Buzzing The Net - Junior Hockey

Oh, to be a fly on the wall when head coach Dave Cameron chats with Hockey Canada.

Earlier in the week our Nathan White looked at Team QMJHL's roster for November's Subway Super Series, so-called, putting forth a few Team Canada hopefuls from the eastern league. The Ontario Hockey League has named its lineup(s) for the middle leg of the Super Series, when Team OHL will host two games against Team Russia. With help from Brock Otten of OHL Prospects, who did the blog equivalent of putting the puck right on our stick, we can guesstimate how the OHL's best Canadians fit into the pecking order.

Cameron, as you know, is set to be the first coach in 15 years to guide both Team Canada at the world junior championship and the MasterCard Memorial Cup host team (his Mississauga St. Michael's Majors) in the same season.

It is unfortunate the Canadian Hockey League, which accounts for more than half of NHL draft picks much of time, does not gets it European and U.S. talent involved in the series. That is another post, though.

Here is how we see it, please click through.

Near locks

Calvin de Haan (New York Islanders first round, 2009), Ryan Ellis (Nashville Predators first round, 2009) Erik Gudbranson (Florida Panthers first round, 2010) 

No one is ever automatic to wear the maple leaf. That is two returning defencemen, de Haan and Ellis (pictured), who captain their OHL teams. Gudbranson would have earned a NHL trial if money was no object with his Sun Belt team.

Contenders

Forwards: Taylor Beck (Predators third round, 2009), Casey Cizikas (Islanders fourth round, 2009), Joey Hishon (Avalanche first round, 2009), Peter Holland (Anaheim Ducks first round, 2009), Greg McKegg (Toronto Maple Leafs third round, 2010), Ryan Spooner (Boston Bruins second round, 2010), Christian Thomas (New York Rangers second round, 2010), Tyler Toffoli (Los Angeles Kings second round, 2009), Ethan Werek (Rangers second round, 2009)

It is a veritable who's-who of the league's most dangerous scorers if you skip past Casey Cizikas, who is Cameron's captain with Mississauga.

He might be an intriguing possibility as a workhorse, shutdown forward. It is not unheard of for the coach to fight hard for a two-way player from his own team. (Present-day St. Louis Blues centre Jay McClement, who played in the 2002 and '03 WJCs for his Brampton Battalion coach, Stan Butler, comes to mind.)

Among 19-year-olds, Beck, or Beck/Holland since they form part of a potent Guelph Storm line, might be early leaders. Werek had a six-game goal streak with Kingston prior to Wednesday and has looked very hard to dislodge from the puck.

One overall impression is the dynamic scorers in the OHL, particularly McKegg (second in league scoring for Erie) and Thomas, seem to reside more among the 1992-birthdate players and younger.  

Defence: Taylor Doherty (San Jose Sharks second round, 2009)

Doherty, in basketball parlance, is a very long defender at 6-foot-8 and his size, if he uses it to good effect, will help.

Goal: Mark Visentin (Phoenix Coyotes first round, 2009), Scott Stajcer (Rangers fifth round, 2009)

Stajcer, 19, did not attend the August summer evaluation camp. However, the previously woebegone Attack has won nine of its first 10 games. Stajcer (2.12 goals-against average) is a couple ticks off leading the league in GAA (behind overage Mavric Parks of Saginaw) and leads in save percentage (.937). Visentin, 18, still has another year to take his shot.

Canada's goalies tend to come from the QMJHL and WHL. It is tough to ignore the 40-save nights Colorado Avalanche second-rounder Calvin Pickard consistently seems to turn in with Seattle.

Long shots

Everyone else not listed above

The toughest names to leave off are Owen Sound Attack defenceman Jesse Blacker (Maple Leafs second round, 2009) and two wings, the Windsor Spitfires' Zack Kassian (Sabres first round, '09) and Sudbury Wolves' John McFarland (Panthers second round in 2010).

Blacker was set back by a tough post-draft season that involved a trade from Windsor to Owen Sound.

It is fair to wonder if Kassian might be Beached. Like Kyle Beach, the Chicago Blackhawks prospect who was famously uninvited to try out in 2010, Kassian has a lot of notoriety from past suspensions. The selectors are typically pretty no-nonsense, but on merit he deserves a clean slate.

McFarland has his advocates, but has had an only-OK start with the struggling Wolves.

It is very difficult for 17-year-old in his draft season to crack Canada's lineup. Tyler Seguin fell short last season, so it is tough to expect it to happen among a 2011 draft class largely considered weak. The Kitchener Rangers' Ryan Murphy, among others, will get there someday if anything still makes sense in the world.

Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Sports Canada. Contact him at neatesager@yahoo.ca and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.

Related Articles

Buzzing The Net

Add to My Yahoo RSS

Blog Roll

Featured Sports Video