by Brandon Sudeyko (@intheoradio)
Not only is it good hockey to watch, anything with an international touch is a bonus, but the CHL Super Series is also a ‘testing’ ground for World Junior hopefuls. The players who play in this series are said to be ‘considered’ for a spot in the December evaluation camp, before Team Canada makes their decision on who will wear the Red and White in Ufa, Russia.
This may be the ‘plan’ for Hockey Canada, but in all reality I believe that it is a mute point, and they already know who will be invited, well before the puck is ever dropped. This year is a bit different because it is during an NHL lockout, which sees some players return, where they may not have been back in the CHL if there was NHL action.
Because of said NHL lockout, this Super Series has no ‘drama’ when it comes to a potential invite for Team Canada. That statement alone may not have some merit, but lets take a look at some stats from the last 7 WJHC. And as a disclaimer, In The O… will only look at the OHL hopefuls as we cannot speak to players vying for a spot in the WHL or QMJHL as we cover only the OHL.
Every year there are 38 players selected for Team Canada Selection Camp. 4 goalies, 14 defenceman and 20 forwards…
Out of those 38 players, only X amount from the OHL are chosen, looking at 2012 going back to 2006, here are the number of OHLers invited to camp each year: 17, 12, 10, 10, 13, 14 and 9.
Of the number of OHLers selected to the December camp, from 2012-06 this many were selected to Team Canada: 10, 7, 8, 6, 10, 7 and 8.
That is an average of 12 players being selected to camp and an average of 65% of those OHLers who attend camp, making Team Canada. Using this measure, that would be 8 players being named to Team Canada this year out of the 12 invited to camp.
Given that 33 different players have participated in the Super Series as part of Team Ontario that gives lots of opportunity for players to make the team… not so fast. Here is where it gets tricky.
If the NHL Lockout continues like it appears it shall. There are 5 spots already taken for Team Canada out of the possible OHLers in the Super Series: Ryan Strome, Dougie Hamilton, Mark Scheifele, Scott Harrington and Boone Jenner.
All played as a member of Team Canada in last years WJC and can suit up again this year. Working with the fact that these 5 are favourites for the team, lets take a look at the potential remaining 3 spots, and 4 ‘cut’ spots that OHLers could earn.
Goaltenders. You always need solid goaltending, and this may be a bias, but I was a firm believer in Visentin and ‘Money’ Wedgewood as being the right call for last year’s squad. This year, I believe the same thing. An OHL duo is needed and that should be Jordan Binnington and Malcolm Subban. You have a perfect mix of goaltenders. One that is super athletic and able to be a game changer on any given night, and you have a solid rock who has already battled through 3 hard OHL seasons where he lead his team to the playoffs, and a Memorial Cup berth.
Looking at the potential on the blue line for Canada, and there is a lot there. An invite should be extended to Frank Corrado, a perfect mix of offence and defence. He is a role player, and can wear multiple hats in a game. shutdown, puck mover, set up, point man. Corrado has adapted and his confidence allows him to grow into an all around defenceman. Joining Corrado should be Stuart Percy. Percy has really developed into a powerful defenceman. Not just physically, but he has grown to the point where he could take that next step and play pro and stick with the Maple Leafs. From his skating, to his pure defensive ability, and his boomer shot, Percy will be a good pick to put on the blue line as a counter part to Dougie Hamilton. Just by choosing those two blue liners, that leaves out Slater Koekkoek who could play that ‘Dion Phaneuf’ role the last time there was an NHL Lockout. Cody Ceci who may be the 2nd best puck moving blueliner, right behind Dougie Hamilton. And even Ryan Murphy, who seems to be the proverbial brides maid, but never a bride any time Team Canada is involved.
Looking at the forwards there is even more debate. With Ryan Strome, Boone Jenner and Mark Scheifele taking up 3 forward spots, lets look at a few that could potentially join them. Lucas Lessio would have been a lock if not for his unfortunate injury. That opens up a potential spot for Tyler Graovac, Brett Ritchie, Brendan Gaunce or Tom Willson.
Graovac is a big bodied forward, who is finally getting an opportunity to show his worth. Arguably ‘stuck’ behind the likes of Toffoli, Martindale, Prince, Monahan, and Smith, Tyler has been able to put the puck in the net at will. 18 goals coming into the super series OHL finale, he has spent time being a 3rd line grinder / energy guy, and has shown the ability to drive to the net and get goals the dirty way.
Brett Ritchie is almost the same player as Graovac, a big strong power forward type player but has a much better set of hands and skates than Tyler. Brett Ritchie is finally healthy for a prolonged period of time and has been able to play to his strengths of board play, puck control and the overall ability to outpower and out work his opponent.
Tom Wilson is becoming everyone’s favourite now a days. He does have skill that he rarely gets to show, able to skate, puck control, good ice vision and able to make strong breakout passes, but he is known for literally running over players. It is the big hits that have people talking, and given the skill set he has with that, Wilson would seem to be a popular choice to make Team Canada.
Brendan Gaunce didn’t take part in Super Series game due to injury but he is a hard nosed centre who plays down low, can play physical, can play with skill and he is something that Canada could use, a great centreman. Gaunce is an all around forward where he doesn’t really excel in one area, but does them all very well. A great asset to have considering an injury could happen, or when you need to change up your game plan.
With those four players, that would leave Scott Laughton, Josh Leivo, Sean Monahan, Matt Puempel, Seth Griffith and Max Domi off the list... oh and Connor McDavid, but he was an outside chance anyways.
Tough team to crack, and this is just the OHL. Of course, the WHL could send more than they normally do to the selection camp, or even the QMJHL, the Q could send a dozen players and cap the OHL attendees. It isn’t that the other players are not deserving, it is just a numbers game where difficult cuts are needed.
Out side of the returning five OHLers, who would be the 7 other Team Canada attendees? Jordan Binnington and Malcolm Subban are a must for me. I will take Frank Corrado and Stuart Percy to the selection camp to make the Team Canada blueline. Finally, I will fill the remaining three spots with Brett Ritchie, Tyler Graovac and Tom Wilson for his energy.
Again, that leaves a lot of talent out… but that is what happens when you play in the best Major Junior league in Canada. The toughest competition around, developing the best players in the world.