Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Solution to Blow Outs?

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Everyone has been talking about all the blowouts happening at the World Junior Hockey Championship. The 2 most popular solutions so far have been scaling back the teams from 10 to 8, or limiting the goal differential to 5 or 7 max. I'm not a big fan of blow outs, but I'm not a huge fan of only scaling back the amount of games either. As for the goal differential solution, I think once a team gets up by the max, they start letting up, and that's when bad habits and injuries come into play.

One solution I hadn't heard until our show tonight was from Sam Cosentino of Rogers Sportsnet. Sam thinks maybe the big 4 nations should send more than one team. The way I understand it is, Canada, Russia, Sweden and the U.S.A would send an A and B team. The A team would play in the top pool with teams like Finland, Czech Republic, Germany and Slovakia or Switzerland depending on the year. The 2nd pool would have the 4 B teams along with countries like Latvia, Kazakhstan, France etc. But to make this work, teams should have to play in November to try and qualify for the top pool, that way the team that qualifies is the team that participates, instead of qualifying the year before and losing most of the older and better players.

It's an idea I really like, but I'm not sure if the big 4 as they are will want to spend money to send 2 teams to the event, especially with the U-17 and U 18 tournaments going on as well.

One thing is for sure, something has to be worked out, because I don't see a ton of development for a country like Kazakhstan when they get outscored 36-0 in 3 games by Canada, U.S.A and Germany.

Thoughts?

Top 5 Tuesday

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As we get set to watch possible classic match up between Canada and the U.S.A at the World Junior Championship, I thought I would share my top 5 favorite moments from one of the best events around.

5. John Tavares Goal vs. Finland 2009
We don't have to go very far to find this one.

Against Slovakia in pre tournament action this year, Tavares morphed into his Uncle John Tavares the lacrosse legend. It's simply amazing that Tavares not only had the sense to bat the puck after he missed on the first attempt, but that he batted it back in front so he could put it in. John Tavares will score a lot of goals as a pro as he's deadly 12 feet in, but there might not be a better goal off his stick than this one.

4. Canada Vs. Slovakia 1999
This game is on my list because it was the first and so far only Canadian game I have seen live, and the goalie in me loved it. Roberto Luongo started for Canada and an unknown Jan Lasak was opposite him for the Slovaks. Neither goaltender disappointed the sold out crowd at the Keystone Centre in Brandon, Manitoba. Time after time the pipemen made spectacular saves as the game ended 0-0. Of course Luongo has gone onto become one of the best goaltenders in the NHL, while Lasak later that year in June was snagged by Nashville in the 2nd round. He would play only 6 NHL games before heading to the Czech Republic where he's been the main man for Pardubice HC for the last 5 seasons. But for one day in the land of Wheat Kings, Lasak was equal to the great Roberto Luongo and team Canada, and would eventually lead his country to a bronze medal.

3. 2007 Semi-Final Shoot Out
Canada Vs. U.S.A, 3 years after the Americans upset Canada for gold in the final, the two countries met with a spot in the 2007 final on the line in Sweden. Nothing was settled in 60 minutes or overtime so a showdown was needed. But not just any showdown, one that was so filled with drama, they could make an opera out of it. The 3 stars of hte show were Peter Mueller of the States, Carey Price of Canada and Jonathan Toews, also wearing the Maple Leaf. Toews was selected to shoot 3 times, and incredibly was perfect each time. Mueller was also tapped 3 times. The then Everret Silvertip scored his first 2 times in on his WHL opponent Carey Price, but the Tri City tender stopped Mueller on his final shot to send Canada to the Gold Medal game where they knocked off Russia for their 4th straight championship. To relive the entire shoot out, click below.


2. Punch Up At Piestany 1987For your viewing pleasure, courtesy of you tube.

Canada needed to beat the Soviets to win gold. A win by less than 5 would earn them silver, and a loss still left them with bronze. The Canadians were up 4-2 in the second when all hell broke loose, as you can see on the video. In a conversation I had with Theoren Fleury one time he told me when the lights went out, everyone was swinging and hoping it was an opponent. Both teams were disqualified from a medal, however the next year, a Theoren Fleury led team won gold over the Soviets. This is my most vivid memory and I think when I started watching the tournament.

1. John Slaney Game WinnerThe 1991 tournament was held in Saskatoon and there was no shortage of star power. Eric Lindros, Pavel Bure and Doug Weight represented their countries, but it was John Slaney from St. John's Newfoundland who played the role of hero. Canada needed to beat the Soviets in their final game to win it's second straight gold. The Soviets just needed a tie to claim gold. Skip to the 3rd, the game was tied at 2, when Slaney, a 1st round pick of the Washington Capitals, send a shot from the point that somehow found it's way home and Canada won on home soil for the first time. they have since won 2 more times in Canada, with hopes of another this year in Ottawa. I'm thinking Slaney should be the honourary chairmen for next year's event when it heads back to Saskatoon.

We all love this event, so what is your top 5 moments?

Friday, December 26, 2008

5 NHLers That should be in Ottawa

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Well that was interesting wasn't it. Canada demolished the Czech Republic in their tournament opener. The official game sheet can be found here.

An 8-1 thrashing against a country that should be a threat to stand on the podium makes me scared for Kazakhstan on Sunday. While Canada looked out of sorts and nervous for the first half of the first period, a fantastic shift from Patrice Cormier, where he hit everything in sight, turned the tide in favor of the host country and they never looked back. John Tavares, Ryan Ellis and Jordan Eberle were Canada's 3 best offensive players in my opinion, as they were all buzzing, but even still, Canada could be better if NHL teams would have lent a few players to the squad. What's better, struggling on a bad team in the NHL or boosting confidence while winning against your peers? With that here my 5 players in no particular order that should be wearing the maple leaf in our nation's capital.

5. Josh Bailey-New York Islanders
Is it because Islanders G.M. Garth Snow is American and he didn't want to help team Canada? Conspiracy theorists can chew on that all day, but there's no chance Snow is that kind of person. But I do wonder why he decided to keep Bailey on the sinking Island. As of Friday, New York was dead last in the entire league. Sending Bailey to Ottawa might have given Snow a chance to see him play with the man he might get to draft first overall in June, John Tavares. Instead he's hanging out with aging vets and just tonight found his his first NHL goal in 22 games. He is playing more than 15 minutes a night, but is -5 and could probably return from the World Juniors with more confidence than he probably has right now.

