It would be wrong to call it third time lucky. There was nothing lucky about how Brandon Gormley made Canada’s 2012 world junior team. Let’s say it this way then: Third time’s a charm.
As a 17-year-old, Gormley saw the same fate as a pair of 17-year-old defencemen, Matt Dumba and Cody Ceci did this year - deemed good, but not good enough.
As an 18-year-old, Gormley was named to the preliminary roster, but dislocated a kneecap on a date he remembers only too well - Nov. 26 - which knocked him out of the tournament.
This year? No problem.
Gormley was one of 11 players held out of Tuesday night’s 7-4 victory over the Canadian university all-stars, a tip-off that he would be on the final 22-man roster named Wednesday morning. All 11 made it, along with a handful of bubble players, including Tanner Pearson of the Barrie Colts, who made it as a 17-year-old ahead of older prospects such as Kelowna’s Brett Bulmer, someone who’d played a handful of games for the Minnesota Wild earlier in the NHL season.
Scott Wedgewood of the Plymouth Whalers won the job of backing up Mark Visentin in goal.
The Hamilton brothers, Dougie and Freddie, made it, becoming the first siblings in 30 years to crack a world junior roster together. Dougie Hamilton will be joined on the blue line by Gormley, Ryan Murray, Mark Pysyk, Nathan Beaulieu, Jamie Olesiak and Scott Harrington. Ryan Murphy, along with Ceci, Joe Morrow and Alex Petrovic were released on the blue line.
“It’s usually a 19-year-old tournament for the most part,” said Gormley, who said that two years ago, at 17, he was just “happy to get invited. It was an honour but at the same time, you want to make the team. I thought I played well.
Then last year, when Gormley was expected to crack the line-up, he got hurt just before he would have gone to the tryout camp.
“I watched the whole thing,” said Gormley. “It was tough to take for sure. You dream about playing in this tournament for so long. Especially after getting cut at 17, you’re looking forward to it, right off the bat, as soon as you turn 18. To have an injury rob you of getting a chance to play was definitely tough to take.”
Gormley and Hamilton project as two of coach Don Hay’s shutdown defencemen which, in this tournament, can be a critical, if often overlooked, role. He is just the second player in history after Brad Richards to make the team from Prince Edward Island - Gormley is from Murray River - and has previously played with Jaden Schwartz both at Notre Dame College in Wilcox, Sask. and on an under-18 team. They are close friends.
It was the decision to go to Notre Dame that opened Gormley’s eyes about the possibilities of maybe playing internationally for Canada.
“I knew I was a talented player around mm home,” said Gormley, “but PEI is obviously not the biggest place in the world, so I didn’t know who else was out there or how I stacked up against them.
“Then I went to Notre Dame and saw the competition and thought it was a (possibility).”
Possibility became a reality Wednesday morning. As promised, coach Don Hay did not let the injury concerns up front affect his final roster decisions. Two players who may not necessarily be available - forwards Jonathan Huberdeau and Quinton Howden - both made the roster. Huberdeau is recovering from a foot injury and should get clearance to play any day now. Howden has what TSN has described as concussion-like symptoms after being clobbered in an intra-squad game by Brett Connolly, a former Western Hockey League opponent but a teammate on last year’s silver medal-winning squad.
If one or the other cannot play, then Hockey Canada will call back one or more of players released Wednesday. Rosters need to be finalized just before Christmas, after which no changes can be made. Bulmer’s release was perhaps the most surprising and had a lot to do with the fact that both Connolly and Devante Smith-Pelly were last-minute additions, both released to play by their respective NHL teams, Tampa and Anaheim, thus creating a crowd on the right side. Left wing is far more open, given the uncertainty over Huberdeau and Howden. Boone Jenner played both left wing and centre in camp and figures to switch back and forth, depending upon where he is needed most.
In all, it is not an especially physical team compared to previous editions of Team Canada and will likely rely on scoring balance, rather than on a single individual to lead the way offensively, as Brayden Schenn did last year, racking up a tournament record 18 points. Huberdeau is a natural around the net, as he demonstrated in last year’s Memorial Cup, and Stone - a late bloomer, playing in Brandon and an Ottawa Senators’ draft choice - is having an exceptional year in the Western Hockey League.
Ultimately, Mark Scheifele, who played eight games for the Winnipeg Jets earlier this season, will slot in as the team’s No. 1 centre and likely carry the heaviest weight of offensive expectations up front. Though he’d like to still be with the Jets, Scheifele understands that this door opened because the NHL door temporarily closed.
“There are just so many differences,” said Scheifele, of adjusting to the slower pace of junior hockey after his brief NHL experience. “The speed of the game is different. The skill of the players is definitely different. You’re playing with guys that are always making perfect passes, always in their position, so that always happens. The intelligence of the players is a big thing. Everyone tries to outsmart you and you’re trying to outsmart them. You learn a lot that way. It’s definitely slower. It’s definitely an adjustment.”
Only a few days ago, Smith-Pelly was playing in California - for a Ducks team that included a couple of prominent world junior alumni, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry.
“I talked to Getzy there and he told me, ‘just go in there and be a leader,” said Smith-Pelly. “You’re the guy that’s played at the highest level. You’re going to go in there and the guys are going to look up to you. You want to be nice to those guys. You want to help everybody out and treat everybody with respect - and obviously, that’s exactly what I’m going to do. If there’s younger guys, I’m going to help them if they have any problems. Even though I didn’t play last year, I’m just going to try and be a leader.”