The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Let me introduce myself. My name is Jordyn Moussa and my dream is to work in sports management – particularly in hockey. For about seven years, I’ve lived, breathed, and talked hockey and the issues surrounding the sport. I have an academic background in Law and Legal Studies, but I don’t currently have an interest in continuing a future in law. Right now, I’m in the process of applying to do my Masters of Applied Health Sciences with a specialization in Sport Management. I maintain my own personal blog, which you can access through my personal twitter account, @jordynmoussa. I look forward to contributing to LeafsHub!


Last year, I spent my Christmas working with Hockey Canada and the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) in accreditation at World Juniors in Toronto. This year, I was fortunate enough to be invited to work with the Finnish Ice Hockey Association and the IIHF at World Juniors in Helsinki! I met so many great people within hockey last year, and look forward to meeting even more. I will be documenting my time in Helsinki, and talking about all of the great hockey I get to see at Canada’s favourite sporting event.

On December 1st, Hockey Canada released their selection camp roster for the event. Selection camp begins on December 10th and runs until December 13th, but there haven’t been any indications that a set roster will be named at the end of camp, as they have had in previous years. Last year, the final round of cuts occurred following the first exhibition game against the Russians, but since there will not be any exhibition games in Canada, it will be interesting to see whether Hockey Canada chooses to bring more players to Europe and make cuts in the weeks before Boxing Day.

Overall, there weren’t any major surprises as to who was, or wasn’t on the camp roster. Hockey Canada has opted to have a smaller camp, just as they have in recent years, and make as few cuts as possible. By my count, there will only be 8 cuts in total, four defencemen and four forwards. That could change if any NHL-eligible players are made available before the NHL roster freeze on December 19th. The only players that I can see being potentially made available to Hockey Canada are Robby Fabbri (St. Louis Blues), Jake Virtanen and Jared McCann (Vancouver Canucks). I would consider it to be unlikely that Fabbri, Virtanen and McCann are loaned, just based on their production levels and the roles they are currently playing on their respective NHL teams.

The invited players are as follows:

Goalies

Mackenzie Blackwood

Mason McDonald

Defence

Thomas Chabot

Jakob Chychrun

Travis Dermott

Vince Dunn

Haydn Fleury

Joe Hicketts

Brandon Hickey

Noah Juuslen

Roland McKeown

Travis Sanheim

Jake Walman

Forwards

Mathew Barzal

Anthony Beauvillier

Rourke Chartier

Lawson Crouse

Michael Dal Colle

Pierre-Luc Dubois

Julien Guathier

Jayce Hawryluk

Travis Konecny

Mitch Marner

Nick Merkley

Brendan Perlini

Brayden Point

John Quenneville

Mitchell Stephens

Dylan Strome

Spencer Watson

To see the full roster sheet, visit: Hockey Canada

The Toronto Maple Leafs could be represented by two Canadian players at this year’s World Juniors, as Marner and Dermott were invited to selection camp. Marner, in the eyes of many, is probably a lock to make the team based on his performance with the London Knights for the past few seasons, as well as in the Canada-Russia Challenge last month. His speed and elite scoring ability will likely see him rise to playing on the first line, if he isn’t already slated there by the end of camp. His unbelievable chemistry with Dylan Strome certainly doesn’t hurt. Dermott, however, will face a lot more competition when it comes to actually making the team. He’s one of nine left-handed defencemen invited to camp. He’s one of the OHL’s best defencemen right now and he played pretty well in the Canada-Russia series, but he’ll be competing against Joe Hicketts, who very well may be Canada’s captain in Helsinki. Two players that came close to making the 2015 team in Fleury and Sanheim, as well as two very strong Cawlidge Hawkey left defencemen, Hickey and Walman. I think there is a strong chance that Dermott could make the team, especially if he’s able to make the smooth transition to playing on the right side, assuming he’s asked to try it out.

In my opinion, Jake Walman was a great invite. In years past, Hockey Canada has allowed politics to get in the way of inviting deserving players to camp, especially if they’ve chosen to go the NCAA route. Walman’s case is especially different considering he holds dual citizenship between Canada and the United States. It was his belief that he would be eligible to play for the U.S. at the World Juniors because of his dual citizenship. In the summer, he chose to attend USA Hockey’s summer camp, rather than Hockey Canada’s because he thought he might have a stronger chance of making the American team than the Canadian team. The IIHF ruled last week that he would not be eligible to play for USA Hockey. Walman grew up, and played minor hockey in the GTA which, by IIHF standards, would make him a Canadian developed player. Previously, there would have been no way Hockey Canada would have invited him to camp because of the summer snub. It seems as though Ryan Jankowski, Scott Salmond and the rest of the POE management staff are on board with inviting the most deserving players to camp, and letting bygones be bygones. This article, by Stephen Whyno of the Canadian press, goes much more into depth on this story.

Three 2016 draft eligible players were invited, Dubois, Gauthier and Chychrun. Based on what I’ve seen/read this season alone, I would have to say that I think Pierre-Luc Dubois would be the only player with a very strong chance of making the team. I think that his size, scoring ability, and well-rounded game will be valued and earn him a similar role to that of Lawson Crouse last year. That being said, Gauthier made a strong impression at the summer evaluation camp, but, based on the players invited, I’m not sure where he fits in. The same could be said about Chychrun. He’s had a great season thus far, however, based on the calibre of talent invited, he could end up being the odd man out. It’s disappointing that age could play a major factor in the decision, but that’s a part of this event. It is typically a 19-year-old’s tournament, after all.

There weren’t any notable omissions from this roster. Some were surprised that Josh Ho-Sang was held off the roster for a second straight year, but I started to see the writing on the wall when he was dismissed from the Islanders camp in September for being late on the first day. It only became clearer when he wasn’t invited to play for the OHL at the Canada-Russia Challenge. Along with his lacklustre play in Niagara, his attitude has called his potential on the National Junior team into question.

It’s also slightly surprising that Hockey Canada opted to only invite two goaltenders again this year. It’s believed that the starter’s position is Blackwood’s to lose, and based on his strong performance so far with Barrie, I’d say it’s highly unlikely he gives it up. What’s kind of surprising to me is that they didn’t add more competition to the back-up position. McDonald hasn’t played overly well this season in Charlottetown, and he didn’t exactly impress at the Canada-Russia Challenge when he played for the QMJHL. Hockey Canada does like McDonald from his performances in years past with the Program of Excellence, but he isn’t playing at that level right now. I was expecting that they would invite a WHL goalie to try to add more competition to the backup position, perhaps by giving 2016 draft eligible goalie, Zach Sawchenko a chance to get some experience with the National Junior team. Two years ago, Ryan Jankowski said that they would rather reduce as much of the pressure put on their goalies as possible. The two-week event is so pressure-filled, why add more onto underage goalies?

With about four weeks left until the tournament starts, it’s going to be a very interesting time. So many decisions are yet to be made by Hockey Canada as to who will be representing Canada in Suomi in an event that entertains many hockey fans throughout the holiday season. I know that, between studying for finals, I’ll be refreshing my Twitter feed to keep up with the reports coming out of the selection camps for all teams playing in the tournament!

Were there any players you think deserved an invite to Canada’s selection camp but didn’t receive one?

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