Taking A Look At Team Canada’s Preliminary World Juniors Active Roster: Part 3 – WHL

On Thursday and Friday of the week now gone past, I previewed both the Ontario Hockey League aspect of Hockey Canada’s 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship Preliminary Roster as well as the QMJHL portion that was selected by head coach Tim Hunter on the afternoon of Monday December 3rd in Calgary, AB.

Today, I examine the third and final of the three stages, this time uncovering the lengthy and talented list of players that comes from none other than the Western Hockey League and it’s clubs. Before I begin however, as I noted in both pieces prior, it’s important to note that not all these players will be with the team come Opening Day, however, a large chunk of them will be as Canada seeks redemption following last year’s loss in Buffalo, New York.

This year’s competition is set to take place at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, B.C. as well as the Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre located in Victoria, B.C. With training camps having opened following each respective countries roster unveil announcement, we are officially less than three weeks away from puck drop on boxing day, Wednesday December 26th, 2018.

With that in mind, let’s get started and introduce to you the third and final of the three stages that make up Hockey Canada’s active roster for the upcoming 2019 World Junior Championships out west.

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For obvious reasons, much like that of 17-year-old Quebec sensation Alex Lafreniére, we start off in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan where defensemen Josh Brook is located. I touched on Brook lightly in the first of my three stage series where I noted the fact of which Brooks is getting his first looks at a higher level of hockey. Furthermore, Stephane Leroux of RDS was first to report his participation in the upcoming tournament just half an hour before the announcement was made by Team Canada head coach Tim Hunter. 

Adding on to that, Brooks previously took part in training camp in Brossard prior to the start of the NHL regular season, however, was optioned at the conclusion to continue to develop his talent and skills. Since that time, Brooks specifically has been tearing it up in the WHL which ultimately led to him being named captain in fifth year of play with the Moose Jaw Warriors. It will be his first time taking part in the IIHF World Junior Championships, marking his first time as well taking part in a Hockey Canada tournament.

Brook was originally drafted by the Montreal Canadiens organization in the second round (56th overall) of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft which took place at the United Center located in Chicago, Illinois. Brook has plenty to offer to Team Canada looking ahead as he is known more-so for his defensive abilities as opposed to his offensive potential. This in mind, given he is highly thought of by the Habs organization, you can certainly expect to see him make the roster out of training camp while he looks to bring on the heat which will surely be something to keep an eye on for the entire duration of the tournament.

Michael Ainsworth/The Associated Press

Moving on now, we flip the coin over where we find Canadian defensemen Ty Smith. Smith, a native of Lloydminster, Alberta, is in his fourth season in the WHL where he has only gone to prove that his offensive skill and ability are worthy of seeing it’s time in the NHL. Further to this point, Smith, 18, will be taking part in the IIHF World Junior Championships for the very first time, marking his first act of participation with Hockey Canada as well.

Smith was drafted by the New Jersey Devils in the first round (17th overall) of the 2018 NHL Entry Draft and certainly has the potential to be key to the defensive core down the middle for Team Canada. While he is not as strong offensively, he still offers substantial talent off the stick and so it is worth keeping in mind that he is surely capable of producing with the puck on his stick as needed.

If he does well in this tournament, perhaps it may just be a matter of time before Smith finds himself getting a call-up from the New Jersey Devils front office which will give them there first looks at him while for Smith, it could help to both drive his skill to greater strengths while also giving him the chance to get the feel for professional level hockey action as well.

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In taking a look now at what there is for Jaret Anderson-Dolan to offer, the native of Calgary, Alberta, is in his fifth season in the WHL where he has only gotten better which each passing year and is surely viewed as one of the highly touted selections currently on the rise to the NHL. Further to this point, Anderson-Dolan, 19, will be taking part in the IIHF World Junior Championships for the very first time, much like Josh Brook and Ty Smith, marking his first act of participation with Hockey Canada as well.

At this time in terms of his production on the ice, Anderson-Dolan’s numbers in both goals as well as assists have only risen with each passing season, and though he has seen short stints in both the NHL and AHL where his numbers were both low, there is no joking about his potential as he has plenty of both energy and production in store and now just waits like many others to get the call so he can display what he’s got on the international stage with the hopes of staying locked on a big league roster and for many years to come ahead.

Anderson-Dolan was drafted by the Los Angeles Kings in the second round (41st overall) of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft and the hope is that his production will take a step up with the more practice and experience that he gets which if successful, has the potential to be a driving force for the Los Angeles Kings of the future. Until then, he will continue to re-find his rhythm with the Spokane Chiefs while joined alongside Ty Smith on both the minor league stage as well as Team Canada. The opportunity is there for him if his offensive skills hold up which will certainly be something to look out for when things officially get underway out west in just under three weeks time.

Chad Hipolito/The Canadian Press

Next we preview the status of Canadian centreman Brett Leason. Leason, a native of Calgary, Alberta, is known as the force to be reckoned both within and around the Western Hockey League. Furthermore, Leason has become one of the best offensive defensemen in the league and has a future of success on the horizon if he continues to stand tall and steady.

Leason is currently in his fourth season in the WHL, his second with the Prince Albert Raiders where his performance is only continuing to climb above the radar, helping to make his case known for a future in which can be seen later on in the NHL. Speaking of which, Leason, 19, is yet to be drafted by a big league club but if his performance hits the standards in the upcoming World Junior Championships, he could make for a high selection in the upcoming NHL Entry Draft.

