Darnell Nurse and Max Domi look like they will be excellent NHLers and may play in the league as soon as next year. But that doesn’t automatically make them ideal for the Canadian world junior team.
Nurse and Domi were two of the surprise omissions from Canada’s final camp roster, a streamlined group of 25 that will require only a couple cuts before the team tries to get back on the podium in Malmo, Sweden. Though I do understand the snubs. Both Nurse and Domi (former teammates with minor midget’s Don Mills Flyers, ironically) play aggressive games and in the international arena, may have been liabilities when it came to penalties.
Nurse’s physicality is a huge asset in the Ontario League and will be to Edmonton when the Oilers’ first pick in 2013 (seventh overall) hits NHL ice. But in international junior hockey, inevitably one of his bone-crushing hits would land him in the box, even if it was clean by North American standards. Similarly, Domi (Phoenix, 12th overall in ’13) has been suspended in the OHL for over-the-line hits in the past and has a temper. Coach Brent Sutter appreciated when Domi stuck up for Connor McDavid this summer in Lake Placid when Domi felt the teen phenom was besmirched by Sweden’s Tobias Tornkvist, but that was in a meaningless exhibition game that Canada won easily.
Given that Canada will already be without the services of defenseman Griffin Reinhart for the first three games of the tourney thanks to a laughably unjust suspension carried over from the 2013 WJC in Russia and the Canucks can’t afford to run afoul of IIHF officials anymore.
The other big surprise of today’s announcement was the fact both goaltenders have already been determined. Zach Fucale (Montreal, 36th overall in 2013) and Jake Paterson (Detroit, 80th overall in 2013) are the tandem. That means no Eric Comrie, no Tristan Jarry. I’m cool with this. Fucale was my starter all along; he’s got a Quebec League title and a Memorial Cup championship under his belt, so he knows how to win under pressure. He’s got the right personality for the job (just a real fun kid to talk to) and has learned how to win in Halifax whether he’s facing a lot of shots or hardly any at all. That’s important in a tournament where the level of competition will veer wildly.
One remaining question: How many undrafted players make the final cut? Aaron Ekblad (2014) would appear to be on the bubble, since Canada is so strong on defense. Connor McDavid (2015) has the game-breaking skill up front to make an impact, while Sam Reinhart (2014) can kill penalties, as well as play a headsy, skilled two-way game.
The best thing for Canada is that the team is nearly set already. Sutter and his brass clearly have a vision and now they have nearly a month to hone it.