4. Kyle Turris-Phoenix
Kyle Turris told me this week he hadn't heard any rumors of him being loaned to Team Canada. I find it a little hard to believe but they are in the desert where hockey barely has a pulse so you never know. Turris has just 6 points in his last 14 games, and is -4 over that stretch. On Tuesday he played was out for just 12 shifts and played less than 10 minutes. I know the ex-Jets are currently in a playoff position right now, but do those numbers make you think Turris is a big part of the club right now?

3. Brandon Sutter-Carolina
He would likely be the captain for team Canada, how could that be bad for his development. Yes the Canes like the Coyotes are in a playoff position right now, but Sutter is averaging 10 minutes a night, and 15 times in his last 20 games has played less than 10. Since returning from a concussion, Sutter has just 1 point in 20 games. Sure he's not going to be an 80 point guy, but one point, you're telling me lighting up a few international rivals with big hits, and big goals wouldn't make Sutter a different player in the second half of the season?

2. Colton Gillies-Minnesota
Unlike some of the guys on this list, Colton Gillies has a point in his last 5 games, unfortunately those 5 games have come in a span of 25 days meaning Gillies is spending a lot of time on pop corn duty as a healthy scratch in Minnesota. He can't play in the AHL because of his age, but he could play as a 19 year old for Canada and he should be, instead of watching the Wild and averaging 8:37 per game when he does see the ice.

1. Steven Stamkos-Tampa BayYes he was the first overall pick, and yes the Lightning promoted him like a presidential candidate with their "Seen Stamkos" campaign, but they only thing outsiders are seeing is a young kid in a bad situation with the bolts. From their early season struggles (2nd last in the league as of Friday) to Barry Melrose getting fired and publicly commenting that he isn't ready to play in the NHL. It's hard to argue with Melrose when you see Stamkos' numbers. 13 points in 34 games and a -11 rating. 2 games ago he played less than 8 minutes on only 10 shifts, the 2nd lowest of the season. What does Tampa need him for right now? Again like the Islanders it might give them a chance to see his chemistry with Tavares as they prepare for this June's draft in Montreal.

More and more in the NHL young players are being rushed because of the cap. I think in some cases it's okay, even with some of the players above, but what's wrong with giving them a 3 week vacation from depressionville and allow them to experience winning with their country. Some teams have done that as the Blue Jackets allowed Nikita Filatov to play for Russia and the Kings did the same with Oscar Moller for team Sweden, we'll see how these players respond when they return to the NHL. If it benefits them, then maybe some other clubs will take notice.

WJC Players To Watch

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The 2009 World Junior Championship gets underway today with 4 games, unfortunately not all are televised and those that are may or may not be available to YOU depending on where you live. I know the USA games are being carried by the NHL Network south of the border but up here at the same time we get to watch documetaries instead of actual games. Go figure.

Anyway, I decided to throw together a list of players who I have an interest in following in this year's tournament. Some on the list will be players you've heard of, some won't be. I've seen several lists from the mainstream media this week proclaiming John Tavares and Victor Hedman as "players of note" to which I say "Um... gee, thanks?"

Dean and I were proclaiming those two as players to watch LAST YEAR. It doesn't take a genius to point out that the top two rated players for 2009 are "players of note".

With that said, here's who I'm watching for this year.

Andrej Nestrasil (CZE) - He's playing in Victoriaville (QMJHL) and leads his team in scoring with 30 points in 36 games. He's only got 10 goals so far but still, he's a 6'2 195 lb 17-year-old that is enjoying a lot of success in North America already. Central Scouting and ISS consider him one of the top 2 or 3 draft eligible players from the Q but I haven't seen anyone listing him in the top 20 yet... and I'm wondering why not.

Tomas Vincour (CZE) - I see him a lot here in Edmonton but like Robin Figren last year, the Oil Kings aren't exactly top heavy when it comes to skill. I want to see what Vincour does when he's surrounded by it at the WJC. He was considered a first rounder in the summer but now seems to be appearing in the second round on most lists I've seen. A strong tournament might turn that around for him. (photo courtesy Andy Devlin/Edmonton Oil Kings)

Juha Metsola (FIN) - Frankly I'm surprised that he's not property of a NHL team already and that he was passed over twice in the NHL draft. I can understand it in his draft year because he barely played but last year he was very good for Lethbridge especially in the second half of the season and in the playoffs. He's not big but he's capable of making those spectacular athletic saves like he did against Canada in their exhibition tune up game last week. (not sure if this link will work but try here).

Harri Sateri (FIN) - If Metsola doesn't start then I assume that job will fall to the San Jose Sharks prospect. Sateri is the anti-Metsola... much bigger and more of the stereotypical technical goalie. For some reason he dropped all the way to the 4th round last year. Maybe there is a reason or maybe it was good fortune for San Jose?

Teemu Hartikainen (FIN) - "Poor man's Thomas Holmstrom", that's how Oiler scouts described him to me after the draft. That's setting the bar pretty high though so it will be interesting to see if that comparison makes any sense after watching Hartikainen play with the best in the world in his age group. He's having a decent year in the top finnish league though.

Vitaly Karamnov (RUS) - He was considered a 1st round talent in 2007 but was passed over by NHL teams because he apparently had no interest in playing in North America. Oddly enough, two months later he was skating for the Everett Silvertips. Karamnov didn't get drafted again though in 2008, one NHL exec told me that "there was no progress in his development" during his WHL season. Karamnov went back to Russia and is now playing a small role with Moscow Dynamo in the KHL. (photo courtesy Everett Silvertips)

Sweden (SWE) - Honestly... with so many 2009 eligible players on the team as well as already drafted guys like Jacob Markstrom, Erik Karlsson and Mikael Backlund to check out, Sweden's games will be Must-See-TV.



Danny Kristo (USA) - He's the second youngest American in the tournament (and Schroeder is an obvious viewing target too) but his play at the 2008 WJAC in Camrose has me wanting to see Kristo on this bigger stage. He's already drafted (MTL, 2nd Round in 2008) and will head to North Dakota next year but, like with Vincour, I want to see him perform when he's surrounded by players who are as good or better than him.

The rest of the USA squad and Canadian team are packed full of intriguing players but most of them have already received the appropriate level of hype so I'll pass on adding to it.

