While Hockey Canada looks to set the stage in a way the World Juniors have never been played before, they announced via press release on Thursday the 46 players who received invites to Selection Camp.
As the spread of the novel coronavirus continues to rattle many parts of the country, CEO Tom Renney said shortly after via Zoom conference, “Our primary concern is our health and safety of all participants: athletes, coaches, on ice staff, personnel. I’d like to recognize our member branches across the country who’ve paid attention to protocols to return to hockey safely.”
Because of the global impact had on this tournament, all member clubs crossing the boarders will be subjected to a 14-day quarantine. Speaking on the part of Hockey Canada, who will host the event at Rogers Place in December, they, in conjunction with their COVID committee, have put into action harsh restrictions throughout.
Speaking further to this, Senior VP of National Teams, Scott Salmond, said of the process, “Unfortunately, the bubble is going to be strict. Everyone who enters our bubble will get testing and follow the protocols, prior to our camp starting.”
For Hockey Canada, that starts November 16th as the first of two entry points en route to the tournament. Given the COVID-19 guidelines, following social distancing as much as is possible, camps will be held in a cohort fashion, splitting 46 players to begin evaluations.
This is only step one of a two-point process for Canada’s National Junior Team. Not only that, but as a result of the mandated quarantine, it extends their stay to 51 days total. However, that’s not entirely negative after seven months off due to increasing uncertainties.
With the CHL halting play in both the WHL and the OHL, the tournament, for many invitees, will be the first time skating since cancellations in March. “The length of the camp will give us the opportunity to take the rust off, build a structure, and our style of play…A great opportunity for us to be all together,” head coach Andre Tourigny said Thursday via conference call.
However, speaking to all those who were named, there are some standout differences with many questions still looming. For starters, Alexis Lafreniere was not invited to SportChek Selection Camp. Following his first overall selection by the New York Rangers at the NHL Entry Draft, the plan was for him to move on and join the NHL club for camp to get his feet wet.
That said, at this time, he’s still eligible, leaving Canada on alert with all lines of contact open. Speaking further to that front, CEO Tom Renney said of where things are at, “We’ve had discussions with the Rangers and preliminary discussions with Chicago. Jeff Gordon and I had a good chat. Jeff was certainly open-minded to the idea.”
This, however, is not the only NHL conflict, as Alan Millar then announced on the call that Kirby Dach has been loaned to the National Team. Joining from the Chicago Blackhawks, Millar stated that in the event that the NHL season starts before the World Juniors, the understanding is with Stan Bowman that the forward will then be released and returned.
“Following discussions with the Chicago Blackhawks, we are pleased to add Kirby to the roster for Canada’s National Junior Team SportChek Selection Camp,” Millar said of his addition via Zoom. “We would like to thank Stan Bowman and the Blackhawks for their support of Canada’s National Junior Team, and wish to welcome Kirby to the roster.”
While Tourigny was in the waiting room of Thursday’s conference call at the time of agreement, he did say of the right-handed shooter, “He’s a great human being. He can bring leadership. He had the chance to live a season with guys like Jonathan Toews and he’s been in the bubble as well … that will be really helpful for the rest of the group …”
While this is a great boost to Team Canada, it’s not the only one Tourigny is excited by. Among those who were invited, Hockey Canada selected centreman Shane Wright, who was granted exceptional status to join the Ontario hockey League.
Wright, who is 16-years-old, has been high on Tourigny’s docket since he first made his debut with the Frontenacs. Being asked why it was important that Wright was added to Hockey Canada’s travel roster, Tourigny said each time Ottawa faced him last season, he looked better and better and impressed that much more. “It’s important because he’s a hell of a player,” Tourigny simply stated. “… I saw him at Christmas and said, ‘Oh my God, he’s really good’ and then I saw him at the end of the season and said, ‘This guy’s a superstar.’ Every time I saw him, he got better.”
The announcement was made on the same day that the OHL announced their new return to play plan for 2021. That said, with a return of February 4th, the 18 players respectively will not lose time to prepare for it. With training camps opening on Jan 25th, all will make their way back with much time in between.
The same, in a sense, can be said for the players selected from the QMJHL. With part of the league on shutdown with cities in red zones due to COVID-19 outbreaks, it allows the league to work with Hockey Canada to ensure that these players can depart and participate with competition on hiatus.
That being said, let’s take a look at the roster.
Goaltenders: Brett Brochu, Tilbury, Ont., London (OHL); Dylan Garand Victoria, Kamloops (WHL); Taylor Gauthier, Calgary, Prince George (WHL); Tristan Lennox, Cambridge, Ont., Saginaw (OHL); Devon Levi, Dollard-des-Ormeaux, Que., Northeastern University (NCAA).
