Yesterday was an important day for all of us who love to track prospects and their development. The camp invite list for Canadian players at the World Juniors was announced today. These players represent the best talent Canada has to offer from its developmental leagues. As an Oiler fan, I am very pleased to see that we will be well represented at least at the camp. I have full faith in Roy and Hamilton that they will be able to make the final cuts and get a place on the WJC team. I will like to talk more about the selection camp roster, but before that lets look into the Chl update.
As usual, ZPG is Zero point games. Players in black are draft prospects for the upcoming draft. Players in copper are Oiler prospects. Players in red are 1st round draft picks from previous draft and those in blue were drafted in 2009. The stats are from the games played from 14th Nov to 28th Nov.
- The usual suspects all had a good 2 weeks. RNH took his ES point criticism to heart and decided to score only at EV. Sean Couturier was exceptional in this period and 8 points in 3 games is very impressive. Same can be said of Johnathan Huberdeau. Last time I said that Landeskog should be mentioned along with the top 3 and I saw today Red line report has replaced Adam Larsson with Landeskog on their ranking. As far as I am concerned, he is currently the number 2 prospect behind Couturier followed by Larsson and then RNH. RNH needs to improve his goalscoring in order to continually be perceived as a top 3 option in the eyes of scouts.
- Among the defensemen, Ryan Murphy continues to be a powerplay demon. If only he did better at EV, he really would be talked as a top 5 prospect. Doug Hamilton got some surprisingly good production at EV. I really believe that Hamilton will end up being selected before Murphy in the Nhl entry draft. Duncan Siemens too is quietly having a good season for himself.
- Two guys who continue to impress me are Alexander Khokhlachev and Brandon Saad. Windsor went through a massive overhaul and now that imports like Kuenhakl and Campbell are getting into groove, they are re-emerging as a force in the Ohl. However, through the entire season, Khokhlachev has been a consistent force for them. He also has one of the lowest zero point games among the players I have been following. Brandon Saad too was impressive during this stretch. One of the games, he scored three goals three different ways- EV, PP and SH. In fact during this stretch he has had 2 hat-tricks.
- Ok coming back to the WJC camp invitees. one of the most glaring omissions is Scott Glennie.As a top 10 draft pick, not being invited to such a camp in his final season of eligibility should serve as a wake up call. His lack of production has been compounded with concerns regarding his attitude. Another top 10 pick excluded is Dylan McIlrath, but I think that is more to do with him being injured than anything else. Then again, that did not stop Hockey Canada from inviting Brandon Gormley. Two other notable exclusions are line-mates Tyler Toffoli and Ryan Martindale. Though Martindale has been on fire, his work ethic and drive have always been questioned, Toffoli should be disheartened. His play has been exceptional and the LA kings have a helluva prospect there.
- Among the forwards who made the camp, I do not dispute any selection except perhaps Marcus Foligno. Then again he is there for establishing a physical presence and I don't have much to say to that. It is good to see Ryan Hopkins getting an invite. He has performed very well in previous International events and his invite is completely merited. However, I donot see him making the team. First of all Hockey Canada has a history of taking only one or two draft eligible prospects and that too if they are having an extra-ordinary season. Hopkins is someone who is going to end up fighting for a role on scoring lines and there are far more established players vying for those spots. He will be mis-casted on an energy or checking role. However, Sean Couturier can fit in anywhere and is a major factor in his favor. On a different but interesting note, past 3 #1 overall draft picks played on the Canadian team in their draft eligible year. Curtis Hamilton is a very good two way winger and should make the checking line for the WJC team along with Quinton Howden. The best part is that these two players lead their respective teams in scoring.
- I believe that one of the reasons we lost last year's WJC was the lack of mobility on the back end. Our defense got burned due to the sheer speed of the Americans. This time around, I see more smooth skating D-men being invited to the camp.Tyson Barrie, Ryan Murphy, Dylan Olsen among others. It will be interesting to see whether Ryan Murphy and Ryan Ellis make the team. I believe that the pairing of Erik Gudbranson and Jared Cowen might be our shut-down D-men. Some people believed that Gudbranson showed some offensive potential in his draft year. However, that hasn't happened yet and he may just round out as a good shutdown D-man. Cowen had a difficult tournament last year, but I think that has more to do with him coming off an injury. He has been healthy this season and doing well for himself. I think he should show us why he was a high selection in 2009 despite his career threatening injury.
- Moving onto Goalies, Calvin Pickard is the best of the bunch so far this season. Playing behind a mediocre Seattle team, he has been the chief reason for their success. He faces more shots and SOG/G than any goalie in the Whl and is just second in SV% - 0.930. Despite his history of poor play in international tournaments, he would be my goalie of choice as the starter. Oilivier Roy should get the back-up role (This is not influenced by me being an Oiler fan ;) ). JP Anderson and Mark Visentin have done well too and should provide a healthy competition for the other two goalies.
- I think that this time around we have a much better pool to choose from than last season and we should have a strong enough team to not only compete but win the Gold! Couple more things before I sign off- Kudos to LA Kings to release Brayden Schenn for this tournament. The management realizes that this is a player who is not ready for solid contribution at the Nhl level and have done everything they can to give him more experience. They sent him to the Ahl for conditioning stint and now are releasing him for the tournament. On the other hand our esteemed GM refuses to send a clearly struggling top prospect to the minors and has refused to release him for the tournament.