December 22, 2013
Knowing that the Hockey Canada brass often likes to bring an extra "energy" forward for the fourth line to international tournaments, perhaps it should come as a bit of a surprise that coach Brent Sutter made his last forward cut Felix Girard of the Baie-Comeau Drakkar, and 4th round pick of the Nashville Predators in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft.
Girard has 20 points in 28 games so far this season, which in the wide-open QMJHL, are not exactly the numbers of a top scorer. He also has 70 penalty minutes, and admitted at the start of selection camp that he "wasn't the most skilled guy, but [he] could always bring the energy."
Canada's selection camp roster for the upcoming IIHF U-20 World Championships, beginning Boxing Day in Malmo, Sweden, is now down to the maximum 22-man limit. However, while the forwards are set, the final roster doesn't have to be in until Christmas Day. It's plausible that Canada still cut defenceman Griffin Reinhart or Mathew Dumba should Dumba be suspended for his knee-on-thigh collision with Sweden's Erik Karlsson in the second pre-tournament game. With Reinhart serving a suspension for a high-sticking incident from last year's semifinal and not eligible to return for New Year's Eve, we'll see if Sutter is willing to go with five defencemen for multiple games.
As for the forwards, they're set. Canada brought 15 to camp, but have trimmed them with the cuts of Girard and Medicine Hat Tigers forward Hunter Shinkaruk. Shinkaruk's offensive numbers have slipped this year due to a recurring hip injury. Some of the bubble players that made the grade include Portland Winterhawks two-way force Taylor Leier and the small-but-skilled Josh Anderson, who was undrafted in the 2010 OHL Priority Selection and also a 2013 Nashville 4th rounder, same as Girard. Other players making the cut include diminutive Canadiens prospect Charles Hudon, recently traded from Chicoutimi to Baie-Comeau, Columbus first rounder and Guelph forward Kerby Rychel, along with Sam Reinhart, who will be the third underage player on the team alongside defenceman Aaron Ekblad and 16-year-old phenom Connor McDavid.
The three underage players is certainly novel, as Canada usually only went with one each year, and used two just sparingly a year ago.
The finalized forward roster can be found over at Hockey Canada's website. The leaders on the team are expected to be Tampa Bay first rounder Jonathan Drouin, the most skilled player in the CHL, Oshawa Generals forward and team captain Scott Laughton, a midseason OHL MVP candidate, and QMJHL leading scorer Anthony Mantha, who will hopefully be re-united with Drouin and Hudon on the team's top line. During the Subway Super Series, those three played together and were the best players on the ice. In all likelihood, these will be the 22 players Canada use to open the tournament, but there's always the possibility that there's a swap on defence should the IIHF make a quick decision on the Dumba matter.
However, Canada will get a good look at their chosen 22 against Switzerland Monday (12:00 p.m. EST/9:00 a.m. PST, TSN) for their final pre-tournament tune-up. We'll get a good look at Sutter's desired line combinations and defensive units in advance of the team's opener against Germany.