Five players to watch at Canada’s world junior camp
Keep your eye on Dumba, MacKinnon, Brossoit, Rielly and Nugent-Hopkins
Edmonton Oil Kings goalie and Calgary Flames prospect Laurent Brossoit had fans in Edmonton chanting his name during the Western Hockey League playoffs last season.
Photograph by: Greg Southam, Edmonton Journal
1. Mathew Dumba
After being cut from the 2012 world junior squad as a long-shot 17-year-old, the Red Deer Rebels defenceman heads into Round 2 with more experience, smarts, and confidence. The past year has been a struggle for Dumba, especially on-ice for the Rebels who had a roller-coaster 2011-12 season and saw their head coach Jesse Wallin replaced by owner/general manager Brent Sutter earlier this campaign. The smooth-skating Minnesota Wild 2012 draft pick and native Calgarian has a penchant for hard hits and takes creative risks with the puck. However, he’s amid one of the toughest battles at camp. How will he stack up?
2. Nathan MacKinnon
This 17-year-old natural centreman did not get an invite just for the “experience.” Along with his lineman Jonathan Drouin, the projected first overall 2013 NHL draft pick impressed during the Subway Super Series. Both he and Drouin found a groove with 2012 world junior centreman Jonathan Huberdeau, the Florida Panthers and third overall draft pick in 2011, and rightfully earned tryout invites. MacKinnon has speed, skill, ridiculous hands, and is destined for the NHL. He’s also considered the best thing to come out of Cole Harbour, N.S., since ol’ What’s-his-name. But against the best junior players in the world? On a bigger, European ice surface? We’ll see.
3. Laurent Brossoit
Goaltending has been an issue for Canada for the past few years and it’s always a point of discussion. Laurent Brossoit knows this, understands it, and is embracing it heading into this year’s world junior camp. However, the Calgary Flames goalie has to go into it with a specific mindset. Because of the travel overseas to this year’s tournament, Canada is taking three netminders with them — with one, likely, getting most of the playing time. All four netminders at camp including Malcolm Subban (Belleville Bulls), Jordan Binnington (Owen Sound Attack) and Jake Paterson (Saginaw Spirit) are starting goalies on their Canadian Hockey League rosters and have a short time to prove they’re the right guy for the gig. Last year, Brossoit, a Calgary Flames 2011 draft selection, had a terrific regular season and was lights-out during playoffs. However many suggested that, mentally, he collapsed at the 2012 Memorial Cup and also struggled against the Russians in a summer series. However, Brossoit redeemed himself in the eyes of Hockey Canada after recorded a shutout in the Subway Super Series.
4. Morgan Rielly
With world-class defenceman Ryan Murray out of commission with a shoulder injury, many are looking at Morgan Rielly to eat up minutes. He’s an offensive defenceman; a freewheeling, creative skater who has been a proven difference maker with the Moose Jaw Warriors. Barring a natural disaster or injury, the Toronto Maple Leafs pick is going to get a serious look despite the furious battle on the Canadian blueline.
Seven spots are up for grabs between 12 defenceman this week; two of which (Dougie Hamilton and Scott Harrington) are returning veterans. Rielly, who went fifth overall in last year’s NHL draft, is one of four d-men at camp that are part of the 2012 first-round class. Dumba (seventh overall, Minnesota), Griffin Reinhart (fourth overall, Edmonton), and Derrick Pouliot (eighth overall, Pittsburgh) are also fighting for a trip to Russia.
5. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
The world truly does work in mysterious ways. Cut from Canada’s world junior team as a 17-year-old, Nugent-Hopkins will finally get his shot but, this time, as a locked-out NHLPA dues-paying player. The Nuge was given clearance over the weekend by the Edmonton Oilers after getting his problematic left shoulder checked out on a break with the Oilers’ AHL affiliate in Oklahoma City. The first-overall 2011 draft pick also was awaiting the latest on the NHL lockout saga — also proof that everything happens for a reason. If the NHL work-stoppage continues, the 2013 world juniors will be padded significantly with players that should and are playing professional including Nugent-Hopkins and future Oilers teammate/Russian nemesis Nail Yakupov. Canada’s centre position is going to be worth watching with Nugent-Hopkins in the mix. He rounds out a deep group of forwards which also includes pivots Ryan Strome, Mark Scheifele, and Jonathan Huberdeau. However, if the lockout ends ...
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