October 18, 2010
The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League rosters for the Subway Super Series are set to be announced Monday in Saint John, host city for the first of the six Canada-Russia games in November.
The Canada-Russia challenge is a treat for the fans, but its practical application is as a scouting showcase to help Hockey Canada narrow down its list of players to invite to try out for the world junior team at Christmas, which could be a longer list than expected.
It's also a chance for Saint John to showcase itself for its bid to host the 2012 Memorial Cup national championship tournament. What goes on in the backrooms to decide that is anyone's guess, but we can speculate a little more accurately on which QMJHL players are likely bets for spots on Team Canada.
For starters, here are the locks:
Sean Couturier, C, Drummondville Voltigeurs
Couturier is also the early favourite to go first overall in the 2011 NHL draft. When the No. 1 pick has been a Canadian, from Taylor Hall to Chris Phillips, Hockey Canada usually has had him on the roster at the world junior.
You have to go all the way back to 1994 (Ed Jovanovski) to find a No.1 pick that was left off Team Canada. The 6-foot-4, 191-pound centre led the QMJHL in scoring last season, and already has 19 points in 15 games since recovering from a pre-season bout of mononucleosis. Couturier is the biggest reason the Volts are looking like a contender early in the season.
Olivier Roy, G, Acadie-Bathurst Titan (2009 Edmonton Oilers fifth-rounder)
The demise of Q goaltenders has been a hot topic in recent weeks.
Recent Hockey Canada history hasn't been particularly generous to ‘tenders from the Quebec league either. Only two of the past six teams had goalies from the loop, and both Jake Allen and Jonathan Bernier faltered in starting roles during the medal round. Before that it was Marc-Andre Fleury, he of the memorable gold-medal game gaffe against the U.S.
It could be on Roy's shoulders to erase all that and help get Canada back to its winning ways. He is clearly the No. 1 goaltender in the league and Acadie-Bathurst gave up the right to attend the next 10 drafts just to have him (actually, it only gave up two first-round picks, a second, third and fifth). Roy is among the league leaders with a .917 save percentage since returning from Oilers camp, and could help his chances of winning the starting job with a strong showing against Russia.
Brandon Gormley, D, Moncton Wildcats (2010 Phoenix Coyotes first-rounder)
Gormley was invited to the Christmas camp last year at 17, and has a good shot to be in the Show at 19, so this could be his one and only chance to play at world juniors. The 6-fooot-2, 190-pound rearguard was the top pick in the 2008 QMJHL draft, one slot ahead of Couturier, whose NHL draft year is later due to a late birthday. While Gormley isn't flashy, he impresses because he does so many things well, and plays with the poise of a veteran twice his age.
A handful of other Q players have a puncher's chance at Team Canada. I'll weigh in with some more names to watch after the Super Series roster is announced.