Tuesday, December 25, 2012

2013 World Junior Championships: Team Canada Preview



With the start of 2013 IIHF World Junior Championship mere hours away for Team Canada and head coach Steve Spott, we thought we would take a quick look at what to expect from the boys wearing the Maple Leaf.

Forwards

Anthony Camara, Phillip Danault, Jonathan Drouin, Jonathan Huberdeau,  Boone Jenner, J.C. Lipon, Nathan MacKinnon, Mark McNeill, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Ty Rattie, Brett Ritchie, Mark Scheifele, Ryan Strome

The NHL Lockout has made the likes of Edmonton Oilers centre Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Florida's Jonathan Huberdeau available to Canada at this year's championship, whereas that would never have been the case, if the National Hockey League were in full gear. That being said, this current edition of Canadian youngsters should not be referred to as a "Dream Team". Outside of Nugent-Hopkins, this roster is void of possible elite NHL talent.

While Huberdeau, Scheifele and likely MacKinnon, all have lengthy pro careers ahead of them, this squad is short on offensive weapons upfront. As a collective group, Canada has the deepest roster in the tournament but in a short term format like the World Juniors, the only guarantee seems to be the Nuge.

With Jenner scheduled to miss the first three games of round-robin play, due to suspension, Spott will have his hands filled with trying to form some sort of chemistry with his lines. Canada has already lost Charles Hudon for the entire tournament, with a lower back injury, but heading into their opener against Germany, there is fear that Drouin could also be a no go.

Luckily, Canada were allowed to replace Hudon on the roster with Edmonton product Mark McNeill but they will not be afforded the same luxury, if Drouin were not ready to go. It would be a major loss to Team Canada, as they had the Halifax Moosehead slotted in a second line role.

Before receiving the bad news on Drouin and learning the length of Jenner's suspension, the projected lines were expected to look something like these:

Huberdeau - Nugent-Hopkins - Scheifele
Drouin - Strome - Ritchie
Danault - Jenner - Rattie
Camara - McNeill - Lipon
MacKinnon (extra forward and power play specialist)

Definitely a talented group but there are obviously holes within that lineup. You would expect the Nugent-Hopkins line to put points on the board but they will need some sort of secondary scoring, in order to have any hopes against the better teams in the tournament.


Defencemen

Dougie Hamilton, Scott Harrington, Ryan Murphy, Xavier Ouellet, Griffin Reinhart, Morgan Rielly, Tyler Wootherspoon

Though the Canadian blueline is nowhere near as strong as it could have been, due to Ryan Murray being unavailable due to a season-ending shoulder injury, their defence still remains the club's strong suit. While the likes of Hamilton, Murphy and Reilly will undoubtedly help on the offensive side of things, it is in their own end, where there is cause for concern with the talented trio.

Harrington, who was one of Canada's better defenceman in 2012, will be counted on for a repeat performance in Russia. Oil Kings defenceman Griffin Reinhart has been solid throughout camp and continues to keep his game simple. The New York Islanders prospect will be looked upon to play a shutdown role, joining Harrington and Portland Winterhawks defenceman Tyler Wootherspoon, as Canada's top three defensive rearguards.


Goaltenders

Malcolm Subban, Jordan Binnington, Jake Paterson

While Hockey Canada decided to bring along three netminders to the tournament, it will be a one man show. Despite Binnington's solid performance against Sweden in a pre-tournament match-up and Subban's so-so effort against Finland, Tuesday's announcement that the Belleville Bulls starter would be Canada's go-to-guy, should surprise no one.

After starring for Canada during the Canada/Russia Challenge during the off-season and following that up with a perfect thirty minutes of play against those same Russians, during the 2013 SUBWAY Series, the starters role was all but decided.

The Boston Bruins first round selection has been lights out for the Bulls during the 2012-13 Ontario Hockey League season, leading all OHL starters with a 2.17 GAA and a .932 SV%. While the youngster did not have the greatest of camps leading into the tournament, he had earned the right to be the number one guy.


TSN 2013 WJHC Broadcast Schedule

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