By Tom Hunter (@)
It is the first week of August and that means only one thing is on the mind of Canadians – the World Juniors. Ok, maybe not. While most of the hockey world is enjoying their summer vacation – if you don’t believe me, check out Bob McKenzie’s Twitter feed – Canada’s best junior hockey players have assembled to begin the process of selecting the roster for the 2016-17 IIHF World U-20 Hockey Championship. The roster is headlined by a number of familiar names – Dylan Strome, Lawson Crouse, Mitch Marner and Mathew Barzal are all in attendance despite the strong likelihood that each could end up being unavailable come December. Many fans of the Coyotes, Panthers, Leafs and Islanders are assuming these four will be playing in the NHL this season, but the simple fact that they are at this camp points to their organizations being less certain.
After two quick days of camp in Toronto, the group will be heading down to Plymouth, Mi. to take part in the World Junior Summer Showcase starting tomorrow. For those who need their hockey fill in early August, TSN (and the NHL Network in the US) will be airing the games live from Plymouth this week:
While the camp has a lot of big-name returning forwards, we’re likely to see a lot of the new faces in these games as Thomas Chabot is the only non-forward at camp that was on the team last year. It will give Hockey Canada their first chance to see how many of these players fit in together and get started on forming the team that will hope to win gold at home this coming January.
With that said let’s take a look at every player that has been invited to the summer evaluation camp starting with the goalies and defensemen.
Evan Cormier – Saginaw (OHL) – 2016 4th round – New Jersey Devils
Cormier is coming off of his first season and an OHL starter where he had less than impressive numbers. Cormier has not had a sv% above .900 dating all the way back to his minor midget season. So how does a goalie who that couldn’t produce more than a .890 sv% in the OJHL get selected in the 4th round of the NHL draft? Cormier has the prototypical size and style that NHL development groups like to try to mold.
Cormier does have a history with Hockey Canada, and that often goes a long way to getting invited to these development camps. He was a part of 2014 U18 team where he had a .900 sv% in the three games he played, splitting time with Zach Sawchenko.
Cormier will likely need to have a very strong start to his season in order to have any chance of making the team. I would not be surprised if come December, Cormier is left off the tryout camp roster in favour of another OHL goalie like Dylan Wells.
Carter Hart – Everett (WHL) – 2016 2nd round – Philadelphia Flyers
It’s hard to see a scenario – barring injury – where Carter Hart isn’t the starting goalie for Team Canada as they begin the tournament in December. Hart was the best goalie prospect available in this June’s draft and at only 17, he was named the CHL’s best goalie last season.
Hart played an absurd 63 regular season games with Everett last season, finishing with a .918 sv%. He then went on to play even better in Everett’s first round loss during the WHL playoffs.
Hart is a smart goalie that tracks the puck incredibly well and is rarely caught out of position. In the past, some goalies have had trouble adapting not only to the high-end competition but also the elite teammates that come along with the World Juniors. Hart plays with a very strong defensive team in Everett so playing behind an elite blueline group with Team Canada shouldn’t mean much of a transition.
Connor Ingram – Kamloops (WHL) – 2016 3rd round – Tampa Bay Lightning
If Carter Hart wasn’t the best goalie in the CHL last season, Connor Ingram was. The Kamloops Blazer goaltender went from being undrafted to leading the WHL in Sv% among full-time starters.
Ingram isn’t the most technically sound of the goalies at camp, but he just finds a way to stop the puck. He’s a little more than 6′ tall and while he doesn’t have the size scouts like to see from today’s goalies, he makes up for it with strong reactionary play. At times, Ingram relies on reflexes and athleticism more than technique.
He doesn’t have a history playing in the national system but at almost a year and a half older than Hart, I could see Ingram getting significant playing time since Hockey Canada has a tendency to relying on the more veteran goalie.
Zach Sawchenko – Moose Jaw (WHL) – 2016 undrafted
When Zach Sawchenko went undrafted this season, it was a shock to many. InGoal magazine had Sawchenko as a top-5 goaltender in his draft class, so to go undrafted was likely a surprise and great disappointment for the youngster.
Like Ingram last year, Sawchenko could use the snub to fuel a great season and if he has a strong first few months, he’ll have a strong chance of making this team.
Another smaller goaltender, Sawchenko has worked on a style that limits his movement in the net in order to maximize the size he does have.
He might remind you a little of last year’s World Junior standout Alex Nedeljkovic. He’s likely a distant third on the depth chart behind Hart and Ingram to make the team this year but this year’s camp is the start of what could be a very big season for Sawchenko.
