Mark McNeill (in red) is a Blackhawks prospect (The Canadian Press)Mark Charles Hudon down as the third Canadian lost to injury for the upcoming IIHF U20 world championship, joining Ryan Murray and Colton Sissons, although he is the only one who had actually made the team.
Le Championnat mondial junior de Charles Hudon est terminé. Blessure au dos.
— Mikaël Lalancette (@MLalancette) December 21, 2012
As per the tweet above and an official Hockey Canada announcement, Hudon is out with a back injury, despite having played yesterday against Finland in pre-tournament competition. He will be replaced by Mark McNeill of the Prince Albert Raiders, who was a surprising cut prior to the tournament in my mind. McNeill is listed at 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds, and was the first-round selection of the Chicago Blackhawks in last season's draft. This year, he's been a force at both ends of the ice as captain of the Prince Albert Raiders, scoring 13 goals in 35 games, getting big minutes on a team that's leading the WHL's East Division.
It is upsetting for Hudon, for sure, the diminutive yet offensively gifted prospect taken in the fifth round by the Montreal Canadiens. His 5-11, 171-pound frame does not suit him to being as physical as McNeill, but his puck possession and playmaking games are just as valuable. The preference to take Hudon over McNeill may have been a stylistic one, or the Team Canada brass could have thought that it was wiser to bring the more skilled guy to Russia in the depth role.
As heartbreaking as this is for Hudon and Habs fans, what a call to get for McNeill. After getting cut last week, he returned to Prince Albert for two games, the Raiders winning one and losing one, against Brandon and Kootenay before presumably heading back to Edmonton for the Christmas break. He'll join the team in Finland tomorrow, and his status isn't confirmed for Team Canada's second pre-tournament game against Team Sweden, which will be shown on TSN at 9 a.m. ET/6 a.m. PT on Saturday.
For Canada, since the IIHF doesn't require rosters to be set until Dec. 25, they're probably lucky that the injury bug has afflicted the team before the tournament begins, allowing Canada to keep a full roster. Last season the team lost right wing Devante Smith-Pelly to a broken foot in the first game of the tournament. In the 2011 tournament, centre Jaden Schwartz went down with a broken ankle early in the round-robin.
McNeill will be the second Raider to join the world junior tournament, along with 17-year-old scoring phenom Leon Draisaitl, who will suit up with Team Germany. Prince Albert's other import player, Jonas Knutsen, won gold with Team Norway in Division I to secure promotion. Unfortunately, being a '93, he won't be able to play with the team in the 'A' group for next year's tournament in Sweden.
Tweet from Hudon...
Although I'm deeply disappointed to not be able to reprensent my country at the WJC #readyfornextyear I want to wish my teammates good luck.
— Charles Hudon (@KidHud_10) December 21, 2012
Nothing from McNeill's account yet, but he's probably on an airplane going somewhere.