One thing Dean pointed out to me about the USA team that I find really interesting: When was the last time that both goalies and the team captain were CHL players? With Thomas McCollum (Guelph) and Josh Unice (Kitchener) in net and Jonathon Blum (Vancouver) wearing the C... it's hard to make an argument this year that CHL players were victims of conspiracy. There are a total of 8 CHL players on the team compared to one NCAA player on the Canadian side (Cody Goloubef).

Goalies I'm watching for: Metsola/Sateri (FIN), Timo Pielmeier (GER), Jacob Markstrom (SWE). The team that wins the gold usually receives the best goaltending but although I've predicted Canada to place on top and I'm on record saying Dustin Tokarski and Chet Pickard
are stellar goalies... I won't be suprised if one of the above gets some press over the next few weeks.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas from TPS!!

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A very quick holiday message to our listening audience from Dean and I as the clock slowly makes its way past midnight and Christmas is officially here once again.

We hope you enjoy listening to the radio show every week or going back and catching up on what you may have missed by surfing over to the website and clicking on the archives. We certainly love doing the show and bringing you a regular helping of coaches, players, scouts and more from the world of junior, college and minor pro hockey.

I wanted to make a quick mention that every year the TEAM 1260 and our brother and sister Astral Media stations in Edmonton (100.3 The Bear and EZ-Rock 104.9) take part in the Help Kids Hope Radio-thon for the Stollery Children's Hospital. This past November the listeners of the three stations helped us raise somewhere in the neighborhood of a million bucks!

Why am I bringing it up now? Some of you who know me know that my daughter, Julia, spent a lot of time at the Stollery as a baby; more often than not we were residents until she was just about 3-years-old. She's now 9-years-old and doing great... that is her and not some random kid photo (she gets her great looks from her dad!)

Unfortunately life sometimes has a way of throwing curve balls and recently we've had to go back to the Stollery for some fine tuning (unrelated issues from her infant years).

Although we'll be spending Christmas this year opening presents in a hospital room (Julia drew a Christmas Tree, decorated it and taped it to a wall for us to put presents under) it's been somewhat of a reality check for me... in a postive way.

Our current situation isn't all that serious (we hope!) but in rooms all around us there are kids who are facing some very serious issues - some who may not get to see another Christmas at all.

I'm not trying to put a downer on the festive season but want to stress to everyone to take the time this year to really tell the people closest to you how important they are.

If I'm learning anything this season it's that it truly is better to give than it is to receive... do some thing nice for someone else. When you're going through the Tim Horton's drive-thru, pick up the tab of the car behind you, you'd be amazed how good you'll feel!

Lastly, a big THANK YOU to the doctors and nurses at all hospitals but especially at the Stollery. It's Christmas Eve but no one on the staff here tonight is looking like they want to be anywhere else (although you KNOW they probably do!) Next year when the Help Kids Hope Radio-thon comes around again, I hope everyone who stumbles across this little message will remember it and pick up the phone.

Now go hug your kids, your brother, your sister, your parents and your friends!

Merry Christmas Everyone...

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Tavares... World Class Goal

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In case you missed it during Tuesday night's exhibition game between Canada and Slovakia (7-0 final), forward John Tavares scored an absolutely incredible goal. I've seen a lot of goals in my 37 years but very few have brought me out of my chair like this and then had me making double and triple takes to make sure I actually saw what I thought I'd seen.

I'm sure there will be better versions of it available on line before long but here it is courtest TSN if you haven't seen it yet:



Not only does he bat the goal in but he first bats it to him himself from behind the net to where he can whack it a second time into the gaping cage. Oh and he's trying to keep his balance doing it.

I'm sorry but that is just ridiculous.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Top 5 Tuesdays: 2009 WJC Germans

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I know some of you can't even name five German players let alone five that will be worth watching at the 2009 World Junior Championship in Ottawa... but that's what The Pipeline Show is here for! Here are five guys I think will be standouts for the Germans, not that I expect the Black forest country to get a medal or anything.

5 - Denis Reul (D)

Listen... don't expect miracles from Reul but if you're looking for a big, tough, stay at home blueliner then this guy fits the bill. The Bruins drafted him in the 5th round back in 2007 and he's been playing in the QMJHL with Lewiston ever since. Honestly, I just think the guy looks more than a little frightening and if he's half as capable on the ice then the 6'4 226 Lbs behemoth should do just fine.

4 - Conor Morrison (F)

Born in Switzerland but raised in Canada, Morrison is the son of Toronto Maple Leafs Director of Amateur Scouting. Morrison can be found playing for the Salmon Arm Silverbacks in the BCHL but dressed for German at the 2008 WJAC in Camrose and played his way onto the WJC with his performance there. He's not big but he's got some offence in him and obviously he's not out of play skating on the smaller ice.

3 - Rupprich Stephen (F)

One of two guys who really stood out for me at the 2008 WJAC in Camrose. He had a lot more hair there than he does in this picture and in fact reminded me a lot of Robert Lang in the way he appeared on the ice. That said, he's not big either but showed a ton of heart and fire playing for the Germans in Camrose. He's playing in the DEL (top German men's league) but doesn't have any points in 27 games. Still, as a junior he showed me in person that he's worth paying attention to.

2 - Toni Ritter (F)

This was the guy in Camrose and not Jerome Flaake of the Maple Leafs who will also be in Ottawa but isn't on my list here. He's 6'3 and is around 200 lbs and was dynamite for Germany in the Junior A event. Right after that tournament he moved to the Montreal Juniors of the QMJHL where he has put up 5 points in 10 games. He's 18-years-old and undrafted but seriously, a decent showing in Ottawa and I won't be the least bit surprised if he gets some attention this June as a late round pick.

1 - Timo Pielmeier (G)

San Jose liked him enough to use a 3rd round draft pick on him, which may not mean much since the Sharks end up drafting 90% of the decent Germans anyway, but Pielmeier has shown worthy of the hype. He's moved to Shawinigan from St. John's but in his second QMJHL season he has a 19-6 record with a .926 save percentage and 2.51 goals against average. Every once in a while you will see a team pull off a major upset thanks to a hot goalie who stands on his head. THIS could be the guy to do it this year.

Top 5 Tuesday

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Today we take a look at 5 players to watch for on Team USA at the upcoming World Junior Hockey Championship.

5. Jonathan Blum-Defence

The United States Captain has been lights out with Vancouver the past 2 years in the WHL. He notched 18 goals last year and already has 14 this season. A stand up guy off the ice, Blum was a great choice as captain but a surprising one seeing as he plays in the CHL. However counting Blum there are 8 kids who play north of the border. Blum is the only non NCAA blueliner for the stars and stripes but the highest scoring CHL player on the roster with 44 points in 28 games in Vancouver.

