Hockey Canada’s Scott Salmond feels there will be no shortage of motivation for the Canadian players at the 2017 world junior hockey championship.
Canada didn’t make it past the quarter-finals at the 2016 tournament in Helsinki, falling to eventual champion Finland. Salmond says that disappointing loss has players feeling like they have something to prove at the Dec. 26-Jan. 5 event in Montreal and Toronto.
“I think there was a level of embarrassment to the result last year,” Salmond said Tuesday after the team’s camp roster was announced. “I don’t necessarily think to the performance, but to the result. I think there’s some guys like Dylan Strome, who is very focused on coming back, making an impression and trying to redeem what happened last year.
“I think playing at home lends to that too.”
Strome, an Arizona Coyotes prospect who plays for the OHL’s Erie Otters, is one of five returning players who will compete for a spot on Canada’s 22-man roster.
In all, Hockey Canada named 32 players — 19 forwards, 10 defencemen and three goalies — to its selection camp roster Dec. 10-14 in Blainville, Que. Other returning players include Mathew Barzal (Seattle,WHL), Thomas Chabot (Saint John, QMJHL), Julien Gauthier (Val-d’Or, QMJHL) and Mitchell Stephens (Saginaw, OHL).
Three games have been scheduled during the camp at Centre d’Excellence Sports Rousseau. The U Sport All-Stars will provide the opposition on Dec. 12 and 13 before a matchup against the Czech Republic on Dec. 14.
Canada is in Group B at this year’s tournament with the United States, Russia, Slovakia and Latvia. Group A includes the Czech Republic, Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Switzerland.
“I think you temper expectations based on the fact that there’s been seven different winners in seven years and those seven teams didn’t medal the year before,” Salmond said. “What that tells me is there’s parity. It’s very, very difficult to win. For me, I always thought there was four or five teams (but) there’s probably seven teams that could win this thing.
“So that’s a challenge. I think the fact that we don’t have all of our best players, if you will, we’re missing a number of players in the National Hockey League, tempers expectations. But at the same time, whenever we get 22 Canadians together with that Canadian jersey, I like our chances.”
Edmonton Oilers star Connor McDavid anchored the Canadian team that won gold at the 2015 tournament co-hosted by Toronto and Montreal.
He and a bumper crop of teenage stars are not expected to play as they’re entrenched with their NHL clubs. That list includes players like Winnipeg Jets forward Patrik Laine (Finland), Calgary Flames forward Matthew Tkachuk (U.S.) and Maple Leafs forwards Auston Matthews (U.S.) and Mitch Marner (Canada).
“It doesn’t look good for Connor McDavid,” Salmond said with a smile. “I don’t think we’re going to get him.”
Salmond said Hockey Canada is engaged in conversations with NHL teams about freeing up their players for the tournament ahead of the Dec. 19 deadline. He admits that while the program hasn’t given up hope, he’s doubtful others will come on board.
In addition, top prospect Nolan Patrick of the Brandon Wheat Kings is injured and there is no firm timeline for his return. Kelowna Rockets defenceman Cal Foote, a native of Englewood, Colo., has committed to the Canadian program but is ineligible for this year’s tournament due to IIHF residency rules.
Salmond, who serves as Hockey Canada’s vice-president of hockey operations and men’s national teams, also said he would be surprised if Arizona Coyotes forward Lawson Crouse was released to play.
“We’re going to have to play a collective game,” Salmond said. “I don’t think we’re full of superstars, but in a way that might be encouraging. I think the coaches will do a great job of getting these guys together.”
Canada will open the preliminary round against Russia on Boxing Day at Toronto’s Air Canada Centre. Quarter-final play begins Jan. 2 and the medal games are set for Jan. 5 at Montreal’s Bell Centre.
Canada leads all nations with 16 world junior gold medals.
Full camp roster
Forwards: Mathew Barzal, Seattle (WHL); Anthony Cirelli, Oshawa (OHL); Dillon Dube, Kelowna (WHL); Pierre-Luc Dubois, Cape Breton (QMJHL); Julien Gauthier, Val-d’Or (QMJHL); Brett Howden, Moose Jaw (WHL); Mathieu Joseph, Saint John (QMJHL); Tyson Jost, North Dakota (WCHA); Michael McLeod, Mississauga (OHL); Nick Merkley, Kelowna (WHL); Nolan Patrick, Brandon (WHL); Taylor Raddysh, Erie (OHL); Nicolas Roy, Chicoutimi (QMJHL); Zach Senyshyn, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL); Blake Speers, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL); Sam Steel, Regina (WHL); Mitchell Stephens, Saginaw (OHL); Dylan Strome, Erie (OHL); Austin Wagner, Regina (WHL).
Defence: Jake Bean, Calgary (WHL); Guillaume Brisebois, Charlottetown (QMJHL); Thomas Chabot, Saint John (QMJHL); Kale Clague, Brandon (WHL); Dante Fabbro, Boston University (HE); Samuel Girard, Shawinigan (QMJHL); Noah Juulsen, Everett (WHL); Jeremy Lauzon, Rouyn-Noranda (QMJHL); Victor Mete, London (OHL); Philippe Myers, Rouyn-Noranda (QMJHL).
Goaltenders: Carter Hart, Everett (WHL); Connor Ingram, Kamloops (WHL); Michael McNiven, Owen Sound (WHL)Report Typo/Error