They’ll be good, but how good?

 

It is the most wonderful time of the year indeed!  I loved that ad from a few years back that TSN ran leading up to the world junior’s, because it’s correct!  Say what you want about how TSN has pumped up this tournament and how it really doesn’t mean as much internationally as they would have you believe.  All that is true, but it doesn’t mean that it’s not a phenomenal tourny and has become a great tradition in this country.  TSN is doing their preview for the tournament tonight and in the ad they’re saying “what could be one of Canada’s greatest world junior teams ever assembled”.  It could be, but how does it match up with the top 2?

Let’s get one thing straight first.  05 was better than 95.  In 95 they struggled a bit, against the Czech Republic in particular.  In 05 they didn’t struggle at all.  Sure, you would want Jamie Storr over Jeff Glass.  But the 05 team didn’t let opponents get to Jeff Glass so nobody could expose that weakness.

Anyway, this team isn’t going to be either of those teams.  The big difference I see off the top is that both teams had a great draft to take guys from.  The 93 draft wasn’t as good as the 03 draft, but it probably was the best draft of the 90’s.  The 05 team had most of the 03 guys.  Neither 2011 or 2012 will go down as a draft that was anywhere near as good as those ones.  Ironically the class that has a chance to be like 93 and 03 will be this year’s draft (freaky how it’s every 10 years).  It will speak to how good this year’s draft will be that 2 or 3 kids could make the team in a year where they have all hands on deck.

Or maybe it’s telling of how average those last 2 draft’s have been.  I will say this: if Ryan Nugent-Hopkins goes he is a better get than anyone else was on the 95 or 05 teams.  05 would have had Crosby regardless.  We all know how much of a bust Daigle was and while he was good in 95, he wasn’t a dominant player.  There really is no reason Nugent-Hopkins shouldn’t be great in this tourny.  He will be seeing the other teams top defenders and shut down centre’s, but RNH does the majority of his damage on the PP.  Tough to defend on the PP, especially when if a team were to focus on him they would then be allowing guys like Huberdeau and Dougie Hamilton to do a ton of damage.

They’re about the same as 95 was on the blueline, but not like 05.  Weber and Phaneuf was the best combo team Canada has ever had at the tourny.  Hamilton is a stud and there is no chance he would be on this team if the NHL wasn’t locked out right now.  And I love Morgan Rielly, but they aren’t Weber and Phaneuf.  That combo was just ridiculous and could do it all.  Hamilton and Rielly should they be paired together will be better offensively as a combo, but nowhere near what they were defensively.  They were scary and say what you want about Dion Phaneuf, in that tournament it may have been the best a defenseman has ever played for Canada.

The biggest thing people will look at is how many guys Canada is gaining if the lockout not been on.  I believe they are gaining 5 guys.  RNH, Huberdeau, Ryan Strome, Hamilton, and Morgan Rielly.  That is actually better than 95 where I can really only argue that Daigle, Jeff Friesen, Todd Harvey and Jason Allison wouldn’t have been on that team.  05 in my opinion gained Phaneuf, Jeff Carter, Mike Richards, Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, and of course Patrice Bergeron who was the 1 player that was already in the NHL.  People forget that team was actually still robbed of one guy.  The Panthers wouldn’t release Nathan Horton to be on the 05, he was greatly missed….

So with all this being said, here is what I will guess that Steve Spott and the rest of the Hockey Canada brass will go with.

Jonathan Huberdeau – Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Mark Scheifele

Ty Rattie – Nathan MacKinnon – Jonathan Drouin

Charles Hudon – Ryan Strome – Hunter Shinkaruk

Phillip Danault – Boone Jenner – Brett Ritchie

Mark McNeill

That first line is dominant but I could see Rattie and Huberdeau switching spots.  The reason for that is Huberdeau, MacKinnon and Drouin played together on the QMJHL Subway Super Series team.  Rattie in that spot with RNH still gives that line an elite sniper.  I believe they will have to go with 3 scoring lines having this much talent, but Shinkaruk is definitely a risky guess in this spot, especially over a kid like Sean Monahan.  But while Monahan has more potential in the NHL, Shinkaruk is more of a natural winger, has more speed and is just simply a better fit for this teams needs.  The 4th line would be a flat out bitch to play against!  McNeill is the 13th forward because he is 19 and versatile, it’s that simple.  I was huge on Mark McNeill once upon a time, but he has really flat lined.  Again, Monahan is a serious candidate for this spot.  Just as much versatility as McNeill and is an OHL kid who Spott would be more familiar with.  But he is 18 and while that doesn’t seem like a big deal, it is to Hockey Canada.  Watch for a kid like Colton Sissons to possibly steal a spot like that.  A lot of people that watch Sissons love him.

Morgan Rielly – Dougie Hamilton

Scott Harrington – Ryan Murphy

Griffin Reinhart – Xavier Ouellet

Derrick Pouliot

This blueline is REALLY mobile! Rielly and Hamilton is the number 1 pairing that I have, also Bob MacKenzie has it that way, however I wouldn’t be surprised to see Scott Harrington paired with Hamilton on the number 1 pairing because of experience, defensive ability and the lefty/righty factor (Harrington shoots left, Rielly shoots right). I have Murphy on the 2nd pairing but I could easily make the argument for Derrick Pouliot going into that spot and Murphy as the 7th d-man.  As of right now I don’t believe Murphy should be on this team, but he will be mainly due to Spott being the head coach (his coach in Kitchener).  Mathew Dumba brings more to the table and this blueline isn’t very physical which Dumba brings in waves.  But Pouliot is playing too good to leave off the team, Reinhart plays a safter game than Dumba, and Murphy has the coach in his corner so Dumba is the odd man out unfortunately (anyone who read my mock drafts or knows me knows how big of a Matt Dumba fan I am, though I admit he hasn’t had a good season).  5 of the 7 kids could QB this PP.  The 1st unit I would guess will be Rielly and Hamilton even if they aren’t paired together 5 on 5, with Xavier Ouellet as the QB on the 2nd unit.

Malcom Subban

Jordan Binnington

Laurent Brossoit

Subban to me is the lock to be the starting goaltender on this team.  I believe he will thrive in the spotlight, and I believe he is our best goaltender since Steve Mason stole the job from Jonathan Bernier in 2008.  I gave Binnington the backup gig over Brossoit based on 2 things.  1) Brossoit was terrible at the summer camp so he has a big hill to climb.  2) It is an OHL coach and I would guess Spott will feel more comfortable with a kid he knows on the bench should something go wrong rather than a kid he doesn’t know as well.

Finally I believe that they will give the captaincy to Dougie Hamilton.  Lots of good candidates with 6 returnees and RNH being in the NHL already, but at the end of the day Hamilton stands out as their horse on the blueline and has that very high IQ.  He will be a calming influence on this team and that is very important for a leader to have at this age.

This team will have some challengers, however it is a shame that the Swedes will not have Jonas Brodin, Oscar Klefbom or Mika Zibanejad last year’s OT hero in the gold medal game.  Brodin and Klefbom are hurt, and the Sens are not releasing Zibanejad to the team.  Had all 3 kids been on team Sweden they would right there with Canada as gold medal favorites.  They’ll still be good, as will Russia and the Americans, but not as serious of threats to Canada as they would have been.

It is a great team, but don’t confuse it with 2005.  It MIGHT be as good as the 95 team, but only time will tell.

 

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