4. Danny Kristo-Forward

The only USHL player selected, it's not known how much ice time Kristo will get, but was great at the World Junior A Challenge this past November in Camrose. The Omaha Lancer notched 3 goals and 4 assists for team USA, with 2 of his goals coming on the power play. The Montreal Canadiens 2nd round draft pick from 2008 is a point per game player in the USHL where he's more of a passer with 16 of his 23 points coming from helpers.

3. Jordan Schroeder-Forward

The only 2009 draft eligible player for team USA, Schroeder is no bit player. He was a member of last year's team, and will skate on the club's top line with Colin Wilson and James Van Riemsdyk. Last year he notched 8 points in 6 games, 7 of them assists. So far this season the 5'9" 175 pound Minnesota Golden Gopher has 21 points n 16 games as a freshman. Schroeder wants to up his stock for the 2009 draft and will use the WJC as a springboard.

2. Drayson Bowman-Forward

Bowman who plays for Spokane, didn't make last year's team despite a season where he went on to snipe 42 goals and end up with 82 points in just 66 games. This year he's actually on pace to put up less points, but being an older player got the nod from his home country. He could end up on an all WHL line with Spokane teammate Mitch Wahl and Seattle Thunderbird forward Jim O'Brien, who will be playing on the ice he hopes to skate on in a few years, as Ottawa drafted him 29th overall in 2007.

1. James Van Riemsdyk-Forward

This will be the 3rd, and likely last WJC tournament for the 2nd overall pick of Philadelphia in 2007. It should also be his most dominant. Van Riemsdyk has great size and soft hands, and has pretty good stats in his one and a half years with New Hampshire (60 points in 48 games so far) As mentioned above he'll skate with Colin Wilson and Jordan Schroeder. Wilson will clear out bodies and drive to the net, while Schroeder will play set up man and for the Americans sake, hopefully Van Riemsdyk will fill the net.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Tyrell Out For Season

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Just heard that Dana Tyrell will need season ending ACL surgery. There is also MCL damage that the Prince George Cougar captain suffered Friday night against Sweden in Canada's first World Junior pre tournament game. This is an extremely tough blow for a guy who didn't make the team last year due to injury and would have been a hot commodity at the deadline. It means Tyrell won't get a chance to battle for a gold medal or a Memorial Cup in what will be his last chance. He just signed a contract with Tampa before the camp began.

According to PGTV sports director Allan Bristowe Hockey Canada might bring Tyrell back for the medal round and want him to feel like part of the team. It's a nice touch.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Is Dana Done?

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Friday in team Canada's pre tournament game against Sweden, forward Dana Tyrell smoked Victor Hedman in the first minute of the contest. That's a 5.9.5" skater taking down a 6.7" giant with a clean hit. But it may also have taken Tyrell out of the tournament. Tyrell was getting an MRI this morning, and according to a Pipeline Show source, one Canadian teammate of Tyrell's said his knee "did not look good" yesterday.

This would be a big blow for team Canada, but in a way it would be a blessing that it happened now as they can still add a player to the roster before December 24th.

This would also be bad news for Tyrell's WHL club in Prince George. Despite sitting in the 8th and final playoff spot right now, they will have a hard resisting the bountiful offers they will get for Tyrell at the deadline. If his injury is serious it could set back their development plan for years.

TPS will continue to follow this story and give an update as soon as it's available.

Update: Vancouver Giants forward Evander Kane has been added to Canada's roster. The power forward has 22 goals and 26 assists in 28 games for the Giants this year. Canada hopes to have Kane in action Sunday in their 2nd pre tournament game against Finland.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Canada wins rematch and other random thoughts from TPS

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Okay so they weren't facing Sweden's #1 pipeman Jakob Markstrom, but still it was an impressive pre tournament win from Canada over the country they knocked off in overtime for last year's gold medal win. The Canadians came out physical - I'll venture a guess Victor Hedman has never been knocked harder by a 5'9.5" than when Dana Tyrell knocked the top prospect on his butt early in this one - and they peppered Mark Owuya with 43, including 20 in the 2nd period on route to a 4-2 victory. An official scoresheet can be found here.

Canada did a great job of keeping the pressure on the Swedes with a relentless forecheck and were able to escape their own zone easily. The line of Zach Boychuk, and Jordan Eberle centred by Cody Hodgson (a trio Guy predicted would be together before the camp invites were sent out) was especially creative (6 points combined) and as I mentioned to Guy Tuesday on The Pipeline Show, I think they could be Canada's most effective line. Simply put Hodgson and Boychuk had great chemistry at the top prospects game in Edmonton a year ago while Hodgson and Eberle worked great together with the Under 18 last spring. I also think they'll thrive because they won't face the tough match ups that John Tavares and company will. I chuckled when I heard Pierre McGuire (other than Peter Loubardias of Rogers Sportsnet the most enthusiastic national TV broadcaster when it comes to junior hockey) refer to Colton Teubert as "this year's version of the human eraser, taking over from Luke Schenn" as I had predicted to my Global Sports colleagues John Sexmith and Kevin Karius that PM would latch on to the LA Kings 2007 first round draft pick. John Tavares had a wack of jump tonight and I loved how Stephan Della Rovere was on body check hunt all game long. Sweden was an interesting study. They had just arrived in Canada mid week, started their back up tender and might have been playing possum. As for the big man Victor Hedman while the flight from Sweden and the jarring hit from Tyrell may have affected him, he looked poised in his own end breaking up Canadian rushes with ease and jumped into the play, as noted by his 3rd period goal. The TSN crew quoted Peter Forsberg as saying Hedman is the best blueliner to come out of Sweden since Nick Lidstrom. We spoke to the Red Wings all star recently about Hedman, you cna here that conversation here.

It's interesting that Canada took 8 D-men because they were worried about Ryan Ellis' size and age, but Ellis looked okay to me, hopefully this won't be a decision Hockey Canada regrets if a forward goes down like Dana Tyrell in the 2nd period of this game. Of note the TSN crew did mention that Canada can add a player to the roster before December 24th if a player is injured, so Evander Kane, Brayden Schenn and Taylor Hall keep your cell phones on.

