Team Canada’s world junior tryout was a tough cookie to crack this year. Unlike past years where 40 skaters and four goaltenders received invitations, they only handed out 25 invites in total this year. With that, there was no shortage of high-profile NHL prospects left off the list.
Ultimately, it makes more sense for Canada to go about their tryout process this way. This gives the coaches more time to focus on the players that they have handpicked to represent their country in Sweden. In addition, although the experience of the tryout means something, this strategy won’t waste the handful of players’ time who never really had a shot at making the team at the tryout because they were clearly on the outside looking in.
Here is a look at 10 players who were snubbed from taking part in Team Canada’s tryout camp, which takes place from Dec. 12-15 in Toronto.
Darnell Nurse, defence, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL) – It was surprising to see the Edmonton Oilers’ seventh overall pick of the 2013 NHL draft left off the invite list. On paper, he seemed to be one of Canada's best options as a top-four defenceman. He not only possesses an imposing 6-foot-4, 185-pound stature, but he is also a strong skater with top-notch offensive talent. However, he has been caught out of position at times while in the offensive zone. It seems his odd blunders where he gets away from defence-first hockey and the possibility he may struggle a bit on the big ice surface could have been why Hockey Canada chose other defenders over him.
Max Domi, wing, London Knights (OHL) – As a smooth-skating winger who has shone on big stages such as the OHL playoffs and 2013 MasterCard Memorial Cup, it appeared Domi was a favourite to crack Team Canada.There, however, seems to be two reasonable explanations on why he was left off the list. First of all, competition to play in
Canada's top-six was fiercely tough with the likes of the Erie Otters' Connor McDavid, Portland Winterhawks' Nicolas Petan and the Kootenay Ice's Sam Reinhart winning spots. Secondly, the Phoenix Coyotes first-round pick has had discipline problems in the past that Canada can't afford to suffer through with strict IIHF officiating.
"Max has had a lot of success as a 16- and 17-year-old, making Memorial Cup finals and being a high draft pick," says Hockey Canada head scout Ryan Jankowski. "But, again, when you're down to these kinds of numbers [25 players at camp], it's difficult decisions. You can take everything into account, but you also take into account that we are bulding a team. It's not an all-star team. In Max's situation, there's a lot of opportunity for him down the road with this program [since he's eligible for the 2015 Montreal/Toronto WJC]."
Eric Comrie, goalie, Tri-City Americans (WHL) – The Winnipeg Jets prospect fell victim to Canada only inviting two goalies (Halifax Mooseheads’ Zach Fucale, Saginaw Spirit’s Jake Paterson) to the tryout camp. In past years where they invited four netminders, he (along with Edmonton Oil Kings goalie Tristan Jarry) undoubtedly would have headed to Toronto. The 18-year-old Edmonton, Alta., native has thrived as arguably the best blue-paint protector in the Dub, posting a 2.47 average and .925 save percentage throughout 25 contests this year.
Michael Matheson, defence, Boston College Eagles (NCAA) – Matheson brings a lot to the table. He stands 6-foot-2, 189 pounds, plays with a chip on his shoulder, and has offensive upside as he notched 25 points in 36 games last year. But it seems like Nurse, the tough competition and big ice surface played a part in Canada choosing other blueliners over the Pointe-Claire, Que., native. With the Florida Panthers first-round pick and Calgary Flames prospect Mark Jankowski not receiving invites, no one playing NCAA hockey will suit up for Canada this year.
Connor Brown, wing, Erie Otters (OHL) – Following breaking out into a star last year, Brown has taken the next step in his game this season as one of the top scorers in the OHL. The Toronto Maple Leafs prospect currently leads the league in scoring with 19 goals and 55 points in 28 games. One does have to take into account he plays alongside 2015 draft phenom Connor McDavid and overage superstar Dane Fox in Erie, though. Therefore, his impressive stats are both a testament to his exceptional play and the talent that surrounds him.
Matt Finn, defence, Guelph Storm (OHL) – The captain of the Storm is a Steady Eddy defender who makes his mark at both ends of the ice. The Leafs prospect, who has seven goals and 25 points in 26 games, not only can help lead a power play, but he can also anchor a penalty kill. It seemed he would have been a safe option for Team Canada to put in their five-six pairing, but he was beat out by the likes of the Kelowna Rockets’ Damon Severson and Otters’ Adam Pelech.
Slater Koekkoek, defence, Windsor Spitfires (OHL) – After struggling through injuries the last two seasons, Koekkoek has shown what he can do when healthy in his 19-year-old season with the Spitfires. Like Finn, the Tampa Bay Lightning first-round pick has played a strong two-way game while putting up solid numbers with six goals and 23 points in 26 games.
Brendan Gaunce, centre, Erie Otters (OHL) – Most regarded the Vancouver Canucks first-round pick as a strong third-or-fourth line option for Team Canada down the middle. He possesses an imposing 6-foot-2, 205-pound frame, is strong along the wall and can chip in offensively as he has 11 goals and 29 points in 25 matches on the year. However, he does lack foot speed, which is obviously important on the big ice surfaces.
Brendan Leipsic, centre, Portland Winterhawks (WHL) – The Nashville Predators prospect has thrived as one of the toughest centres to play against in the WHL. He gets under players’ skin with hard hits, trash talk and the odd slash or two. But Leipsic is far from just an energy player, he’s also one of the top snipers in the league. He proved that last year by tying teammate Nicolas Petan for the league lead in points with 120 on the year.
Ryan Pulock, defence, Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL) – Even though Pulock was drafted last year as a first-round pick of the New York Islanders, this was his last chance to suit up for Team Canada because of his late-1994 birthdate. He has excelled as a puck-moving blueliner, potting 10 goals and 26 points in 24 games this year, while holding his own in the defensive zone and being a leader in the Wheat Kings’ dressing room.
Kelly Friesen is a Buzzing the Net columnist for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter @KellyFriesen