I know you have all been waiting for what I may possibly have to say in regards to the team and the cut list for Team Canada. Unlike many of my media counterparts I was not able to give 'instant feedback'. But you guys know me better than that. It could be 3 days after the fact I will still give you the honest straight up no bull feedback you expect from ITO.
Goaltenders - Mark Visentin & Scott Wedgewood
To no surprise of anyone, these two are my choice. If I had it my way, which I unfortunately do not, I would select every OHL player available in camp. But bias opinion aside, how do you deny Visentin his opportunity to win back what was lost? Sure his season is very up and down, more down than up. But how does that change what his abilities allow him to do? He is a hard worker, no doubt about that and more importantly when he has to battle he definitely does. What has he won? ok you got me there. Team Canada didn't win silver they lost gold, notice I didn't say 'HE' or 'Mark' when talking bout the silver. It is a team game you know. But having Wedgewood behind Mark forcing him not to faulter may be the smartest move made in deciding the roster. Scott has been an amazing goaltender in the OHL for almost 3 years. He hasn't played many games in those 3 years, just eclipsed the 100 game plateau just last weekend, but without a doubt carries the title of 'elite' when talking about OHL Goaltenders. Scott has always been the unknown, or the underdog. Due to playing in the States, he never gets the credit he deserves. He will push Visentin to the max and I would not be surprised if he becomes the starter during the tournament.
Defenceman - Jamie Oleksiak, Dougie Hamilton, Scott Harrington
The obvious OHLer missing on this list is Ryan Murphy. But before I get to that, lets comb through these three individuals. Jamie Oleksiak was a lock for this team before he even stepped on the ice. In fact it was when he 'defacted' from USAHockey and decided to play for Canada. A 6'7" 240+lb defenceman is easy to get excited about. I still can not get over the fact that DSP Yardsaled him back in the summer camp. You just don't forget that. I know DSP is a Freaking Freight train on skates but wow! I can not get over it. Throw in the fact that most people I have talked to said he would be the 5-7 defenceman based on what they saw in camp, I am not happy about him being on the team. Like I always say, Prove me wrong. Dougie Hamilton was also a lock once he stepped on the ice. This time for the right reasons. Easily the best defenceman in the OHL right now. if not top 2. Dougie has really worked on his D play and given the other defenceman on the roster, he may not have to be the most responsible on the back end. Scott Harrington, honestly, I can do without. I know that shutdown D are important, heck I appreciate the hard work they do. The hard work barely makes the score sheet most nights. But I feel there was a better choice out there... not an OHLer but again. Good for Harrington and please prove me wrong.
as for the cuts, I really would have liked to see Ceci or Murphy on the roster. Murphy would only have been the 7th defenceman anyways and quarterback the power play. Ceci on the otherhand could have had a huge role as a 2 way blueliner who could be put in many different situations without hesitation.
Forwards - Mark Schiefele, Tanner Pearson, Ryan Strome, Freddie Hamilton, Boone Jenner, DSP (on loan from NHL)
I have absolutely no problem with any of these players making Team Canada except one. Freddie Hamilton. Schiefele and Strome are your 1-2 centreman, no doubt about that. These kids are very strong on the puck, talented, and can make it happen. Schiefele gets the edge because of this in game NHL Experience. Tanner got his invite based on being the OHL Leading Scorer and he earned his way on. The question many asked is, can he be as good with out Schiefele in the middle. The answer is yes. This is not a player who was brought along by riding coat tails. Pearson did not just drop out of the sky. I have spent many an hour laughing with his Colts teammates, talking about how people dont know anything about him or the fact that he is a goal scorer. Everywhere he has been, a goal scorer. He will be fine. Boone Jenner is as hard nosed as they can come. You want him to be a 1st line scorer, he can do that. You want him to be a 4th line shutdown forward, he can do that. His versatility and his ability to be 'that guy' makes him a key member to this team. The only weakness in his game is, as I have read in a tweet, do not put him in the shootout, he is ugly. DSP is DSP. The Notorious one, since his coming out party at the TPG, has been a wrecking ball for almost 2 years now. He will do this in the tournament. Now, on to Freddie Hamilton. Yes I have a personal problem with him, but besides the point. I have always felt that he was riding the coat tails of his teammates. They brought him along, got him drafted. Now with that said... he has worked his butt off to earn every second of ice and every opportunity given to him. This season I do not see it in Freddie like last year. Maybe that is all the politics going on right now. He had a good camp, congrats FH, and like the others. Prove me wrong.
If you take away Freddie I would easily put in either Thomas or Toffoli. More so Toffoli. At least he is bigger than Thomas, not as electric shot, but can score toe to toe with Christian Thomas. Either of them would be my selection over Freddie Hamilton.
Quick and Painless... and a friendly reminder that ITO will be at the WJHC. We will be following Pool B (CAN,USA, FIN, DEN, CZE) during round robin before the Medal Rounds.