Jake Bean – Calgary (WHL) – 2016 1st round – Carolina Hurricanes
With 24 goals last season, Jake Bean led all defenders in the WHL. A left-handed shot, Bean has a natural ability in the offensive zone to be fourth forward in the opposing team’s zone. He is a smart player that is able ton contribute to his team’s scoring chances while not getting caught out of position defensively.
He’s a strong skater and high-end puck carrier that makes very smart decisions with the puck. A two-way defender that makes his shiftmates batter. Having not played with Team Canada since the U17s a few years ago, Bean is likely a strong contender to be a go-to guy in the top- this winter.
Guillaume Brisebois – Charlottetown (QMJHL) – 2015 3rd round – Vancouver Canucks
As one of the older defensemen at the camp, Brisebois could very well be looked upon as a veteran leader when the tournament rolls around in December. The former Acadie-Bathurst captain is far from a lock to make the team, but with 19-year-olds often favoured heavily, he’s got a legitimate chance.
Brisebois is a solid two-way defender that plays a very simple game. He won’t wow you with any single aspect of his game but he’s a smart player that skates well and shows very few glaring weaknesses.
He plays with a passion that might not actually contribute anything tangible to the outcome of the game, but it’s an attitude that coaches often gravitate towards when looking for leaders.
Thomas Chabot – Saint John (QMJHL) – 2015 1st round – Ottawa Senators
Chabot is the closest thing to a lock on the blueline as you’ll see at this camp. The 19-year old played a significant role on last year’s team and will be looked upon as a stabilizing presence for Canada.
Chabot produced a point per game last season but was also able to play a shutdown role when necessary. He is big, strong and skates the way you want a top pairing defender to.
The Saint John defender plays an all-around game that will be needed on this team and could very likely find himself playing huge minutes for Team Canada in important games.
Jakob Chychrun – Sarnia (OHL) – 2016 1st round – Arizona Coyotes
After being cut during last year’s camp in December, Chychrun will look to step into this year’s team and play a big role.
The Arizona draft pick is the kind of defender that can be relied upon to do everything and play in every situation at the junior level. Scouts began to pick apart his game last season, but a lot of that was due to overexposure. He played every single big shift in Sarnia and was asked to do way more than a 17-year old should.
He’s got a big shot from the point and could end up being the trigger man playing alongside a great passing powerplay quarterback.
Chychrun is strong and his physicality would likely be used as a shutdown role against the top scoring lines of the opposition. Expect Chychrun to be in top-4 for Team Canada.
Dante Fabbro – Boston University (NCAA) – 2016 1st round – Nashville Predators
Fabbro is a player that proved this past spring that he can be impactful for Team Canada at the international level. Fabbro was dominant during a U-18 performance that undoubtedly led to an improvement in his draft stock.
Fabbro is a very solid two-way defender that has the skating and puck moving ability to be a strong weapon in IIHF play. He does his best work when the puck in on his stick and is a player that always seems to make the smart play.
After dominating the BCHL last season, Fabbro will be heading to Boston University after camp. While Hockey Canada often favours CHL players, Fabbro is talented enough that he likely has the inside track towards landing a spot on the right side of Canada’s blueline.
Cal Foote – Kelowna (WHL) – 2017 draft eligible
Cal Foote, the son of Adam is a very young defender with huge potential. As talented as he is, Foote won’t be 18 until December and is a major long shot to make the roster.
He’s 6’3, almost 200lbs and probably more talented than his father ever was. Eligible for the draft next summer, Foote has a very good chance of being a top-10 selection.
Born in the US but a duel citizen, Foote has chosen to represent Canada at the international level and his invitation to this camp is a commitment from Hockey Canada. He likely won’t get a chance this year but expect to see Foote in the lineup for Team Canada in future World Junior tournaments.
Samuel Girard – Shawinigan (QMJHL) – 2016 2nd round – Nashville Predators
An undersized offensive defenseman, Girard’s fate will likely depend on how the coaching staff envisions the team’s style to be. If the tournament were being held in Europe and Team Canada had to worry about the bigger ice surface, Girard might have a better chance of making the team.
He is an incredible skater that looks to contribute to his team’s offense at any opportunity. Unfortunately, his style of play doesn’t necessarily mesh with the way Canada usually puts together their teams.
Girard is talented enough to make then team but he will have to outplay the older Mitch Vande Sompel who might have the inside track if the coaches decide to take a smaller offense-first defender.
Connor Hobbs – Regina (WHL) – 2015 5th round – Washington Capitals
Hobbs is the oldest player at the camp and has and is likely in attendance to provide a more defensive minded right-hander. With so many offensively talented defensemen trying out for the team, Hobbs brings more of a stay-at-home presence.
