If the lockout continues past Christmas and into the New Year - and right now we don't see any reason to alter that belief - the Canadian junior team will try to make it three-for-three when NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has been engaged in a labour dispute.
Eric Daze and the Canadian team were victorious in Red Deer in 1994-95. Sidney Crosby, Patrice Bergeron and Co. enjoyed a repeat performance with lockout gold for Canada in 2004-05 in Grand Forks, N.D.
On Monday, Hockey Canada sent invites to 37 juniors (four goalies, 12 defencemen and 21 forwards) for next week's selection camp in Calgary. Because of Canada's depth at the junior-aged level, the who's in, who's out can be debated every year.
Instead, I offer these 10 observations.
1. There wasn't a single Canadian playing NCAA hockey invited. We're not saying that Michigan's Phil DiGiuseppe, Northeastern's Kevin Roy or Providence's Mark Jankowski warranted a spot. Hockey Canada's top scout Kevin Prendergast scours North America from coast-to-coast and should know. But he also leans on head coach Steve Spott, (Kitchener, OHL), assistants Mario Duhamel (Drummondville, QMJHL), Don Nachbaur (Spokane, WHL) and Andre Tourigny (Rouyn-Noranda, QMJHL) as well as a handful of junior team general managers from the three leagues to make his selections. DiGiuseppe and Roy played for Canada at the Canada-Russia Challenge in the summer, but they obviously did not show Prendergast enough.
2. The league-by-league breakdown for the invitees was: 18 from the OHL, 11 from the WHL, seven from the QMJHL and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins from the AHL's Oklahoma City Barons.
3. There are six returnees from the bronze-medal winning team from last year in Dougie Hamilton (Niagara, OHL), Scott Harrington (London, OHL), Jonathan Huberdeau (Saint John, QMJHL), Boone Jenner (Oshawa, OHL), Mark Scheifele (Barrie, OHL) and Ryan Strome (Niagara, OHL).
4. I see Hamilton, Harrington, Morgan Reilly (Moose Jaw, WHL), Xavier Ouellet (Blainville, QMJHL) and Ryan Murphy (Kitchener, OHL) as locks on the blue-line. Griffin Reinhart (Edmonton, WHL), Matt Dumba (Red Deer, WHL), Adam Pelech (Erie, OHL) and Derrick Pouliot (Portland, WHL) will make bids for the other two spots.
5. This team has some high-end, highly-skilled forwards. Locks up front include: Huberdeau, Jenner, Scheifele, Strome, Nugent-Hopkins, Brett Ritchie (Niagara, OHL), Jonathan Drouin (Halifax, QMJHL) and Nathan MacKinnon (Halifax, QMJHL). Drouin and MacKinnon are only 17-years-old. So will this team be willing to take a third youngster in talented 17-year-old Medicine Hat forward Hunter Shinkaruk? I hope so. That would leave four depth spots open for the remaining 13 forwards to fight over.
6. Three of the four goalies invited - Jordan Binnington (Owen Sound, OHL), Laurent Brossoit (Edmonton, WHL), Jake Paterson (Saginaw, OHL) and Malcolm Subban (Belleville, OHL) - will make the team. Paterson is 18. The others are 19. Maybe a younger goalie, like 17-year-old Zachary Fucale of the Halifax Mooseheads, could have been invited for the experience.
7. The Detroit Red Wings (Paterson, Oulette, Ryan Sproule), Boston Bruins (Subban, Hamilton, Anthony Camara) and New York Islanders (Pelech, Reinhart, Strome) led the way with three draft picks apiece earning invitations.
8. There were five 2013 NHL draft eligibles invited in Drouin, J.C. Lipon (Kamloops, WHL), MacKinnon, Sean Monahan (Ottawa, OHL) and Shinkaruk.
9. Spott and his coaching staff have 20 of the 29 players from the Canada-Russia Challenge on this invite list. There is little doubt this is a talented bunch. It's up to the coaches to find situations and line combinations these players can excel in.
10. In the two previous lockouts that were backdrops for the world under-20 championships, Canada won in 1995 with a perfect 7-0 record and outscored the opposition 49-22. In 2005, Canada went 6-0 and enjoyed a 41-7 advantage in goals scored to goals against. Can this team keep up Canada's lockout trend?
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