Meanwhile the top prospect roster was released recently, the complete list can be found courtesy the WHL here. This game was huge for current world junior member Cody Hodgson last year in Edmonton. Edmonton Oil King Tomas Vincour leads 15 WHL products into the game this year in Oshawa, look for hulking Spokane D-man Jared Cowan (how did he not get invited to Canada's camp?) to make a massive impression in this game. And keep your eye on Carter Ashton of Lethbridge to make his mark in this contest.

(Photos courtesy www.kuklaskorner.com, www.eurohockey.net, www.canada.com)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Fantasy Prospect Pick Up Of The Week

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Last year Pascale Leclaire established himself as a number one goaltender with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Leclarie recorded 24 wins, with a 2.25 goals against average and a .919 save percentage with 9 shut outs. He also played with team Canada at the world championship held in Quebec and Halifax.

However Leclaire might be getting unseated by another former team Canada pipeman, and it wouldn't be the first time Steve Mason has stolen the #1 job. He did it to Jonathon Bernier last year at the World Junior championship, leading Canada to a gold medal.

This year in Columbus,(heading into Tuesday night) Mason has started 7 of the Blue Jackets games winning 4 of them. The NHL's rookie of the month for November has amassed a goals against average of 1.98 and a save percentage of .923.

Mason is owned by only 60 per cent of the teams on www.cbssports.com and could be the goalie of the future for your fantasy hockey team.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Wednesday Re-Set

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Last night on The Pipeline Show we continued our preview coverage of the 2009 World Junior Championship (click here).

First Dean and I, wearing our brand spanking new Hamilton "Youngblood" Mustangs sweaters (courtesy Madbrothers.com), debated the cuts and choices made by Hockey Canada on Monday.
In our second segment we spoke with Canadian sniper Jordan Eberle. The 2008 1st round pick talked about his excitement over making the team, who he expects to play with and what he's most looking forward to about the tournament.

Next we chatted with Cornell's Riley Nash. Another 1st round pick but this time one who didn't make the final grade for Canada. Riley was candid about his experience at the short camp and why he felt he didn't make the team.

Next up was Jordan Schroeder of the Minnesota Golden Gophers. Schroeder (pronounced Shray-der) is expected to be a top 10 pick at the 2009 NHL Entry Draft and is a returning ember of Team USA for the WJC this year. He'll be a key player lining up next to James VanRiemsdyk and Colin Wilson and we touched on that as well as why USA this year won't failt to live up to their potential.

We closed out the show by playing an interview I had with Saskatoon Blades defenceman Stefan Elliot. He was was a recent winner of the 2009 Draft Prospect Performer of the Week Award that we're apart of and we talked about his draft year, the suprising success of the Blades this year and also a bit about the 2010 WJC that will be held in Regina/Saskatoon.

You can hear all of these interview by checking out the Media Archive section of our website.

It's time to start making podium predictions for the 2009 event. Dean is on record going with Sweden-Canada-USA while I have Canada-Sweden-USA. Peter Loubardias from Rogers Sportsnet, and a good friend of TPS, selected Canada-USA-Sweden but did say if Oscar Moller was playing (as he now is) that he'd strongly consider the Swedes as the gold medal favourites.

What are YOUR predictions for who will take home Gold, Silver and Bronze?

Monday, December 15, 2008

Top 5 Tuesday

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With Canada's roster selected yesterday, I figured I would throw out 5 players I'll be watching closely and expecting special action from starting Boxing Day. I haven't always agreed with decisions that Hockey Canada has made when it comes to this tournament, in fact there have been some that I just can't understand. Cutting Eric Fehr who twice scored 50 goals in the WHL. Not inviting Kyle Beach to a camp, who knows maybe he's changed? And telling Cam Ward he just wasn't good enough. However in most years, HC has proven why they pick the team and I don't as their record is pretty darn good at this event. This year they will try and earn a 5th straight gold medal for a 5th straight time.

5. Stefan Della Rovere- Forward
Every good hockey team should have that one guy who forces the opponents to keep their head on a swivel. Brandon Sutter and Jordin Tootoo have been Canadian players in the past that have filled that role. Oilers prospect Ryan O'Marra filled that role nicely in 2006 as evidenced by this hit:

This year it could be Stefan Della Rovere who becomes a fan favorite like Jordin Tootoo did in Halifax in 2003, but the difference is Della Rovere doesn't take a 20 foot run or jump a few feet to deliver hits. He is short and stocky like Tootoo and does pack a punch when he crunches guys. He can also chip in offensively, as he leads Barrie in scoring this year with 31 points and 93 penalty minutes in 29 games. When Pat Quinn needs some energy, don't be surprised if he taps Della Rovere on the shoulder.


4. Ryan Ellis-Defence
Ellis becomes the first 17 year old to crack Canada's blueline since Jay Bouwmeester turned the trick in 2001 and it's not hard to see why. Ellis is second in team scoring with Windsor this year after piling up 48 points in 30 games, and maintaining an incredible plus 31 rating. The 5'10 rearguard will be a power play specialist for Canada, just as he is in Windsor where 7 of his 15 goals have come with the man advantage. Ellis told TPS that his playing time from the U-18 world championships to the Ivan Hlinka tournament increased quite a bit and if he proves to the coaching staff early in this tournament that his size and age aren't a liability he could earn more then just power play time, something Kris Russell did when he played with Canada. Ellis won't be afraid to roam the ice on the power play and sneak down for back door goals.


3. Angelo Esposito-Forward
After getting the early morning phone call he didn't want for 3 straight years, Angelo Esposito received a knock on his door this year, telling hime he wasn't going anywhere. Did Hockey Canada as guy mentioned simply not want to cut a guy for a 4th straight year? I don't think they would keep someone, especially when they don't have an extra forward, for that reason. Esposito is such an insteresting study. After registering 98 points in his QMJHL rookie season, his point totals have plummeted, from 79 to 69 in about the same amount of games played each season. And as noted, he didn't miss any time to play for Canada. This year Esposito could prove he is ready for the spotlight and feed his naysayers a huge helping of crow, or the tournament might expose him as a player not able to compete with the big boys.

2. Jamie Benn/Brett Sonne-Forwards
You might be asking yourself who Jamie Benn and Brett Sonne are and why are they on this team? After all Benn was a 5th round pick of Dallas in 2007 while Sonne was a 3rd round selection of St. Louis the same year. Neither have the pedigree of Cody Hodgson or the hype of John Tavares. But check out these numbers for Benn in Kelowna: 24 Goals, in 27 games, along with 21 helpers putting him 5th in league scoring. Sonne's numbers are even more impressive with the Calgary Hitmen: 23 goals, 32 Assists for 55 points in 34 games, good enough for top spot in the Western Hockey League. It might come as a surprise for casual hockey fans, but The Pipeline Show wouldn't be shocked if either guy led Canada in scoring, provided they are put in offensive situations.