Defensemen: Justin Barron, Halifax, Halifax (QMJHL); Bowen Byram,
Cranbrook, B.C., Vancouver (WHL); Lukas Cormier,
Saint-Marie-de-Kent, N.B., Charlottetown (QMJHL); Jamie Drysdale,
Toronto, Erie (OHL); Kaiden Guhle, Sherwood Park, Alta., Prince
Albert (WHL); Thomas Harley, Jamesville, N.Y., Mississauga (OHL);
Daemon Hunt, Brandon, Man., Moose Jaw (WHL); Kaedan Korczak,
Yorkton, Sask., Kelowna (WHL); Mason Millman, London, Ont., Saginaw
(OHL); Ryan O’Rourke, Bowmanville, Ont., Sault Ste. Marie (OHL);
Owen Power, Mississauga, Ont., University of Michigan (NCAA);
Matthew Robertson, Sherwood Park, Alta., Edmonton (WHL); Braden
Schneider, Prince Albert, Sask., Brandon (WHL); Donovan Sebrango,
Kingston, Ont., Kitchener (OHL); Jordan Spence, Cornwall, P.E.I.,
Forwards: Adam Beckman, Saskatoon, Spokane (WHL); Mavrik Bourque, Plessisville, Que., Shawinigan (QMJHL); Quinton Byfield, Newmarket, Ont., Sudbury (OHL); Graeme Clarke, Ottawa, Ottawa (OHL); Dylan Cozens, Whitehorse, Lethbridge (WHL); Tyson Foerster, Alliston, Ont., Barrie (OHL); Gage Goncalves, Mission, B.C., Everett (WHL); Ridly Greig, Lethbridge, Alta., Brandon (WHL); Dylan Holloway, Bragg Creek, Alta., University of Wisconsin (NCAA); Seth Jarvis, Winnipeg, Portland (WHL); Peyton Krebs, Okotoks, Alta., Winnipeg (WHL); Hendrix Lapierre, Gatineau, Que., Chicoutimi (QMJHL); Connor McMichael, Ajax, Ont., London (OHL); Dawson Mercer, Bay Roberts, N.L., Chicoutimi (QMJHL); Alex Newhook, St. John’s, N.L., Boston College (NCAA); Jakob Pelletier, Quebec City, Val-d’Or (QMJHL); Cole Perfetti, Whitby, Ont., Saginaw; Samuel Poulin, Blainville, Que., Sherbrooke (QMJHL); Jack Quinn, Cobden, Ont., Ottawa (OHL); Jamieson Rees, Hamilton, Sarnia (OHL); Cole Schwindt, Kitchener, Ont., Mississauga (OHL); Xavier Simoneau, Saint-Andre-Avellin, Que., Drummondville (QMJHL); Ryan Suzuki, London, Ont., Saginaw (OHL); Philip Tomasino, Mississauga, Ont., Oshawa (OHL); Shane Wright, Burlington, Ont., Kingston (OHL); Connor Zary, Saskatoon, Kamloops (WHL).
Two of a couple surprises fans might take notice of are Cole Schwindt and Donovan Sebrango. Schwindt spent the year in Mississauga while Donavan Sebrango competed with the Kitchener Rangers. While both are NHL drafted, they aren’t alone in the element of surprise category. Another two Tourigny took notice of were Owen Power and backstop Devon Levi.
Both Devon Levi and Power are currently committed to the NCAA. With Power coming over from the U.S., he’ll be one of a few who’s stay in Edmonton will be prolonged with a 14-day quarantine period. Despite the unique situation the tournament is under to be hosted in December, Tom Renney was able to confirm that no players declined their invitation from HockeyCanada.
For many of those who received phone calls this week, there was a true sense of eagerness and optimism. Speaking with a number of those players, coach Andre Tourigny sensed just how much they’ve missed it since shutdowns took place across the province of Ontario. “They were so relieved to have a chance to go, and if I would’ve told them it was 150 days, I think they would’ve danced.”
Compared to 2019 Selection Camp, this time around presents a greater commitment. Increasing from 4-5 days to 51 days together, head coach Andre Tourigny said the extended camp is “a chance to build a unique team. It never happened in the past where Team Canada had a chance to be together for that long and to grow their structure and chemistry.”
Now, one of the biggest questions that some might be asking is what will the presence be like off the ice. To answer that in simplistic terms, Scott Salmond said, “Unfortunately from a media standpoint, and from others, scouts, fans, friends, families, the bubble is gonna be as strict as possible. Everyone that enters in our bubble will undergo testing, will follow the protocols that have been laid out from even prior to our camp, starting with pre-testing prior to our players and staff arriving, so unfortunately from a media standpoint, all interviews and interactions will be done virtually.”
Given the empty environment, there will be an impact during action on the ice. As players feed off of energy externally, they’ll now have to work harder to drive themselves instead. With this being a significant change, a mental performance coach will be with them throughout. Taking this into account, head coach Andre Tourigny said of how he’ll approach this, “The excitement will be there. The energy will be there, but what will be their exact level of execution? … I’ve never coached a team who were off for seven months …”
Before they make the trip out to Edmonton, Canada is expected to take part in a six-game series against a team of U SPORTS all-stars. Additionally, they will play three intrasquad games, all taking place between Nov. 28 and Dec 13. Discussions are still ongoing as to coordinate logistics such as where players will be named from. Following the four-day quarantine in Edmonton, ten exhibition games will be played before the tournament commences on December 25th.
Chelsea Stewart, Hockey Canada’s co-ordinator of national teams and COVID-19 compliance officer, spoke further to such matters on Thursday, addressing the system that will function in the bubble. As such, she made it very clear that players and staff will be tested three days prior to making the trip out to Red Deer. She added that no one can enter the bubble without receiving a negative test. Once staff and players arrive, testing will be every 3-4 days, so by the time results come back, another round is administered.
According to TSN’s Mark Masters, with Dach loaned to Team Canada on Thursday, their selection camp roster now increases to 47. That being said, once sessions start Nov. 16, cuts can be expected 7-10 days into training camp. That of course following a pair of intra-squad games. Unique to this year’s tournament, all participating teams have 25 roster spots, an increase from 23. This also means three goalies per team.
Kicking things off on Christmas Day, all the action can be seen and heard on the official broadcast partners of Hockey Canada. With coverage airing daily on TSN and RDS, they will have all 28 games, plus the ten games prior, which commence December 20th. TSN Radio will have coverage as well, all the way from the pre-tournament to the gold medal game.
Looking ahead to the tournament, Scott Salmond said of the defending world champions, “We know our athletes are excited for the opportunity to defend gold on home ice this year, and we expect a highly competitive selection camp with a number of difficult decisions to be made when it comes time to select the players who will wear the Maple Leaf in Edmonton in December.”