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When Hockey Canada invited 47 players to their world junior selection camp knowing they had to cut that in half for the tournament, it was because they were being equal opportunity citizens, and the camp was lasting four weeks not the usual four days.
And now with two positive player cases of COVID-19 and 14 days of isolation in hotel rooms in Red Deer, theoretically that should be complicating the selection of the 25 players with nobody back on the ice until Dec. 7.
But, does it really throw a monkey wrench into things, with all 10 countries in the worlds having to get into the Edmonton bubble Dec. 13?
Maybe not as much as you would think because Hockey Canada has an extensive book on most of their players from past tournaments.
Head coach Andre Tourigny says there is “no timeline” for when the cuts will come. It’s a moving target with the players isolated for two weeks.
“We don’t know if we’ll have (camp exhibition) games or whether we even want to do it so we protect our players’ safety,” said Tourigny, who may have dozen sure things anyway, without camp games before pre-tournament exhibitions against Sweden Dec. 21 and Russia Dec. 23 before the Boxing Day start against Germany.
Here’s who could already have a seat at the table.
On defence: Bowen Byram and Jamie Drysdale as the top pair, Thomas Harley and Braden Schneider as the No. 3-4 tag team.
At forward: Centres Kirby Dach, Dylan Cozens and Quinton Byfield, wingers Connor McMichael, Dylan Holloway, Alex Newhook, Dawson Mercer, Connor Zary and Philip Tomasino.
There are questions in goal but if you put down Dylan Garand, the New York Rangers draft pick, from Kamloops Blazers and Brett Brochu, the undrafted competitor who plays for Dale and Mark Hunter with the London Knights, you might not be wrong.
Garand was at the 2019 Hlinka-Gretzky tournament, and Brochu will be getting a strong push from Dale Hunter, his junior coach.
If you have Matthew Robertson (Edmonton Oil Kings) and Kaedan Korczak (Kelowna Rockets) as the third defence pair as a good lefty-righty fit, you could easily be right.
At forward, If you had Peyton Krebs, who can play fourth-line centre or wing, feisty right-winger Jamieson Rees who had two goals in the second Red-White scrimmage, and Val d’Or (Quebec) all-purpose captain Jakob Pelletier, they easily could be three more forward adds.
That’s 20 players off just the two Red-White scrimmages and a week of practices before COVID hit the players. If these names are right, they only need five more (two extra D, two more forwards, and a third goalie).
Hockey Canada goes on past report as much as current eyeballs.
“They have a deep data base with their Program of Excellence and have been watching these players since they were 15 years old,” said TSN’s draft guru Craig Button, who will be doing colour commentary with play-by-play man Dennis Beyak for a number of tournament games.
They have holdovers from the last world junior in the Czech Republic where they won gold with Dale Hunter as coach (Byram, Drysdale, Cozens, McMichael, Byfield, Mercer). They have others who got cut at last year’s camp in Oakville, Ont. They weren’t quite ready as 18-year-olds but showed lots (Schneider, Harley, Newhook, Holloway, Zary, Tomasino).
Holloway (Wisconsin) and Newhook (Boston College) didn’t get Red-White games in Red Deer because they were in a college quarantine cohort after flying from the U.S. But, they’ll be two left-wingers on the junior team because they are stars on their college teams.
And Dach, who wasn’t released by Chicago last year because he was a top-nine forward for them, is clearly the first-line centre now. His chemistry with Zary (Kamloops), normally a centre and Tomasino (Nashville first-rounder) in the second Red-White scrimmage was palpable. They scored four goals.
Prince Albert’s Kaiden Guhle (Montreal) could be the No. 7 on D with world junior teams allowed to dress an extra defenceman and 13th forward in the games. The No. 8 is up in the air with Colorado first-rounder Justin Barron, who shoots right, maybe having the inside track as part of the 25-man roster.
At forward, if camp observers arit could be down to 52-goal scorer Jack Quinn, Jets’ first-rounder Cole Perfetti (cut at last year’s camp), Graeme Clarke, the Jersey third-rounder who had shoulder surgery this past season and Pittsburgh first-round pick Patrick Poulin for two wing spots. Kingston centre/right-winger Shane Wright, only 16 and the probable No. 1 overall pick in 2022, might get the short straw.
Quinn and Clarke play for Tourigny in Ottawa, adding another layer to the intrigue.
There’s some NHL first-round forward picks in October like Seth Jarvis (Carolina) and Mavrik Bourque (Dallas) who may be like Holloway and company last December, having to wait a year.
Hockey Canada’s VP Scott Salmond says they could take 28 players into the bubble, not 25, but would have to drop three for the tournament.
“Every team’s allowed 40 people (players and staff but that could be 28 and 12, not 25 and 15 (staff),” he said.
Salmond says they haven’t shut the door on Alexis Lafreniere, last year’s world junior MVP and New York Rangers’ first overall pick, joining them.
“We’re going to keep that conversation going, it’s not out of the question,” he said.
“There are precautions we can put in place for that person…Alexis is in New York now and there would be some quarantine when he arrives (from the U.S.)”
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