1. Chet Pickard/Dustin Tokarski-Goalies
What, you're surprised I made the goaltending situation my top story? You obviously haven't listend to TPS often enough or read Coming Down The Pipe regularily. Before the team was picked I had Pickard and Jake Allen as my netminders. I like so many others before me counted Dustin Tokarski out. However my esteemed collegue Guy Flaming did not, as he nailed the two netminders, as did Sam Cosentino and Peter Loubardias on previous TPS shows. So now that two have been chosen who starts? The coaches have said they will let the exhibition games decide that. Pickard (pictured below)was the highest goalie chosen in last year's draft, going 18th to Nashville, while Tokarski led Spokane to a Memorial Cup championship and was named MVP. Earlier this season Pickard was struggling, but got red hot at the right time, entering Canada's camp as the CHL goaltender of the week. Pat Quinn said he would like to go with one guy, but as he showed with Canada at the 2002 Salt Lake City games, he won't be afraid to swap his tenders should one guy have an off game. The Canadians face the Czech Republic on Boxing Day, and I expect Pickard to be the starter, but wouldn't be at all shocked if Tokarski plays a role in Canada's tournament. After all, Steve Mason wasn't Canada's starter when the event began last year.

A couple of bonus items this week, on what else to watch for. Pat Quinn. The coach stated this week he hasn't watched a single QMJHL game this year, which tells you he doesn't exactly have his finger on the pulse of junior hockey. But he knows the game and every player I've spoken with who played for him at the Under 18 event spoke highly of how he handled the bench and related to the players. Cody Hodgson. The Canucks 2007 first rounder will play second fiddle to John Tavares down the middle, but might end up being the best forward Canada will have. He's been compared to Sam Gagner and has a deadly shot. Tyler Myers. The giant blueliner who stands 6'7 once played for the States, but Canada is glad he picked the Maple Leaf over stars and stripes for this event. Myers is huge, but unlike most big men, can get around the ice easily, and can you imagine a pairing of him and Keith Aulie? The Brandon Wheat King blueliner is 6'6. John Tavares. The deadliest sniper within 12 feet outside of the NHL will go head to head with the man battling him for top spot at this year's draft, Victor Hedman. I have gone on record as a Tavares guy for the upcoming draft, but can't wait to see the two battle each other at the WJC as the key guys for their respective teams. It won't happen until the medal round if it happens at all. For a complete schedule of the tournament, click here.

By the way, tonight on TPS Guy and I will speak with Oilers prospect Riley Nash, who I was shocked didn't make this team. We may also speak to one player who did make the grade. Mike Oke of International Scouting Services is scheduled to join us to chat about the draft elegible players in the tournament. Stefan Elliot of the Saskatoon Blades wasn't invited to Canada's camp but was recently a 2009 Draft Prospect Preformer of the week, and we'll chat with him about the season so far in Saskatoon. Also Flaming Hot/Not, my fantasy prospect pick up of the week, Bad Ass trivia and more, starting at 7 PM mountain time on The TEAM 1260 and online around the world at www.thepipelineshow.com

Stunning Final Roster for Canada

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Hockey Canada released its final roster for the 2009 World Junior Hockey Championship this morning and all I can say is that there is more on the line now for the selection group than simply winning a gold medal.

Every year there are surprises both in who does and doesn't make the team. This time around there aren't just one or two names that jump off the sheet at me but several.

1) The first name that caught my eye as I read the release (which you can see here) is Keith Aulie. Not a guy who appeared on any prediction list I saw and was not considered a legit candidate to some knowledgeable people we spoke with either like Peter Loubardias last week on the show. I can only assume that his 6'6 frame is a large reason, pardon the pun, for his inclusion on this roster but everyone I've talked to about him has described Aulie as a big guy who plays like he's 6'. He's apparently a really nice guy though.

2) Cody Goloubef is an interesting addition and not that he's not deserving but both Dean and I thoguht that Brendan Smith and Patrick Wiercioch had better chances. The Wisconsin Badger that made the team (Goloubef and Smith are teammates) is smaller, younger and has less points than the one that was cut so it will be interesting to see how this one turns out. I certainly had Smith ahead of Goloubef on my list and I believe Dean did too. Wiercioch is scoring at a point-per-game pace...

3) Hockey Canada's choice to go with 8 defencemen is very interesting too. It's the first time ever that Canada has veered away from the 13-7-2 format and I'm a bit surprised that they've done it here. By doing so they run a huge risk should a forward get injured during the tournament plus, simply having an extra blueliner meant cutting a forward at the expense of a young but potentially offensive catalyst like Taylor Hall, Matt Duchene or Brayden Schenn. Apparently this was a decision centering around the wish to limit Ryan Ellis (pictured left)to a power play role and to protect the youngster from being exposed should an injury come to the top 6 on the back end. Apparently injuries up front aren't much of a concern. Both Dean and I had Ellis on our projected teams last week so we're not arguing his inclusion but rather the decision to go with 8 defenders raised our eyebrows a bit.

4) I theorized last week that this year's entry might be void of players from the QMJHL. To my suprise, all three forwards who were invited actually made the final team (although goalie Jake Allen and defender Kevin Marshall were sacked). Patrice Cormier, Chris Didomenico and even Angelo Esposito all make the grade and while I thought one might make it (I picked Didomenico) I as surprised all three are here. It sounds like Esposito's shootout skills helped his cause and really, even though all reports suggest he fully eanred his way onto the team, you know people will speculate Hockey Canada simply didn't want to cut a guy for the 4th year in a row.

5) The fact that there are 3 Q-League players on the team is a suprise (for me at least) and comes at the expense of the NCAA players who were trying out. I completely expected the number of collegians to exceed the QMJHLers but with only Goloubef making the squad... wrong again! Riley Nash (pictured) had 3 points in the exhibition games but that wasn't enough. I expected a talented center with size who could play a 2-way role would be something Hockey Canada would desire considering their general lack of forward size. Nash will be a guest on The Pipeline Show on Tuesday night and we'll find out what he was told after getting the bad news.

