Juniors line up big guns on opening day of Canadian camp


Team White stretches at Centre Ice during the National Junior Team selection camp practise at the Markin MacPhail Centre in Calgary on Tuesday December 11, 2012.

Team White stretches at Centre Ice during the National Junior Team selection camp practise at the Markin MacPhail Centre in Calgary on Tuesday December 11, 2012.

Photograph by: Gavin Young, Calgary Herald

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CALGARY -- It's a little early to determine line combinations for Team Canada, but there was plenty of buzz over the top trio on Team Red in Hockey Canada's national junior selection camp's opening session on Tuesday.

Onlookers saw Edmonton Oilers centreman Ryan Nugent-Hopkins with Jonathan Huberdeau on his left wing and Mark Scheifele on his right.

Scheifele, like Nugent-Hopkins, normally lines up at centre, but had been informed of the potential position swap before arriving in Calgary and was given instructions with his Ontario Hockey League club, the Barrie Colts, to work on specific drills.

"We were working on getting the puck out, chipping pucks out, hitting the centreman, feeling what it's like to have D pressure you when you pinch down the wall," Scheifele said following Tuesday morning's session. "Playing centre, you have a lot more defensive responsibility down low compared to the wing, where you're up high blocking shots."

He'll take it, of course, if it means being on a line with Huberdeau and Nugent-Hopkins.

"I just keep telling those guys to communicate with me," said the Winnipeg Jets 2011 first-round draft pick, who played in seven games with the club last fall. "I think it's an easy transition, I just have to work hard at it. I tried it for a few practices when I was with Winnipeg last year. Everyone says it's not too tough, though. When they called me about the selection camp, they talked to me about playing the wing. There are just different responsibilities."

The 2013 world juniors begin Dec. 26 in Ufa, Russia.


J.C. Lipon, the WHL's leading scorer, is considered a dark horse to make the squad as an undrafted 19-year-old. But Tuesday, he found himself on the right wing alongside Halifax Mooseheads stars Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin -- a position that would make anyone jealous.

MacKinnon, who is projected to go first overall at the 2013 NHL draft, and Drouin, also a highly touted 2013 prospect, are both fast, skilled and can put the puck in the net.

"It's like, 'Oh, you're playing with two 17-year-olds.' But they're unreal," said Lipon, who was being watched by his Kamloops Blazers teammates who are in town to play the Calgary Hitmen. "You pass to them and they're there. They're pretty fast dudes. I am just going to take the body and hopefully get open and they'll find me."

Tuesday's morning session was well-attended by the NHL-lockout starved media -- which took Lipon by surprise.

"Seeing all the people in the stands, it's kind of nerve-racking," he said. "It was fun. Cool. Fast-paced out there. Guys were huffing and puffing because of the Alberta altitude. Obviously, it's your first time out there. A little weird, a little shaky. But once you get out there, everyone kind of complements each other and it's fun."


Scott Harrington left the London Knights with mixed feelings.

On one hand, the 19-year-old Knights captain and a Canadian world junior veteran defenceman from last year's team, returned to Calgary for the national team selection camp -- a thrilling process that he'll go through for a second time around this year.

On the other hand, his OHL club is rolling with an impressive franchise-tying 18-game win streak.

Harrington had arrived Monday after chipping in for victory No. 18, a 5-2 win over the Mississauga Steelheads.

"It's kind of unfortunate we didn't start earlier so I would have been there to help them break the record," said the Pittsburgh Penguins draft pick, who went 54th overall in 2011. "But it's exciting to be here at camp.

"I'm obviously very confident with the way the season has gone for myself and my team so far."

In some ways, Harrington said, it was tough to leave the Knights (26-5-0-2), who currently lead the OHL with a healthy 54 points.

"It's been great," said the reliable blueliner, who has a goal and eight assists and is a plus-9 in 33 games for the Knights. "We started winning some games and didn't really think of trying to put together a streak, but the month of November was kind to us and we kept winning.

"It's unfortunate timing, I guess, in a way. But I'm excited to be here, for sure."


Early into his junior hockey career, Jordan Binnington was tested on the big stage.

He was just a few months shy of his 18th birthday when he went to the Memorial Cup with the Owen Sound Attack, where he was named the top goalie of the 2011 tournament in Mississauga, Ont.

And Binnington, a St. Louis Blues draft pick, is using that to his advantage heading into this week's selection camp, where he's up against fellow OHL goalies Malcolm Subban of the Belleville Bulls and Jake Paterson of the Saginaw Spirit, along with Laurent Brossoit of the WHL's Edmonton Oil Kings.

"You see everything a little bit differently with experience under your belt," said Binnington, who has a 17-6-1-2 record with a 2.31 goals-against average and 0.930 save percentage with the Attack this year. "Over the years, I've had some great leaders teach me the ways, I guess.

"And from what I've seen, you've just got to stick to your game plan and stay composed."

Canadian head coach Steve Spott has seen a lot of Binnington over the years as the coach of the OHL's Kitchener Rangers. However, he's relatively new to Hockey Canada's radar.

"I've never really gotten an opportunity like this to represent your country," he said. "Things have been going well this year. I didn't get invited to the Canada-Russia series this summer, but (Hockey Canada goaltending coach) Ron Tugnutt was saying the most important camp to make is this one.

"So I'm here, I'm ready, and hopefully it goes well."

Although two jobs are technically up for grabs -- and likely, one starting job -- Hockey Canada is taking three goaltenders to Russia for emergency purposes.

Not only are they judging performances during the short camp, team brass also need to determine which goalie is the right fit for the group.

"If you're selected as the third guy, it's still an honour," said Binnington. "You have to be a cheerleader, I guess you'd say. You've gotta be ready though and keep battling. I'm going in here, looking for the No. 1 job. That's what everyone wants.

"You just have to make the best of your opportunity, you know?"


Hockey Canada truly thinks of everything, including strategic hotel roommate assignments based on age, ability and experience.

Hence the reason they paired together Nugent-Hopkins, who went first overall to the Oilers in 2011, with MacKinnon, who is projected to go first overall in 2013.

"The one thing we try to cover off is all of the details," said Spott. "On and off the ice. When we put our rooming list together, it's getting guys together and making sure they're compatable.

"Obviously for players like Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin, there's a lot of pressure on those young guys. Those are two young men that have unique experiences.

"I think if there's someone that could lend some advice to Nathan, it would be Ryan."

Team White stretches at Centre Ice during the National Junior Team selection camp practise at the Markin MacPhail Centre in Calgary on Tuesday December 11, 2012.

Team White stretches at Centre Ice during the National Junior Team selection camp practise at the Markin MacPhail Centre in Calgary on Tuesday December 11, 2012.

Photograph by: Gavin Young, Calgary Herald

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