There are some bad omens for Canada’s junior program right now

World junior heartbreak  (Photo credit should read Markku Ulander/AFP/Getty Images)

On Wednesday, Canada was eliminated from medal contention at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournament in Slovakia. Russia and Sweden will move on from the pool, and hey; those are both great national programs. But Canada has won the under-18 event (which also has games in the Czech Republic) 18 of the past 20 years. Yes, only twice have they lost the gold medal game in that span.

Now, call it a one-off if you will, but ignore the trends at your own peril: Canada’s junior dominance continues to slide.

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Kristian Vesalainen is Finland’s power forward threat for the 2017 draft

Kristian Vesalainen  (Photo by Tommy Holl/Frolunda Gothenburg/Champions Hockey League via Getty Images)

It’s impossible to watch Kristian Vesalainen right now and not get excited about where he’ll be once the world juniors roll around almost five months from now. Already 6-foot-3 and 203 pounds, Vesalainen has a gold medal under his belt from Finland’s world under-18s victory in North Dakota this past season and has already played against men in the SHL.

Yes, one of Finland’s best prospects is playing in Sweden.

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The top 40 players at the National Junior Evaluation Camp

Joel Eriksson-Ek (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)

There was a lot of international talent in Plymouth, Michigan last week. Team USA hosted its summer National Junior Evaluation Camp (NJEC) in the town, with the dual purpose of seeing what the Americans have for the upcoming world juniors and facing great competition from Canada, Sweden and Finland.

In the end, Canada lost all three of its games, while the other nations went 2-1. Is that a concern for the Canucks, who host the world juniors in Toronto and Montreal this winter? Not so much. As coach Dominique Ducharme pointed out, it was August. There’s still a lot of hockey to be played and his charges hadn’t seen meaningful competition in months.

On the other hand, what do you say about players who had great performances in Michigan? Surely that says something about those teens’ preparation.

Here’s a look at the top 40 players that I saw in Michigan – with a caveat. I saw each team play twice and in the case of Canada and the U.S., sometimes I saw a player once or not at all. So I’m not going to rank those kids, as it wouldn’t be fair. That means players such as Pierre-Luc Dubois, Travis Konecny and Anthony Beauvillier aren’t eligible.

Others, such as Carl Grundstrom and Lucas Carlsson, got injured either before I got there or within the first few shifts.

So if you don’t see your favorite prospect here, that could be the reason. Or, they just didn’t distinguish themselves to me. Doesn’t mean they’re a bust, doesn’t mean I hate them. With that out of the way, let’s get to the list:

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Boston Bruins prospect Charlie McAvoy levels Florida Panthers pick Lawson Crouse in summer Canada-US game

Wilmington, MA - 7/12/2016  -  during Bruins development camp at Ristuccia Arena in Wilmington, MA, July 12, 2016. (Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff)
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When Canada and the United States face off it’s for keeps. That evidently goes for games in August, too.

Exhibit A: the hit American defenseman Charlie McAvoy levied on Canadian left winger Lawson Crouse during Saturday’s 5-1 U.S. win in the finale of the World Junior summer showcase tournament in Plymouth, Mich.

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World junior camp: Canada must rely on stars

Mitch Marner (photo courtesy Markku Ulander/AFP/Getty Images)

PLYMOUTH, MICH. – It was a desultory loss for Canada, dropping their second-last contest of the summer world junior camp tournament 5-1 to Sweden. And to be fair, only some of Canada’s best players were in the game. Dylan Strome, Mitch Marner and Tyson Jost made up the marquee top line, but big performers such as Lawson Crouse, Pierre-Luc Dubois and Travis Konecny sat out.

But if Canada is going to win the real thing this winter, it’s players such as Strome and Marner who must lead the way.

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Are Brad Richards and Vincent Lecavalier Hall of Famers?

Vincent Lecavalier (left), Brad Richards and Martin St-Louis (Photo By Dave Sandford/Getty Images)

From their days together as roommates at boarding school in Saskatchewan to winning a Memorial Cup together in Rimouski to a Stanley Cup in Tampa and signing contracts later in their careers that didn’t quite work out as well as everyone had hoped, Brad Richards and Vincent Lecavalier have had almost parallel tracks when it comes to their hockey careers.

So it is only fitting that they would retire from the NHL in the same year and maybe, just maybe, enter the Hall of Fame together in the fall of 2019. The call on both players will be a vexing decision for the Hall of Fame selection committee. To be sure, there are players who are inferior to both Richards and Lecavalier and accomplished less in the NHL than they did who are in, but induction into the Hall seems to be something of a moving target that is unpredictable.

Richards and Lecavalier had very good NHL careers. But were they truly great, Hall of Fame careers? It’s debatable, which makes things really interesting. Let’s take a look at both players:

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Who should host the historic 100th Memorial Cup?

Ryan Kennedy
The Edmonton Oil Kings, led by Griffin Reinhart (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

The CHL just announced the bidding guidelines for the 100th Memorial Cup, which is to take place in 2018. While hosting duties are usually given out on a rotating basis to a team from the OHL, WHL or QMJHL, the centennial showdown is open to cities from all three circuits – so while technically it should be the Quebec League’s turn, it may not turn out that way.

The three leagues will conduct their own bid processes and then submit up to two potential hosts by Nov. 16, 2016. A National Site Selection Committee will hear the bids no later than Jan. 31, 2017 and make a final decision by the first week of February.

So which cities could we see in the running? Let’s break it down.

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