Yeah, okay, sure, there’s 6 days until Christmas. Whoop-dee-doo! Who cares? What hockey fans are truly looking forward to is the Boxing Day holiday that marks the start of the 2019 World Junior Championships. With Canada’s gold medal win last year (which I will personally never get over), this year’s team is looking to experience the same outcome. The only problem is that things may not go as smoothly as last year.
Since the last WJC, team Canada has undergone major changes within the roster, with not all of them being anticipated or controlled. So far this year we’ve lost many good players for different reasons; Some being out of the age range from last year, some due to injuries, and some just because they didn’t make the cut. This piece is basically going over what we’ve lost and how it could possibly affect the outcome of this year’s tournament for team Canada.
The age restrictions concerning the tournament have always been a bittersweet thing. This is the major international showcase for up and coming NHL players, with most of the players currently playing for NCAA or CHL teams. It gives the younger guys some room to show off and demonstrate their skills on an international level, getting fans excited for what’s to come with these players when they finally make it to the big league. The hard part is losing key players that have helped the team in the past get to where they wanted to be.
This year, our biggest loss would probably be in the goalie department. Carter Hart, who recently debuted for the Philadelphia Flyers, lead the team to the victories we accomplished during last year’s tournament, including getting a shutout against Denmark in the preliminary round and, of course, supporting the team tremendously in their gold medal win against Sweden. Since he and his backup, Colton Point, have aged out, Canada has been left with 3 goalies who were asked to attend team Canada’s camp.
Michael DiPietro (VAN) and Ian Scott (TOR) have been officially named to this year’s team Canada, and not to say that they aren’t good goalies, they’re great! But to compare them to the skill and stature of Hart would be over exaggerating. Now that DiPietro is on the Ottawa 67’s, I hold a soft spot in my heart for him and I do truly wish him the absolute best to get Canada gold once again. It’ll be interesting to see how the goalie tandem hold up through this year’s tourney and how Tim Hunter will split the responsibilities amongst the two.
When referring to the losses Canada has suffered from the injuries of players, I really had just a few specific players in mind. These players include Formenton (OTT), Anderson-Dolan (LAK), and Vilardi (LAK). Alex Formenton has already been officially ruled as out for this year’s tournament and it truly is a big loss on team Canada. He was a very important player on last year’s gold medal team, and his stint with the Ottawa Senators in the NHL earlier this season prove that he still has it in him to make a big difference on the ice. He sustained his leg injury in one of the pre-tournament games and his recovery is expected to last longer than the time frame of the tournament. His playmaking and goal scoring will definitely be missed on this year’s team, but I hope his recovery goes well so he can continue being a strong Sens prospect.
Jaret Anderson-Dolan and Gabe Vilardi both attained injuries while playing with their respective teams in the CHL and AHL, but have now been spotted on the practice ice with team Canada. The only issue is that neither have been cleared for contact and their presence within the actual tournament is still questionable. They would be great assets to the team, both being skilled Kings prospects that have shown their worth within the games that they did end up playing. Anderson-Dolan spent a while in the NHL earlier this season and the skills he showed there would definitely help to bring Canada’s team to the next level. Here’s to hoping that they are healthy to play by the start of the tournament and that no other injuries are announced for team Canada.
Of course with 34 players being invited to camp, there had to be some cuts to finalize the team. Some of the early cuts that surprised me were Pierre-Olivier Joseph (ARI) and Isaac Ratcliffe (PHL). Joseph is a defenseman, meaning that roster spots are even more limited and competitive, but his stats so far this season have proven himself to be a hardworking player. Earning 25 points in 27 games for the Charlottetown Islanders in the Q, he shows reliability that would be a welcoming presence on Canada’s WJC team.
Ratcliffe has also been a dependable player for his minor team, earning 34 points in 29 games with the Guelph Storm in the OHL. His ability to gain points and create scoring chances would have benefited the team greatly, especially as he would be playing with many other exceptional talents. I’ll be completely honest though, I didn’t watch any of Canada’s pre-tournament games due to other personal responsibilities, so I really haven’t seen their performances. Their cuts may have been warranted and supported by their showing in these past few games, but their skills definitely aren’t something to overlook or undermine in any way. I would’ve expected their time at camp to be longer than it was, but the coaching staff must have thought otherwise.
Canada has been left with a very young and original team when compared to last year. There’s only one player left at camp that was from last year’s team in Maxime Comtois (ANA). Hopefully the fresh faces and coaching staff can work together and accomplish something amazing with the pieces they’ve been given. With the right moves, I have full hope that they can be just as successful as last year’s winning team. It’ll be a tough go, with the Hughes brothers leading the US team, but what’s the point of winning if it doesn’t take a bit of work? Although the setbacks and losses within the roster will have an effect on the chemistry and skillset of the team, Canada has the ability to work through the adversity they’re facing and hopefully add to Canada’s gold medal reign in WJC history.