6) Lastly, the list of talented forwards who didn't make the team is a pretty impressive array of names. It's true that every year Canada could send two medal contending teams to the WJC so it's not a shock that talented players were cut. Still, to see names like Matt Duchene, Evander Kane, Brayden Schenn, Riley Nash and Nazem Kadri on the outside looking in... it's a little suprising. Working against those players (outside of Nash) must be their age; all will still be eligible for the 2010 and 2011 WJC tournaments and should be considered as shoe-ins for them.

So with the final roster set all that is left to speculate on are possible line combinations. Dean and I scibbled down some thoughts as to what our forward lines would look like and, although not perfect in the bottom six we think our top 6 is dynamite.

Team Canada forward lines according to TPS:

Jamie Benn - John Tavares - Brett Sonne
Zack Boychuk - Cody Hodgson - Jordan Eberle
Patrice Cormier - Angelo Esposito - Stefan Della Rovere
Dana Tyrell - Chris Didomenico - Tyler Ennis

I thought about playing the 3 QMJHL guys together but as Dean pointed out, that would leave a very small 4th line. Perhaps having Cormier centering Tyrell and Della Rovere would make for an interesting bang & crash line...

EDIT: Thanks to some comments from readers, here's another crack at potential line combos...

Jamie Benn - John Tavares - Chris Didomenico
Zack Boychuk - Cody Hodgson - Jordan Eberle
Dana Tyrell - Patrice Cormier - Stefan Della Rovere
Brett Sonne - Angelo Esposito - Tyler Ennis

Lots of potential with this line up even though it's much different than the ones that Dean and I proposed last week.

What say YOU?

School Wrap Up

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There wasn't a ton of action south of the 49th this weekend as college hockey makes it's way to Christmas time and holiday tournaments.

You have to wonder how different last year's national championship game would have been had (1) Notre Dame not been without the services of Erik Condra (Ottawa, 7th round, 2006) The Fighting Irish leading scorer in each of his first 3 seasons, suffered a season ending knee injury last year in the CCHA playoffs against Ferris State. This year Condra is healthy and starting to heat up with 7 points in his last 7 games, including 3 this weekend as the Irish fought hard to sweep Bowling Green. Notre Dame ran it's win streak to 14 games and secured another spot atop the rankings.

(2) Minnesota had little trouble with (9) Colorado College Saturday night. Led by 2009 top prospect Jordan Schroeder, Ryan Stoa (Colorado, 2nd round, 2005) Mike Hoeffel (New Jersey, 2nd round, 2007) Cade Fairchild (St. Louis, 4th round, 2007) who all had 2 point nights, the Golden Gophers skated past the Tigers 4-1. Stoa is the only one who won't play for the United States at the upcoming World Junior Championship, and that's only because he's to old. However, Sunday was a different story. Richard Bachman (Dallas, 4th round, 2006) didn't have to be spectacular but he did kick out 21 to earn the shut out, while Addison DeBoe scored short handed as the Tigers blanked Minnesota 1-0. It was the first CC bagel over Minnesota since 1995.

North Dakota seems to be waking from it's early season slumber, as the Fighting Sioux swept (17) St. Cloud State, smoking the Huskies Saturday night 7-4. UND has now won 5 of 6 and averaged more than 5 goals per game over that stretch. It's no stretch that Dave Hakstol's crew will make it's way back into the top 20. Watch out for the Sioux in the second half.

Elswhere (4) Boston University played only once, but beat Mass-Lowell, and Denver swept (14) Minnesota State, thanks to a hatty from Matt Glasser (Edmonton, 7th round, 2005) on Saturday night.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Team Canada... according to TPS

9 comments:

Dean and I have assembled our pre-selection camp rosters for the Canadian entry at the 2009 World Junior Championships and after going through plenty of erasers sheets of paper, we're ready to reveal our predictions.

First off, 2 caveats: no injuries and no help from the NHL... so if Colton Gillies does indeed get loaned to the cause by the Minnesota Wild, well you'll have to excuse us for not taking that into account for now. We made our picks based on the 38 names invited by Hockey Canada to try out for the team and that's it.

Millard's Team Canada and Flaming's Team Canada

Goalies
Starter: Pickard - Tokarski
Back Up: Allen - Pickard


Defence
1. Ellis - Ellis
2. Hickey - Hickey
3. Myers - Myers
4. Pietrangelo -Pietrangelo
5. Subban - Subban

6. Teubert - Cuma
7. Wiercioch - Smith


Forwards
1. Benn - Benn
2. Boychuk - Boychuck
3. Della Rovere - Didomenico
4. Duchene - Duchene
5. Eberle - Eberle
6. Ennis - Ennis
7. Hodgson - Hodgson
8. Tavares - Tavares
9. Tyrell - Tyrell
10. Schenn - Schenn
11. Nash - Nash
12. Sonne - Hall
13. Kane - Kane


Flaming's forward combinations:

Boychuk - Hodgson - Tavares
Benn - Duchene - Eberle
Tyrell - Nash - Kane
Schenn - Ennis - Didomenico
x-Hall

All in all, Dean and I have pretty similar teams; in hindsight I like his choices on the blueline better than mine. I had a hard time cutting both Teubert and Wiercioch but I think the latter will have his time next year and with the big bruising Pats rearguard... it might sound hypocritical coming from a guy who wanted Kyle Beach on the team but Teubert's 72 PIM's were a concern for me.

Up front I chose Didomenico over Della Rovere but can't say I'd be surprised if I was wrong. I took young Taylor Hall over Brett Sonne, the leading scorer in the WHL which looks really odd to me now. However, Hall is the OHL leading scorer so it's a trade off for me. Hall has the experience with Hockey Canada and for me, starts the tournaemnt much like Sam Gagner in 2007... as the extra.

Step up and "Pipe Up!"... put your 20 skaters and 2 goalies in the comments and we'll see how smart everybody is.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Wednesday Re-Set

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Thanks to the weather in Edmonton yesterday, it might have been the smallest crowd at an Oil Kings game I've seen since thier re-birth. It was announced at 3382 but if there were more than 1000 people there I'd be surprised.

Small crowd for the Oil kings but it was definitely the biggest crowd The Pipeline Show has ever had as Dean and I were on location for the first time in our 4 season run.

Hitting the air from the bowels of Rexall Place enabled us to get some postgame interviews so we took advantage of that bu grabbing injured forward Tomas Vincour. We spoke with the Czech forward about his current season, the upcoming NHL draft and also the 2009 World Junior Championship for which he's likely to play a key role on his national team.

