Canada's best not likely on world squad
Successes of top talent at pro level means chances slim they'll be joining national team
By Elliott Pap, Vancouver Sun
November 3, 2011 3:06 AM
Oiler Ryan Nugent-Hopkins of Burnaby was named NHL rookie of the month for October. Will he play for Canada at world juniors
Photograph by: Dale Macmillan, Getty Images, Vancouver Sun
Don Hay has a new morning routine this season.
It used to be eat, work out and plan Vancouver Giants' practice. Now it's eat, work out, plan Vancouver Giants' practice and check reports on six teenagers playing in the National Hockey League.
As coach of Canada's 2011-12 world junior team, Hay is keenly following the talented half dozen, all of whom are eligible to suit up for the Christmas-time tournament.
Did they play last night? How many minutes did they get? Did they contribute? Is there even the remotest chance they might be loaned back by the Dec. 10 Hockey Canada deadline?
Here's what Hay saw Wednesday:
. Centre Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was leading the Edmonton Oilers in scoring with 11 points and was named NHL rookie of the month for October.
. Centre Ryan Johansen had four points and two game-winning goals for Columbus, which had only two wins.
. Centre Sean Couturier had four points and was plus-5 for Philadelphia.
. Right-winger Brett Connolly had four points and was plus-4 for Tampa Bay.
. Right-winger Devante Smith-Pelly had one point and was minus-4 for Anaheim.
. Defenceman Erik Gudbranson had no points and was minus-6 for Florida.
Two other tournament-eligible Canadians, Carolina's Jeff Skinner and Boston's Tyler Seguin, are excelling at the NHL level and Hay admitted there is virtually no hope of seeing them. (Players must be born in 1992, or later, to participate in the WJC.)
"Skinner and Seguin are totally out of the question," Hay stated. "They've both played a full season in the NHL. One won rookie-of-the-year and the other won a Stanley Cup and, the last time I looked, both were leading their teams in scoring.
"And with the way some of the other young players are playing, they are taking themselves out of the equation, too."
It appears Canada will again suffer the biggest roster hit for this year's tourney. Sweden has two players in the NHL - New Jersey's Adam Larsson and Colorado's Gabriel Landeskog - while Switzerland has one - Nino Niederreiter. Johansen, Couturier and Nugent-Hopkins figured to be Canada's top three centres.
"You can't wait for someone to show up. You have to move on," said Hay, shrugging. "As a coach, my focus is on the players who are available. I think we have a very deep depth chart and, if those players in the NHL do become available, we'd be very excited to have them back.
"But even if a player goes into his 10th game and beyond, it doesn't mean he can't come back," Hay added. "So we'll touch base with their NHL teams as it gets closer to the tournament. We'll just let things play out."
For Giants right-winger Brendan Gallagher, an almost certain Team Canada candidate, things could play out in his favour. It will improve both his chance of making it and the type of role he might have. Naturally, he remained humble Wednesday.
"First off, I think Canada deals with guys in the NHL every year," noted Gallagher, who has 14 goals and 23 points in 13 games for the Giants.
"Every year, you can look at three or four players who have made the jump. Canada is proud of them and Canada does not feel sorry for itself. Personally, it's cool because I know those guys and I'm happy for them as well.
"If I'm fortunate enough to make the team, the players who will be there will be the best players to represent Canada. The goal will be to win the gold medal and that's all we'll talk about. I'm just looking forward to going to the camp. I was there last year and getting cut was a big disappointment for me. I want to go back and make a better impression and help our country win."
G-NOTES: The Giants, who have won five of their last six, return to action Friday in Victoria. They've outscored their opponents 28-11 during the run. ... The G-men will finish five straight on the road Saturday, also in Victoria, before returning home Nov. 9 to face the Edmonton Oil Kings.
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