December is an exciting month for junior hockey fans and for hockey fans who mostly focus their attention on the NHL too. World Junior season is fast approaching and that means even fans who don’t know the difference between Wheat Kings and Oil Kings will have their eyes glued to games featuring the best U20 players on the planet.
The start of the month is particularly intriguing to me as its the time when many of us will start projecting our own World Junior rosters only to see a week later how out to lunch we are when Hockey Canada’s camp list is released.
Because this is for DUBNetwork, I’m going to take an obvious WHL perspective with the blueline and the forwards but because with the goalies, I think you can indulge me if I include the OHL and QMJHL candidates. Fair?
Then let’s go.
- Hockey Canada usually takes four goaltenders to their December camp but I know TSN analyst Bob McKenzie has floated the thought that it might only be three this time around.
- For now, let’s just go with the idea that there will be a quartet of guys and go from there. The four goalies that were at the summer showcase were Michael DiPietro (Windsor/VAN), Matt Villalta (Sault Ste. Marie/LAK), Olivier Rodrigue (Drummondville/EDM) and Matthew Welsh (Charlottetown/not drafted). Based on history, I don’t think that we should expect those same names to be on the December camp invite list.
- Last year, only two of the four summer camp goalies were back in December, and only one of them (Carter Hart) made the final Canadian squad. Stuart Skinner and Dylan Wells, both Oilers prospects, didn’t get asked back and eventually it was Colton Point from Colgate in the NCAA that earned the 2nd spot.
- I think everyone expects Michael DiPietro to be Canada’s starter on Boxing Day but if Hockey Canada is asking my opinion, (and they aren’t), I don’t know how you can look past Prince Albert Raiders starter Ian Scott and what he’s helped that club accomplish so far this year.
- Now, when it comes to the Canadian blueline corps, the summer camp only had a trio of WHL players taking part unless you include the two Albertans playing in the NCAA (Ian Mitchell at Denver and Jacob Bernard-Docker at North Dakota) and Moose Jaw’s Josh Brook who was unable to participate.
- Ty Smith, Calen Addison, Jett Woo and Brook could all reasonably be back for the December short list but is that it for WHL content on the back end?
- Is it possible that a pair of WHL forwards not invited to the summer camp could not only get the call now but actually suit up for Canada in Vancouver/Victoria? It sure seems like along shot but considering Brett Leason and Trey Fix-Wolansky are leading, not just the WHL but the entire Canadian Hockey League in scoring…is it really that far fetched?
- The precedent is already there and you don’t even have to look past last season to see it. Neither Drake Batherson nor Tyler Steenbergen were involved in the 2017 summer showcase but both were on the 2018 WJC roster for Canada that won gold in Buffalo.
- If you are building your team by taking the players who are the best TODAY, not who project to be the best NHL players in 5 years, then I don’t know how you can’t consider Leason, Scott and Fix-Wolansky as more than just reasonable camp invites.
- Gone but not forgotten: Spokane forward Jaret Anderson-Dolan underwent wrist surgery earlier this month and is expected to miss 6-8 weeks which puts it right around the middle of December at the earliest for his return. If he’s cleared and available, you’d have to think JAD would stand a solid chance of making the team. Anderson-Dolan started the year with the LA Kings, was send back to the WHL and played just two games before being injured.
- Gone but not forgotten part 2: Michael Rasmussen is a big loss this year for the Tri-City Americans but the big forward now has 5 goals and 7 points for the Detroit Red Wings. It will be interesting to see if he’s made available for the WJC or not.
- Want a couple of WHL forwards to list under ‘Dark Horse”? How about Nick Henry who has 40 points in Regina and Kirby Dach who has 39 for Saskatoon? Both are top 10 in WHL scoring, both would be top-5 in the QMJHL.
- I hope the tournament is a big success and that fan turnout in both Vancouver and Victoria are strong. I have no idea what ticket sales have been like thus far but I hope that empty seats aren’t a story like it has been at the WJC the last three years the games have been held in North America. Whether it was ticket prices or lack of interest or the weather itself, poor attendance in Toronto, Montreal and Buffalo sometimes overshadowed the games.
- I’m on record with my opinion that a single city should host the tournament. It’s just my opinion but I think when you cut the tournament in half, you sometimes cut the interest from fans in half too. Helsinki was fantastic. I was able to see all 10 teams during the round robin and stayed in one hotel the entire tournament.
- I realize not all cities have the amenities to host it on their own and that is certainly a fair argument but I don’t think you have to have Calgary and Edmonton team up when Red Deer is 90 minutes away from them both and have a perfectly good sized arena to use for the non-Canadian games.
- Portland, Oregon should be the next American city to host the WJC. I’ve been saying it for years now and it may never happen but it should. It’s a great city and has two big buildings in the same parking lot. You could watch games for both Pool A and then walk two minutes away to watch Pool B.
- If not Portland, then Seattle & Everett, with what will be a newly renovated KeyArena and the Angel of the Winds Arena, would make a lot of sense to me.
Those are my thoughts on the World Junior Championship at this time. I’d love to hear what you think about what I said or just to hear your ideas on the subject. Feel free to fire off a tweet at me and start the conversation. (@TPS_Guy)