Forward Jeff Lee had the Gordie Howe hat-trick last night and was named first star. We spoke with him about the Oil Kings season, the playoff hunt, his transition from the NCAA to the WHL and a lot more.

Head coach Steve Pleau also stopped by and we had a pretty good discussion about his team and their growth from last year, some key players and where he sees the club in a couple of eyars from now.

From there we changed gears and dove into our World Junior coverage as December is largely WJC Month on TPS.

We wanted to take a closer look at the American entry so called up one of our key NCAA contributors, Jim Connolly from USCHO.com and he gave us the rundown on Team USA. We spoke about the omissions of guys like John Carlson, Nick Petrecki and Colin Long but also on the list of players who did make the cut.

Jim also spoke at length about Air Force and the bum rap they've gotten in the National Polls this season. Conference realignment also came up.

Of course we played Bad Ass Trivia as well.

Finally it was an extended 2-part interview with one of our favorite guests. Peter Loubardias from Rogers Sportsnet helped us dissect Team Canada's 38-player tryout roster starting with those who didn't get an invite; Kyle Beach, Jared Cowan, Mike Murphy and Logan Couture. We ended the program with WJC podium predictions from Dean, Peter and myself.

All of those interviews are available via podcast/RSS feed so if you missed it live, click our archive.

In the next day or so Dean and I will post our 22-man Canadian rosters.

One other item... TPS told you back on November 7th that J.F. Jacques was about "6 weeks away". Yesterday, Dean updated everyone again with the news that Jacques was skating on the weekend and that the Oilers are looking expecting he'll be ready to go in January. "He's looking good" an Oiler source told Dean yesterday.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Canada Q-Less?

2 comments:
Yes... that IS Justin Timberlake as a French goalie from the ridiculously bad Love Guru. Why is he on display here at Coming Down the Pipe? Because he's another Q product that's not going to make the WJC team either.

Zero returning players, one goalie, one blueliner and 3 forwards invited. That's the total contribution to Canada's 2009 World Junior camp which begins later this week in Ottawa. It's almost unthinkable to imagine but could this possibly be the year where there isn't a single player from the QMJHL that makes the team?

My first thought is that Hockey Canada wouldn't allow that to happen simply for political reasons - the uproar out East would be enormous.

My second thought is whether Hockey Canada would really take a player from the Q simply for that reason. Surely someone from the five players invited is good enough to earn a spot on his own merit but I'm willing to bet that if there is just one guy who makes it... someone is going to raise an eyebrow and declare that guy to be "the token Q representative".

The goalie in question is Jake Allen. This time last year no one outside of Newfoundland new who he was because he was stuck playing behind Timo Pielmeier with the Fog Devils. Once he got to the U18's though it was a different story and thanks to an outstanding tournament in Moscow (capped off with an 8-0 shutout in the final game) Allen is a legit contender for a roster spot.

Allen was a 2nd round pick by St. Louis last June and since the team relocated to Montreal, he's been the go-to guy in net (Pielmeier is now in Shawinigan). Allen's numbers a solid but not mind-blowing by any stretch of the imagination; 2.92 GAA, .919 SV% and 13 wins in 24 games played.

On his side he has fresh success with Hockey Canada and head coach Pat Quinn, both of which are a big deal. Working against him is his age, he's the youngest of the four invitees as the only '90 born of the group. There will be some who suggest that unless he's clearly in the top 2 then he should be cut with the knowledge that he'll be a frontrunner for the job next year.

On the other hand, the conspiracy theorists might point out that if you were going to go the "token Q player" route... the back up goalie spot would be an easy place to do it.

The only blueliner from the Q is Kevin Marshall of the Quebec Remparts. Marshall took part in the tryout camp in 2008 for Prague as well but fell short of making the final roster. The 2nd round draft pick of the Philadelphia Flyers in 2007, Marshall is a 6'1, 207 lbs defence first kind of guy. His career high for points is 35, earned last season while still a member of the Lewiston Maineiacs.

It's just my personal opinion but I don't have any trouble putting 8 of the other 13 rearguards at camp ahead of him on my depth chart.

Up front Patrice Cormier of the Rimouski Oceanic, according to Hockey's Future writer and TPS contributor Kevin Forbes, is "by far a much more complete player (than teammate Phil Cornet), able to make room for those less eager for the physical battles to show their stuff. I suspect that's why Cormier gets the invite, as he'll be competing for a third/fourth line spot".

Cormier fought through a myriad of injuries last year but the New Jersey Devils rolled the dice and grabbed him in the second round anyway. So far this year Cormier has 24 points in 27 games but, as Forbes and some others have said, points probably aren't why the forward is part of this camp.

I've never seen him play so I can't tell how he compares to guys like Stefan Della Rovere, Jamie Arniel, Brett Sonne, Riley Nash or Dana Tyrell but I know the last three names I just mentioned bring more to the table than simply an ability to check. However, Cormier's ace in the hole might be that at 6'2 and 205 lbs... he might be the biggest forward at camp.

Chris Didomenico, a 6th round pick of the Maple Leafs in 2007, enjoyed a 95-point campaign with Saint John last year. This season he's off to another good start with 34 points in 26 games. He was originally named to the ADT Canada-Russia Challenge but had to sit out due to "a lower body injury" that had him on the shelf for a couple of weeks.

It will be interesting to see how he matches up with some of the other offensive players in camp, assuming that is the role he'd be expected to fill for Canada. CHL guru Peter Loubardias will guest on The Pipeline Show tomorrow night and will be able to tell us much more about Didomenico and his chances of sticking.

Last but certainly not least is Angelo Esposito who has one last chance to try and crack the WJC roster. He's never really come close so is there any reason to think this year will be any different? Motivation certainly has to be a thing of the past as failure to make the squad would mean getting cut 4 years in a row.

Still, it's not like he's ripping up the scoring race in the Q this season; his 24 points in 20 games sounds great but doesn't put him in the top 50 - and yes I know he's played fewer games than most.

Is Esposito really a more deserving invite than say Ottawa 67's forward Logan Couture? They have similar point production and neither have had any success cracking the WJC roster in the past but this year it is being held in Couture's backyard.

It will be interesting to see how the 5 QMJHL players make out this week. For some reason I think Didomenico has the best shot but I won't be surprised at all to see Jake Allen joining him on the final roster.

Just my opinion though, what's your's?