Calgary pick Brandon Hickey (Photo by Richard T Gagnon/Getty Images)
Major junior players dominate Team Canada and often there are no players from outside the CHL on the squad. But what if Canada only sent players from the NCAA and other junior ranks? We look at a potential roster.
Canada's world junior team has traditionally been dominated by major junior players - in fact, in many years, the entire roster comes from the CHL. But what if Canada didn't have major junior kids at its disposal? I thought it would be an interesting experiment to put together a roster comprised of eligible players from Jr. A, USHL, NAHL and NCAA teams. It wasn't easy, but here's my squad that would head to Finland (with current team and draft status included):
Tyson Jost (BCHL Penticton, 2016 draft prospect)
A.J. Greer (Boston University, Colorado)
Cam Morrison (USHL Youngstown, 2016)
Brett Seney (Merrimack College, New Jersey)
Cameron Hughes (U. of Wisconsin, Boston)
Marcus Vela (U. of New Hampshire, San Jose)
Jake Evans (Notre Dame, Montreal)
Rhett Gardner (U. of North Dakota, undrafted)
Nick Jones (BCHL Penticton, undrafted)
Logan O'Connor (U. of Denver, undrafted)
Brett Murray (CCHL Carleton Place, 2016)
Shane Bowers (USHL Waterloo, 2017)
Taden Rattie (Calgary Mustangs, 2016)
A pretty good mixture of size and skill here. Jost will be a high first-round draft pick this summer and the NCAA kids will have a bit more strength thanks to the great college weight room schedule. It does get thin at the bottom, which is why I went with some promising kids, including the young Shane Bowers. Think of my squad as a minnow country, where such experiments are necessary.
Brandon Hickey (Boston University, Calgary)
Jake Walman (Providence College, St. Louis)
Dante Fabbro (BCHL Penticton, 2016)
Miles Gendron (UConn, Ottawa)
Kelly Summers (Clarkson University, Ottawa)
Michael Prapavessis (RPI, Dallas)
Jake Massie (USHL Omaha, Chicago via trade from Carolina)
So obviously Walman is hurt, but my team also doesn't really exist, so deal with it. Gendron's also a dual citizen, but he hasn't played in an IIHF event so I'm claiming him. Overall, a pretty solid crew. They have terrific mobility, but admittedly they're not the snarliest bunch. They'll keep things moving, though.
Jack LaFontaine (NAHL Janesville, 2016)
Ben Blacker (USHL Cedar Rapids, undrafted)
I'm pretty happy to have these two guys. Could they steal us a game or two? No doubt. Could my squad pull an upset or two in a real tournament? Perhaps.
But what I really learned here is how hard it can be for countries that have smaller pools to draw from when they assemble world junior squads. I've even had coaches from Finland express that concern to me in the past and Finland wins medals!
Perhaps that's why we're seeing more nations put together national programs similar to USA Hockey's National Team Development Program. Slovakia has one, as does Belarus. Even the Russians have one now.
Also, it's amazing how the CHL rules in Canada. With Walman injured, only Hickey has a chance at the real Team Canada this year. Recruiting, especially in talent-rich Ontario, is a buzz-saw. And since players continue to defect from the NCAA track to major junior, that's probably not going to change anytime soon.