It's that time of the year.
One of the biggest hockey event annually nears and this week the heads are turned towards Calgary and Team Canada's camp for the Under-20 World Junior Championship held in Ufa, Russia.
If you didn't know, the scrimmages and games are available on www.fasthockey.com for free.
With no further explications(they'll come after the lineup, don't worry), here's my Team Canada.
Jonathan Huberdeau - Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - Mark Scheifele
Charles Hudon - Ryan Strome - Ty Rattie
Phillip Danault - Boone Jenner - Tom Wilson
Jonathan Drouin - Nathan Mackinnon - Brett Ritchie
Morgan Rielly - Dougie Hamilton
Scott Harrington - Xavier Ouellet
Griffin Reinhart - Matt Dumba
1st line: This is a no-brainer. Once these guys get to know each other better, they'll form a terrific line that could challenge the Perry - Crosby - Bergeron as the best Canada has ever seen at the WJC.
2nd line: We've seen this line a bit yesterday. It should provide good offense too, Rattie having scored 57 goals last season and Strome leading the OHL scoring race. Hudon can certainly play with those two offensively, as his Hockey sense is off the charts, but most fans don't see him in an offensive role as he doesn't have the speed of a Mackinnon or the size of a McNeill. He was one of the most noticeable players in yesterday's Red and White bout, in a sea of first round picks. I think he'll be fine, but could possibly move down in the lineup if he doesn't produce.
3rd line: This is your typical shutdown line, with two very versatile players in Jenner and Danault and a big body in Wilson. This line will have to create momentum on forechecks and by cycling the puck. Danault and Jenner should also form a strong PK pair for Steve Spott.
4th line: That's far from your typical 4th line, but I think the Halifax duo is just too good to be left off the team. It's certainly not a habit for Team Canada to chose 17 year olds, let alone two, but these guys are the real deal. In a 10-day tournament like the WJC, chemistry will be valuable. The two Mooseheads are able to skate with the best in the world and could provide some offensive depth should the top two lines have trouble. Ritchie will play a similar role to Wilson with the two kids, he'll be there to dig pucks out of corner and distribute hits a plenty. He also has familiarity with Strome, which gives interesting options to coach Spott.
I also brought McNeill because he can play all forward positions and he too brings a lot of physicality.
As far as the D goes, the first pair seems to be a consensus amongst the experts since Murray went down. Hamilton and Rielly will be used in every situation. Ouellet is hands down the best Defender in the 'Q, both offensively and defensively, and will most likely be asked to play against the other countries' best along with returnee Scott Harrington. Ouellet should also see time on the 2nd PP wave, should there ever be a need for one (Nugent-Hopkins, Huberdeau, Rielly, Scheifele and Hamilton, talk about a dominating unit).
Reinhart will have the job to cover his partner, whether it is Dumba or Murphy, as both love to carry the puck up ice. To me Dumba has the edge on Murphy defensively and that's why I think he'll play a regular shift on the third pair.
Murphy is not the best in his own zone, but few match his offensive game. Some might want to see Sproul as the 7th defender, which would be a good choice too.
Malcolm Subban will be the starting goaltender for Team Canada, he is used to the Olympic ice, and he has more than solid this year in Belleville carrying the team on his back. Binnington is having a terrific season. I expect Subban to start every game, barring any injury/ bad performance. But it won't be easy skates to fill.
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