That’s the sense around this country when we lose at the World Juniors. Especially when we lose for the 3rd year in a row, and this time don’t even make the gold medal game. I had 1 friend trying to make the argument right from the get go that this was the worst Team Canada since 1998 (the last time we failed to medal). It wasn’t. It was a team that got quite a few bad bounces in 1 game and came up 1 goal short….perhaps of winning gold.
Add to that, Devante Smith-Pelly got injured in the 1st game. I don’t think casual hockey fans have any clue how big of a lose that was. Without Smith-Pelly this team lacked a spark plug. A momentum shifter. An intimidater. This is why I was disappointed with a guy like Brad Ross being left off the team in favor of Tanner Pearson. Full credit to Pearson for forcing his way on to the roster, but I don’t believe for a 4th line role on a hockey team you give it to a guy that brings a subtle game.
Ross could have changed that Russian game, Pearson couldn’t. DSP could have changed that game as well, but when you only bring 1 guy like that you leave yourself open to losing that element. 9 other forwards play a similar game to Pearson.
Also, something that always is lost upon this country is that if we had our BEST under 20 players, we would win this tournament 9 of 10 years. Remember this: Canada has not lost 1 game in the 2 years they had all hands on deck (95 and 2005). 6 players that are eligible for Canada are in the NHL. Let’s just give us 3, and in fairness give the Swedes there guys (Larsson and Landeskog). Seguin, Nugent-Hopkins and Gudbranson.
If we had Seguin and Nugent-Hopkins to go with Scheifele down the middle we would have been SCARY offensively, as if we weren’t already! Gudbranson with Gormley on the top pairing would have flat out owned every teams top line. That means Kuznetsov and Yakupov wouldn’t have run our show the way they did.
We would have won with 3 of our 6 guys. I didn’t even give us Jeff Skinner, Ryan Johanson or Sean Couturier who would have made us unbeatable. And please don’t say “well we wouldn’t have had the goaltending”. The goaltending wasn’t phenomenal, but it wasn’t why we lost. Which goal should Wedgewood have stopped? There weren’t weak goals allowed, there were glorious scoring chances allowed.
Looking towards next year is tough because you don’t know which guys will end up in the show. Russia could be punished for having 2 elite prospects in Yakupov and Grigorenko. Both could be in the NHL. Yakupov will be for sure.
The Swedes could be the heavy favorites. They have a lot of guys that will return, and some high end guys that might be viewed as needing a little more seasoning. Filip Forsberg, Mika Zibanejad, Jonas Brodin, Oscar Klefbom, Victor Rask, Richard Rakell, Sebastian Collberg, and Jeremy Boyce-Rotevall could all return. Then add to it they have kids like Pontus Anberg who will be on the team next year (potential 1st round pick this year).
As for Canada…Huberdeau will very likely be in the NHL, and I believe Strome will be as well just cause the Islanders like to rush players. Scheifele I would say is 50/50. If you ask me the Jets should give him another year, but a lot can change from now until September. Boone Jenner should return, but he is a kid that I could see forcing his way on to the Blue Jackets. The big story I see coming up front is Nathan McKinnon being on the team. He COULD be the number 1 centre. Hunter Shinkaruk of the Medicine Hat Tigers is another potentially high 2013 draft pick that could challenge for a spot on what could be a weaker than normal forward group.
Scott Harrington will be back on defense and could be joined by Ryan Murphy, Cody Ceci, Matt Dumba, Morgan Reilly, Derrick Pouliot and Griffin Reinhart all will likely be on the team. I can’t see Dougie Hamilton being back, but if he is it would be an incredible addition. Same goes for Ryan Murray, he will be picked high and likely be playing right away for whoever drafts him. I really hope Dumba doesn’t get rushed, but out of these kids he has the potential to be in the NHL. Murphy would be but with Justin Faulk doing a nice job in Carolina that role is filled for the Canes so they can be/should be patient with him. 4 of those 7 are more than suited for the big ice they will be playing on. Needless to say, defense will be our strength. And if we do end up getting Hamilton and Murray back…wow!
For the first time since in my opinion 2008, we will have very solid goaltending. Unless someone steps up big, or he falls on his face in the next 11 months, Malcom Subban is the guy that I see being head and shoulders above everyone else for the job next year. We all know how much the Subban boys love the spotlight too. As for who will join him…at this point I have absolutely no cule it’s just way too early to tell.
But no matter what happens with the roster, know that we have the best under 20 kids. There is no need to jump off buildings and bridges if we don’t win this tourny. When we don’t win this tourny we usually have 4 or 5 kids in the NHL that could be on the team, many more than other countries. When we do win this tourny, it just shows how far ahead Canada is of everyone else…and we win the under 20’s a lot!