It’s fitting the World Junior Championship takes place over the holiday season, because it’s truly a gift for fans of hockey prospects to see so much talent in one place.
Of course, Canada always has the enviable “problem” of having too many high-end players to choose from and, naturally, worthy candidates are left off the squad. While the final camp doesn’t begin for a couple days, the pool of hopefuls has been announced, so I thought I’d take a crack at picking some players who I’d really like to see on this year’s Canadian contingent.
For the sake of fence-sitting/the fact I really don’t have a favorite, Canada can’t go wrong in the goaltending department. Chet Pickard, Tyson Sexsmith, Dustin Tokarski and Jake Allen are all proven winners either in junior or internationally. Any combination will be one of the best duos in the tourney, though Thomas McCollum and Josh Unice of the U.S. will be tough, not to mention Sweden’s Jacob Markstrom and Finland’s Harri Sateri.
OK, getting that out of the way, now here are some players I’d like to see in Ottawa come late December.
Stefan Della Rovere, LW – Barrie Colts (OHL): Not only is Della Rovere one point away from tying his season-best point total already, but he’s also exactly the type of player other countries hate. True, he’s got offensive skills, but more importantly he’s a big hitter and will fight at the drop of a hat.
Colten Teubert, D – Regina Pats (WHL): Consider Teubert the defensive equivalent of Della Rovere. The Kings draft pick has also increased his offensive payload this season, but Teubert’s forté is nastiness as well as his 6-foot-4 frame and an unfriendly disposition that will go a long way in discouraging the Jordan Schroeders and Magnus Svensson-Paajarvis of the world from venturing too close to Canada’s crease.
Ryan Ellis, D; Taylor Hall, C – Windsor Spitfires (OHL): Until recently, these teammates were 1-2 in the Ontario League scoring race (John Tavares has since usurped Ellis for No. 2) and although Hall isn’t even draft eligible this year, there’s no question he has figured out how to play against competition above his age bracket.
I know Hockey Canada tends to skew towards experience and there is the thorny issue of fellow center Angelo Esposito’s fourth attempt at making the squad, but Hall is clearly a superstar on the rise and worthy of a spot.
Ellis gives Canada an unquestioned nuclear option on the power play and would look pretty good next to Seattle’s Thomas Hickey or Belleville’s P.K. Subban in that capacity. A premier offensive defenseman, Ellis also deserves to wear the colors now.
Speaking of Esposito, I’m not going to weigh in on whether the Montreal Juniors pivot should be on the team, because there is certainly a great deal of talent available down the middle (Hall, Cody Hodgson, Matt Duchene, Brayden Schenn, etc.) and experience vs. upside will certainly be on the minds of Pat Quinn and his braintrust.
I just hope Hockey Canada has a very specific reason for inviting the young man to camp once again and that it was made clear what he needs to accomplish to finally make the team.
A fourth cut would be extremely unkind and at this point, worse than not inviting him at all.
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 appears Mondays and Wednesdays, his column - The Straight Edge - every Friday, and his features, The Hot List and Prep Watch appears Tuesdays and Thursdays.
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