Team Canada cut Hunter Shinkaruk and Damon Severson Friday afternoon after the team's first pre-tournament game against Finland, reducing the selection camp roster from 25 to 23 players. They still have one more forward cut to come before the beginning of the IIHF U-20 World Championship starting Boxing Day in Malmo, Sweden.
Shinkaruk was the 24th overall selection of the Vancouver Canucks in the most recent draft and a Medicine Hat Tigers winger. Despite a strong NHL camp and a 37-goal, 86-point campaign in 2012-2013, Shinkaruk's season has been shortened by a recurring hip injury and has just 16 points in 18 games for the Tigers so far this season.
Severson, meanwhile, was the 60th overall pick of the New Jersey Devils in 2012 and is the No. 1 defenceman for the Kelowna Rockets, the top team in the Western League as well as its best defensive club.
Canada brought eight defencemen to camp, so the rest of the blueliners, including bubble players Aaron Ekblad, Chris Bigras, and Adam Pelech, can sleep easy tonight. Of note is that Severson was one of the three right-handed shots brought by Canada to camp, leaving the hulking Ekblad and Mathew Dumba of the Minnesota Wild as the remaining right shots.
The good news is that this means Josh Morrissey, the Winnipeg Jets first rounder who was held out of the first pre-tournament game against the Canadian university selects thanks to a "nagging injury", is probably okay to go for Canada. His offence will be necessary, with the Toronto Maple Leafs holding onto junior aged Morgan Rielly for the duration of the tournament rather than loaning him to Canada. It will mainly be him and the Portland Winterhawks' Derrick Pouliot providing the 5-on-5 offence from defence and presumably working the powerplays.
Canada will also be forced to play with six defencemen for three games as Griffin Reinhart sits out the remaining three games of his IIHF suspension from last year's tournament. He'll be eligible to return New Year's Eve against the defending champion Americans.
Up front, however, the injury to Shinkaruk was probably the determining factor. There aren't a lot of spots for natural wingers on Brent Sutter's teams, and the wisdom was that he was competing against Detroit first rounder and QMJHL leading scorer Anthony Mantha for the last spot on the top six. Hockey Prospectus' Corey Pronman believes that Mantha simply did more than Shinkaruk throughout the camp:
Anthony Mantha (DET) beat out Hunter Shinkaruk (VAN) in a battle for a spot on Canada, as the latter was cut. Mantha didn’t do a ton early on, but later in the game showed the speed and offensive creativity that makes him pretty desirable as a prospect for a big man. Shinkaruk has not looked himself since a hip injury in October for the last few weeks and this cut almost seemed inevitable.
It probably helped Mantha's case that he scored a goal against Finland with this gorgeous shot:
Canada has one more forward cut to come and one remaining pre-tournament contest against Sweden. On the bubble are London's Josh Anderson or perhaps the underage Sam Reinhart. Last year, when Canada chose to go with two underage players in Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin, they broke their own precedent. But Ekblad, a prospective 2014 top five pick, as well as the surefire No. 1 in 2015 Connor McDavid. Reinhart could be seen as a bit of a risk from a generally conservative Hockey Canada organization. Guelph's Kerby Rychel, a first-rounder of the Columbus Blue Jackets, was not impressed by his own play against Finland, so perhaps he sees himself on the bubble as well.
Shinkaruk played on Canada's second line with Nic Petan and Charles Hudon. Presumably, Mantha will move up to that spot for the game against Sweden, and the wingers on Frederick Gauther's line Anderson, Rychel and Félix Girard will be competing for the final forward roster spot.