They are small group, and they are a young group.
But Hockey Canada signified it is getting down to business early when it named its world junior camp roster on Monday, as there were only 25 names listed and only three cuts left to be made by Christmas Day.
It is the smallest camp team they have ever had and that’s intentional.
“It’s usually beneficial,” head coach Brent Sutter said. “Right from the get-go, you’re close to your team. You can run proper practises. You can just get things implemented.
“It’s certainly different than in the past where the amount of players that have been invited has been mid-30s or over. But it’s good.”
Because of the low numbers, there will be no battle for who makes the team in goal, for example, as Zach Fucale of the Halifax Mooseheads and Jake Paterson of the Saginaw Spirit were the only two ‘tenders named.
And the eight defencemen in camp, which begins Dec. 12 in Toronto, can also feel reasonably safe given only one is expected to be cut.
Canada hopes the small roster will help them build chemistry more quickly and atone for a fourth place finish a year ago in Ufa, Russia, the first time the team hadn’t won a medal in 15 years.
The camp roster was drawn fairly evenly from across the country, as there are nine players from both the OHL and WHL and six from the QMJHL.
But head coach Brent Sutter will have only one NHL player to work with, as while the Minnesota Wild released defenceman Mathew Dumba, Colorado, Calgary, Toronto and Washington have so far all said no when it comes to Nathan MacKinnon, Sean Monahan, Morgan Rielly and Tom Wilson.
Sutter left the door open for any of them to still be named to the team, another change from past years when they wanted NHL teams to decide early.
Final rosters for the tournament do not have to be submitted until Christmas Day.
“I guess the best way to explain is say things have changed drastically in the world of hockey,” Sutter said. “The parity that we have now at the world juniors. Let’s not limit ourselves or tie our hands to where we can’t have our best players playing because of circumstances that you don’t control. Let’s just see what happens with these NHL players.”
Youth will be another key aspect of the team. Only three players are returning from last year’s effort – Paterson, Griffin Reinhart and Jonathan Drouin – and there is one 16-year-old (Connor McDavid), one 17-year-old (Aaron Ekblad) and nine 18-year-olds in a tournament often dominated by 19-year-olds.
“There are some phenomenal 18-year-old players across our country,” Sutter said. “We feel that we’ve got the right mix of guys.”
Because the initial list is so small this year, there were some high profile casualties on Monday. The biggest absences were likely those of Brendan Gaunce, Max Domi, Darnell Nurse and Tristan Jarry.
This year’s event will take place in Malmo, Sweden, but Canada will be based in nearby Copenhagen beginning on Dec. 16. They play three exhibition games against Finland, Sweden and Switzerland before the tournament begins on Boxing Day morning against Germany.
Team Canada junior selection camp roster
Goal: Zach Fucale, Jake Paterson
Defence: Chris Bigras, Aaron Ekblad, Josh Morrissey, Adam Pelech, Derrick Pouliot, Griffin Reinhart, Damon Severson
Forwards: Josh Anderson, Jonathan Drouin, Frederik Gauthier, Felix Girard, Bo Horvat, Charles Hudon, Scott Laughton, Curtis Lazar, Taylor Leier, Anthony Mantha, Connor McDavid, Nic Petan, Sam Reinhart, Kerby Rychel, Hunter Shinkaruk