Tampa Bay Lightning prospect Jonathan Drouin and fellow forward Connor McDavid of the Ontario Hockey League’s Erie Otters headline Canada’s 25-man national junior team selection camp roster.
Hockey Canada on Monday announced that 15 forwards, eight defencemen and two goaltenders will compete at the MasterCard Centre in Toronto from Dec. 12-15 for 22 spots on Canada's world junior championship entry.
The final roster of 22 players for the 2014 world junior tournament in Malmo, Sweden must be finalized by Dec. 25.
The smaller roster compared to previous selection camps will allow Canadian head coach Brent Sutter to get down to business quicker. He guided the Canadian squad to world junior gold in 2005 and 2006.
'Last year [was] the first year in 15 years that we did not bring home a medal. ... We had to look at different ways to get better.' - Hockey Canada president and CEO Bob Nicholson
"Hockey Canada is looking forward to an extremely competitive camp in December, as we look to assemble a team that will make all Canadians proud," Scott Salmond, Hockey Canada's senior director of men's national teams and hockey operations, said in a statement.
Four players from last year’s squad that placed fourth in Ufa, Russia have been invited back: Goaltender Jake Paterson, defenceman Griffin Reinhart and forwards Charles Hudon and Drouin. Hudon missed last year’s tournament due to injury.
"We've been challenged," Hockey Canada president and CEO Bob Nicholson said at Monday's news conference in Toronto. "Last year [was] the first year in 15 years that we did not bring home a medal. … We had to look at different ways to get better. We wanted to make sure we had more eyes and more people watching the players throughout the season.
"I'd really like to thank our management group. [They've] done an outstanding job. The number of games [they've] watched is tremendous."
Dumba on loan
Blue-liner Matt Dumba was the only teenage National Hockey League player announced Monday as a camp invitee, on loan from the Minnesota Wild. The seventh pick in the 2012 draft, he has played in just 13 of the Wild's first 28 games.
Forwards Nathan MacKinnon (Colorado), Sean Monahan (Calgary) and Tom Wilson (Washington) along with defenceman Morgan Rielly (Toronto) are also eligible.
"This is a real pressure-filled situation, there's a lot of expectations on these young players," Salmond said on a conference call with reporters. "Any time I think a young player can get that kind of experience on that kind of stage, it's good for their personal development and then hopefully it translates into more success as they return back to the NHL and have that confidence and have that experience."
For now Rielly is staying in Toronto.
"He can play here and he can make a contribution and he's growing into an NHL hockey player," Toronto coach Randy Carlyle told reporters after Monday's practice. "If we felt we were being counterproductive in his growth or his development, then it would make that decision that much more difficult."
Nicholson said Hockey Canada is going to "loosen up" its policy on NHL players, saying there will be discussions with teams through December to determine if any of the aforementioned players would be added to the team as it's being assembled.
"Every NHL team is a little bit different in how they're set up and how they do things," Sutter said. "They look at their rosters, and how significant roles those players are playing on their teams right now. So it's all different. You can't put them all into one, because every organization is a little bit different in how they see their team right now."
The 2014 world junior tournament begins Dec. 26 and runs through Jan. 5.
Groulx, McGill on bench
Sutter, 51, most recently coached Canada at an international competition last spring at the world hockey championship.
Joining the former head coach of the NHL's Calgary Flames and New Jersey Devils on the bench is Benoit Groulx and Ryan McGill. Groulx is head coach and general manager of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League's Gatineau Olympiques and McGill is bench boss with the Western Hockey League's Kootenay Ice.
McDavid has a legitimate chance at the rare opportunity to make the team as a 16-year-old. In his second season with Erie, the gifted centre from Toronto has 11 goals and 45 points in 27 games this season, good for sixth in the OHL scoring race.
This past summer, Sutter said he had watched the five-foot-11, 170-pound forward on video and was excited to see how McDavid could compete against the world's top junior players.
Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby played for Canada at the world juniors in 2005 at age 17 and Ice forward Sam Reinhart, who has received an invitation to this year's camp, is expected to be drafted to the NHL early in the draft in June.
Drouin, 18, is second in QMJHL scoring this season with 47 points in 21 games, a similar pace to last season when the 2013 third overall draft pick posted 41 goals and 195 points in 49 contests with the Mooseheads.
Griffin Reinhart, 19, has 10 points and a plus-5 rating in 18 games this season, his fourth full campaign with Edmonton. The New York Islanders drafted the six-foot-four, 202-pounder fourth overall in 2012.
"We're not assembling an all-star team but a team for the world juniors," Bruce Hamilton, who's in his first year on Canada's management team, told reporters.
Canada's national junior team selection camp roster
* Returning player
+ Selected to 2013 team but didn't play due to injury
|Zachary Fucale||Rosemere, Que.||Halifax (QMJHL)|
|*Jake Paterson||Mississauga, Ont.||Saginaw (OHL)|
|Chris Bigras||Woodland Beach, Ont.||Owen Sound (OHL)|
|Matt Dumba||Calgary||Minnesota (NHL)|
|Aaron Ekblad||Belle River, Ont.||Barrie (OHL)|
|Josh Morrissey||Calgary||Prince Albert (WHL)|
|Adam Pelech||Toronto||Erie (OHL)|
|Derrick Pouliot||Weyburn, Sask.||Portland (WHL)|
|*Griffin Reinhart||West Vancouver, B.C.||Edmonton (WHL)|
|Damon Severson||Melville, Sask.||Kelowna (WHL)|
|Josh Anderson||Burlington, Ont.||London (OHL)|
|*Jonathan Drouin||Huberdeau, Que.||Halifax (QMJHL)|
|Frederik Gauthier||Mascouche, Que.||Rimouski (QMJHL)|
|Felix Girard||Levis, Que.||Baie-Comeau (QMJHL)|
|Bo Horvat||Rodney, Ont.||London (OHL)|
|*+Charles Hudon||Boisbriand, Que.||Chicoutimi (QMJHL)|
|Scott Laughton||Oakville, Ont.||Oshawa (OHL)|
|Curtis Lazar||Vernon, B.C.||Edmonton (WHL)|
|Taylor Leier||Saskatooon||Portland (WHL)|
|Anthony Mantha||Longueuil, Que.||Val-d'Or (QMJHL)|
|Connor McDavid||Newmarket, Ont.||Erie (OHL)|
|Nic Petan||Delta, B.C.||Portland (WHL)|
|Sam Reinhart||West Vancouver, B.C.||Kootenay (WHL)|
|Kerby Rychel||Tecumseh, Ont.||Windsor (OHL)|
|Hunter Shinkaruk||Calgary||Medicine Hat (WHL)|