A total of five WHL players highlight this year's entry for Team Canada into the World Junior Hockey Championship.
The roster breaks down as follows:
- To me, the biggest question mark about this tournament for Canada has to be the injuries to Quinton Howden and Jonathan Huberdeau. Howden is one of few returning players and Huberdeau is an elite offensive and clutch player. Canada needs these guys to be healthy. With so many young stars in the NHL right now that are still eligible for this club, it's pretty clear that this year's group isn't as offensively talented as it has been in the past. If Howden's suspected concussion and Huberdeau's ankle aren't fully ready to go, Canada is going to be in trouble.
- I once again see a weakness in the goaltending department for Canada. Tyler Bunz was the last goalie cut this season and it's believed a weak game against the CIS last night was his downfall. To me, that has the makings of a short-sighted decision. Bunz has been the top goalie out west and one of the top goalies in the entire CHL over the last year-plus, and I think he needed to be there. Visentin was a shoe-in, despite his tough end to last year's event. He deserved a second chance, but Wedgewood needs to show that this was the right decision, should Canada need to turn to him.
- Harrington on the blueline is the only real question I have. He was a big of a surprise to get named to the tryout camp, let alone getting named to the team.
- I like the ability to move the puck from this blueline, but I think the team is definitely missing some toughness and true shutdown ability back their. You can say that four of those guys are mostly offensive (Murray, Pysyk, Gormely, Bealieu) while a guy like Hamilton isn't afraid to focus solely on offense. I would have liked to see a guy like Petrovic there, just to add more mean.
- The lack of WHLers on the team is pretty shocking, especially considering that Don Hay is the head coach. Going off memory alone, the WHL led the way last year on this team by having the most guys named to the club. I would have expected the same this year.
- Not sure why Freddie Hamilton is there, other than his brother Dougie also making the team. A feel good story maybe? I would have rather seen a more pure offensive player like Toffoli, Rattie or Thomas in his place.
- I like the grit and character of the team as guys like Gallagher, Jenner, Smith-Pelly and Stone will provide a solid work ethic. But, is this team going to be relying too much on that aspect of their game?
- The two players I want to see the most on this stage are Boone Jenner and Oleksiak. Jenner seems to remind me of one of my favorite NHLers in Ryan O'Reilly, while Oleksiak is a freak of nature and just fun to watch.
- Two draft eligible players made the squad, Tanner Pearson and Ryan Murray. Murray's not a shock, as he almost could have made the team last year. But, Pearson deserves a ton of credit. He's having a big year in the OHL after going undrafted last year and he is getting his recognition. Expect him to be a top 60 pick this coming June.
When it's all said and done, it's pretty easy to sit back and point out some potential flaws on this team. It happens every year. But, what else happens every year? This team is a contender, that's what. The 2012 edition of Team Canada will be no different. There will be strengths and there will be weaknesses, but when it's all said and done, don't be shocked if Canada returns to their Gold medal form this year.