Leason, who is known best as a sniper on the ice, spoke with the media on Wednesday where he said in a statement with regards to being invited by Hockey Canada, “I believe I surpassed my own expectations,” said the six-foot-four, 199-pound Leason. “I was nowhere thinking about this.” In addition, he would then go on to say about his time with the Tri-City Americans, “The coach just let me do my thing.” All in all, Leason is made up of promise to be displayed in the coming weeks and in closing describes himself as brimming with confidence at the opportunity to win a gold medal for Canada.

Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press

Also with the Prince Albert Raiders of the Western Hockey League, Ian Scott is slowly climbing up the ladder towards a successful career in the NHL. Scott, a native of Calgary, Alberta, has been constantly working on perfecting the art of being a high-standard and skilled goaltender, keeping his team in check in front of head coach Tim Hunter as well as fellow centreman Brett Leason.

 Scott, 19, is currently in his fourth season in the WHL, all of which has taken place with the Price Albert Raiders. Furthermore, Scott has been given the playing time as a starter for the team and has a solid future ahead of him should he continue to play strong. For Scott, this will be his first time taking part in the World Junior Championships, also his first act of participation with Hockey Canada as well.

Scott was originally drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the fourth round (110th overall) of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft and took part in pre-season play this year before being re-assigned to further develop. Scott, like many others, is young and still has ways to come, but the promise in his ability is there and if it stays, he could find himself committed to a full time position in the NHL in the coming years to come ahead.

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We close it all out with Canadian forward Cody Glass, perhaps the second highest ranked WHL prospect alongside that of Montreal Canadiens prospect Josh Brook. Glass, 19, is a native of Winnipeg, Manitoba and will look to make his impact known when the World Junior Championships get underway in Vancouver and Victoria, British Columbia in three weeks time.

Furthermore, Glass in his fifth season in the WHL, also his fifth season of play with the Portland Winterhawks as well. Alongside this, Cody Glass has also seen a brief stint in the NHL after he was drafted by the Vegas Golden Knights in the first round (6th overall) of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. He is a big reason for the success largely had by the Winterhawks organization in recent years.

In looking at Glass’ numbers that make up for the success the youngster has had, the WHL veteran scored 37 goals to go alongside 65 assists, making for a total of 102 points registered in 64 regular season games played. He also added 26 penalty minutes to his resume. So far this season though 26 games played, Glass has scored 12 goals to go alongside 42 assists, making for 54 points registered in addition to 12 penalty minutes recorded as well. This will be the second World Junior Championship series for Glass, making for his third total event taken part in with the Hockey Canada organization.

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Tim Hunter spoke with the media to provide an update early on Wednesday evening and with regards to the progress being made during practice sessions in Kamloops, he opened in saying that the team that looks to defend its world junior hockey title over the Christmas season will be one of the fastest ever. Furthermore, he went on to say he expects to see speed and more speed after the squad’s had its first skate Tuesday at the short selection camp. He said the team that will play in high gear for 60 minutes.

In a statement about how is expecting the club to come out the gates swinging, Hunter said, “The hallmark, and the way we’re going to play, our identity, is going to be fast hockey. Speed, with and without the puck, and we’re going to try to be one of the fastest junior teams Canada has had.” As noted by Dirk Meissner of The Canadian Press, Hunter, a former NHL player known for his hard-nosed style, ran an up-tempo first practice where players were constantly moving forward.

When talking about his thoughts on what so far is a pretty bulky lineup full of talent, Hunter told the local media he felt blessed having a team with six top lines, six pairs of top-echelon defensemen and three superstar goalies. Further to that point, he added on in a statement, “It was a track meet out there. It was fast and that’s the way we’re going to play. It’s exciting.” When asked about what it was like having everyone together for day one, Hunter said to the local media that the initial workout gave the players a chance to get used to each other and get a sense of the style of play that is expected.

Chad Hipolito/The Canadian Press

Furthermore when asked about the pace that should be brought out, Hunter said in a statement, “The buzzword is fast and speed in hockey nowadays. There’s a lot of ways to get there and it’s not just skating fast. It’s being fast in every aspect of the game.” When asked about the decisions that have to be made in the days to come, Hunter said it was too early to talk about the timing of roster decisions. To that regard, he would close out in saying, “It’s going to be a tough decision when we make releases of anybody. We want those to be hard decisions.”

Hockey Canada’s senior vice-president Scott Salmond recently spoke out about the decision to bring Tim Hunter aboard and in speaking about what that means after the career he both had and continues to lead, Salmond said in a statement, “To be in a position to have familiarity in our coaching staff with Tim Hunter gives us the opportunity to again compete for a gold medal. All three assistant coaches have also had prior experience working within our Program of Excellence at various levels. Their experience and knowledge will help our players succeed in this prestigious international tournament.” Joining Hunter on Team Canada this year is Marc-Andre Dumont of the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles, Jim Hulton of the Charlottetown Islanders and Brent Kisio of the Lethbridge Hurricanes.

As noted by TSN, Hunter, 58, led the Warriors to a regular-season title in his fourth year behind the bench in Moose Jaw this past season. Prior to having joined the Warriors organization, Hunter was an assistant coach in the NHL with the Toronto Maple Leafs, San Jose Sharks as well as the Washington Capitals. As for his playing career, Hunter played a total of 815 games over the course of 16 seasons spent as a right-winger in the NHL.

Jeffrey T. Barnes/The Associated Press

Thirty-four players from across Canada are invited to the training camp and the roster is required to be trimmed by Saturday the 22nd of December. Only two of the thirty-four members are familiar faces to Team Canada in forwards Alex Formenton as well as Maxine Comtois. The junior team played its first exhibition game Wednesday against a team comprised of top university hockey players. As for their first game of the international competition, Canada opens the tournament on Boxing Day against Team Denmark when the two sides meet for the first time this year at Rogers Arena in Vancouver.

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