMJHL) also having a strong campaign. Dylan Olsen (Minnesota-Duluth, WCHA) and Calvin de Haan (Oshawa, OHL) are also in the mix.
Forwards: Even stronger than the defense, Canada boasts a murderer’s row up front, helped by some late NHL training camp cuts. Assuming he’s healthy, Cody Hodgson (Brampton, OHL) will lead the way, along with Nazem Kadri (London, OHL), who missed last year due to a broken jaw. Taylor Hall (Windsor, OHL) was a late cut from last year’s squad, but will shine before jumping to the NHL next year.
Teammates Scott Glennie and Brayden Schenn (Brandon, WHL) already have excellent chemistry and Jordan Eberle (Regina, WHL) was a star on last year’s edition. Louis Leblanc (Harvard, ECAC) has gotten off to a great start in college, while Patrice Cormier (Rimouski, QMJHL) will be an effective returnee as well.
In terms of snarl, I loved the effort of Stefan Della Rovere (Barrie, OHL) last year and Zack Kassian (Peterborough, OHL) would be a great linemate.
Joe Colborne (Denver, WCHA) will also be in the mix, as will teammates Adam Henrique and Greg Nemisz (Windsor, OHL). Another player I’ve been very impressed with lately is Luke Adam (Cape Breton, QMJHL), who is putting up a lot of points and brings an impressive physical game and frame to the table.
Last but not least, does Tyler Seguin (Plymouth, OHL) get a crack in his draft year? He’s already vaulted Hall in the draft rankings, though that won’t affect Canada’s choice.
Team USA won’t hold its camp until just before the tournament itself, so the waters are a bit murky there. The Americans will need two new goaltenders, however, and competition is wide open. Brandon Maxwell (Kitchener, OHL) is an NTDP alum and that usually goes a long way with Team USA, while Mike Lee (St. Cloud State, WCHA) is holding his own as a college freshman.
Many of Team USA’s top talents have moved on to the NHL or passed the age limit, so the turnover will be interesting this year. Jordan Schroeder (Minnesota, WCHA) will look to make up for a lackluster showing in 2009, while John Carlson (Hershey, AHL) would be a huge addition to the blueline – assuming the Washington Capitals don’t still require his services come Christmas.
There’s always debate as to whether major junior players get short shrift from Team USA, but it’s hard to picture the 2010 squad without Ryan Bourque (Quebec, QMJHL), who played for the NTDP, or returning Dub teammates Mitch Wahl and Tyler Johnson (Spokane, WHL). And if the Americans want to keep up with their cousins to the North, offensive defensemen Cam Fowler (Windsor, OHL) and John Moore (Kitchener, OHL) and sniper winger Jeremy Morin (Kitchener, OHL) must be part of the equation.
Also expect to see a heavy dose of the NTDP crew that was so prominent in the 2009 draft, players like Chris Brown (Michigan, CCHA), Jerry D’Amigo (RPI, ECAC) and Drew Shore (Denver, WCHA).
Next week, I’ll take a look at some of the top Europeans with a shot at Saskatchewan.
Ryan Kennedy is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey's Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog will appears Monday and Wednesday, his column - The Straight Edge - every Friday, and his prospect feature, The Hot List appears Tuesdays.
For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.