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ITO Selects Team Canada for the WJHC

In the O is off to the World Juniors, but before they start or we get there, Canada has to trim the 43-man selection camp roster to 22. 13 forwards and 7 defensemen has been the usual for this team and I set my projected lineup to mirror that. Ladies and gentlemen: my projected 2012 World Junior Hockey Championship entry for Team Canada.

Centres:

Mark Scheifele [OHL]– The undisputed number one on this team. He will have to lead the team. He has game-breaking stuff and is capable of carrying a team on his back.

Ryan Strome [OHL]– An elite level offensive talent, Strome will be relied on to provide secondary scoring for the team as the tournament goes on. Strome is just too talented to leave off of this roster.

Zach Phillips [QMJHL]– Last year he was a beast through the QMJHL playoffs and into the Memorial Cup. Again he will be depended on as a checking centre that is also able to chip in offensively.

Michael Bournival [QMJHL]– Bournival is someone that will be asked to play an energy role on this team after being the last man cut last year. The nice thing with him is he has the scoring chops to move up in the lineup if needed.


Left Wingers:

Jaden Schwartz [NCAA]– Jaden comes back and will be looking to get the gold medal that eluded him last year. He will play a top line scoring role on this team. For Canada to win gold, Jaden will have to lead the way.

Jonathan Huberdeau [QMJHL]– Dynamic, electric, talented; these are adjectives that describe Jon’s game. He should be one of Canada’s leading scorers and will fit right in with Ryan Strome on a powerhouse second line.

Quinton Howden {WHL]– another returnee, Howden will be asked to play a checking role on this team. This is what he does well and if Canada wins gold, you can bet Howden will be a big reason why.

Tanner Pearson [OHL]– Maybe the one guy that can rival Spooner for the hottest player in the O. Pearson is leading the league in scoring but is also a dynamic penalty killer. He is a valuable player and would fit in nicely as the 13th forward.

Max Reinhart [WHL]- Max is my substitute selection for this team. He is able to play centre or the wing and that will make him a valauable player as injuries and poor play moves guys up and down the depth charts. He is a WHL boy and Hay likes that.

Ryan Spooner [OHL]– Maybe the OHL’s hottest player at this point, Spooner is a pure sniper. He can provide scoring on the 4th line in limited ice time, but he is also able to move up in the lineup if injuries or bad play takes over the aforementioned players. [ANNOUNCED THAT HE IS OUT WITH MONO]


Right Wingers:

Devante Smith-Pelly [NHL]– The Ducks have loaned DSP to this team and he will be looked upon to make a large impact. DSP is a banger with huge offensive touch. He will be the perfect winger for Mark Scheifele opening up plenty of ice for him and will be a pest around the opponents net.

Brett Connolly [NHL]– Another loaner from the NHL. Steve Yzerman and the Tampa Bay Lightning really wanted Brett to be on this team. An eye injury to Martin St. Louis seemed to spell disaster for those hoping he would be loaned, but Yzerman did it anyways. He will be asked to play a key role and should fit in nice with Ryan Strome.

Mark Stone [WHL]– Stone is an easy choice here as he would have been the undisputed #1 on this team without the NHL loaners. Stone is a superstar in the making and might be the best 3rd liner in this tournament.

Tyler Toffoli [OHL]– Many think that Toffoli’s chances of making this team were eliminated with the addition of the two big guns, but I just don’t see too many guys who are pure sniper’s on this team, not to mention how good he is in shootouts. Toffoli should make this team and as Canada likes to have….will be a 4th liner who can move up in the lineup if needed.

Defense:

Ryan Murray [WHL]– He’s draft eligible this year but you wouldn’t know it based on his game. He will be asked to play the shutdown role for this team.

Mark Pysyk [WHL] – Should be Murray’s defensive partner. He has offensive touch but will be asked to play against the other team’s best players in this tournament.

Brandon Gormley [QMJHL]– Gormley is the best Defenseman in the Q and will slot in nicely in the top 4. He moves the puck quick and takes the body. He is very tough to play against.

Dougie Hamilton [OHL]– Dougie is an offensive defenseman but he is able to take care of his own end as well as anyone in the O. At least one Hamilton should make this team.

Nathan Beaulieu [QMJHL]– Is another St. John Sea Dog that has a tonne of talent. He fits perfectly into the 3rd pairing on this team as Coach Don Hay loves puck moving defensemen.

Ryan Murphy [OHL]– I see Ryan as being kind of the Ryan Ellis of this group. He and Murray should run the 1st power play unit. Murphy will be important. He just has to buy in and accept a smaller role if Don Hay asks.

Jamie Oleksiak [OHL]– I feel like the big American-turned Canadian will make this team based on the fact that he switched his hockey allegiance from USA to Canada with hopes to play in this tournament for the Canadian side. I feel like he wouldn’t have made that decision if he weren’t guaranteed a spot. He should be the 7th defenseman.

Goaltending:

Mark Visentin [OHL]– you cannot leave your 2011 starting goaltender at home when he is still eligible. Yes, he had a bad third period in the gold medal game and yes he has not had a great season to date, but experience is at a premium on this team. He’s been there before and for a goaltender this is very important.

Tyler Bunz [WHL]– Is probably the best goaltender in the Canadian Hockey League this season. He deserves this place and if Visentin falters at all, Don Hay should have all the confidence in the world in him to go in there and do the job. He may even win the job pre-tournament.

What I could see happening on Don Hay’s team is that he substitutes some of the OHL players that I have slotted further down the depth charts like Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson for guys that he is more familiar with, like his stud right winger from his team, the Vancouver Giants, Brendan Gallagher or maybe inserting a big body in Brad Ross or Ty Rattie who is lighting the league up offensively, but is weak defensively. The final decisions will be very interesting!

Final Count:
8 OHL
6 WHL
5 QMJHL
2 NHL
1 NCAA

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