Hobbs is a good defender but relies on a physical game that doesn’t always translate well to international play. He’s a late bloomer and could surprise if he takes a huge jump in the first half of this season the way he did last year.
Being one of the less talented defenders at the camp, Hobbs is likely fighting an uphill battle. It’s hard to see him making the team.
Noah Juulsen – Everett (WHL) – 2015 1st round – Montreal Canadiens
Many thought Juulsen was a strong candidate to make then team last year. He ended up being one of the final cuts and ended up having a bit of an underwhelming second half of the season in Everett.
Juulsen plays a style that is simple yet effective. He’s a good skater – but not flashy, he’s a decent puck carrier – but won’t weave through the opposition, and he plays a physical game without making the highlight reel with a bone-shaking hit.
Juulsen is the kind of player that a coach can throw out there and not have to worry about something stupid happening.
The all-around defender is a very good bet to be playing on the right side of Team Canada’s bottom pair come December.
Jeremy Lauzon – Rouyn-Noranda (QMJHL)- 2015 2nd round – Boston Burins
Another 19-year old, Lauzon is a player that has no history with Hockey Canada so his invitation to the summer’s camp may have been a bit of a surprise.
The first adjective that is often thrown out when describing Lauzon’s game is ‘gritty’ and that not always a good thing when you’re talking about defenders competing for a roster spot against guys like Jake Bean and Dante Fabbro.
Lauzon is a bit of a risk taker, he doesn’t always make the smartest decision without the puck and it sometimes costs him. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a solid defender and one of the QMJHL’s best, it’s just hard to see him making the team with all the talent that is surrounding him.
Philippe Myers – Rouyn-Noranda (QMJHL) – Free Agent – Philadelphia Flyers
At 6’5, 210 lbs, Myers’ strongest assets are his size and reach. He’s a big kid but could stand to put on some strength to fully maximize his height advantage.
After a very poor 2014-15 season that left him undrafted, Myers surprised many this year with his play for the CHLs top-ranked Rouyn-Noranda Huskies. He showed an ability to contribute offensively that wasn’t there a season earlier and he played well enough to earn himself an entry level contract from Philadelphia.
As a result of an injury, Myers won’t be participating in any on-ice activities during the summer evaluation camp. He’s likely a long shot to make the team, but we probably shouldn’t be counting a right-handed shooting 19-year old.
Jeremy Roy – Sherbrooke (QMJHL) – 2015 2nd round – San Jose Sharks
While he is not a returning player, Roy should likely be put in the same category as Thomas Chabot when it comes to near locks to make the final roster.
Roy is tremendously talented in all three zones and could very well end up being the team’s top defender when all is said and done. He has the poise and talent to play any role asked of him.
He exhibits a maturity on and off the ice that coach Lowry will love and it wouldn’t surprise me if he ends up with a letter on his chest.
Matthew Spencer – Peterborough (OHL) – 2015 2nd round – Tampa Bay Lightning
Spencer is a player that coaches love to rely on. He plays an excessive amount of minutes in Peterborough and does so without too much fault in his game. He is a very smart player and moves around the ice very efficiently – allowing him to play the kind of obscene ice time he has on some nights.
He’s not as talented offensively as most of the other defenders at camp but he’s no slouch when it comes to the puck and contributing to the possession side of the game.
Playing in all situations with the Petes, Spencer has a skill set that would allow him to fit into any role Team Canada’s coaches ask of him. As a do-it-all right-hander, we should assume that he will be in direct competition with Noah Juulsen for a spot on the roster.
Mitchell Vande Sompel – Oshawa (OHL) – 2015 3rd round – New York Islanders
Having been cut the previous two years and entering his final season in the OHL, Vande Sompel has one last chance to make Team Canada.
The left-handed shooting Vandel Sompel has transformed from an offense-only rover style player on the 2015 Memorial Cup champion Oshawa Generals to a much more well-rounded defenseman. He clearly spent last season in Oshawa with an edict from the Islanders to turn himself into a player that was much more responsible defensively.
His offensive numbers fell drastically but his overall performance this past season was far from a disappointment. He is small but makes up for it with his skating ability. He uses his speed and acceleration to catch opponents off guard both with and without the puck.
It may be tough for Vande Sompel to make the team, but like with many of the others, it will come down to whether or not the coaching staff feels they should err on the side of a 19-year-old vs a comparable player that is a year younger.
It’s far too early and there is a lot of hockey to be played between now and when the group re-assembles in December – but if I were picking Team Canada today, my blue line would look like this:
|Thomas Chabot||Jeremy Roy|
|Jakob Chychrun||Dante Fabbro|
|Jake Bean||Matthew Spencer|