With a little over a month to go before the World Junior Championships in Edmonton, the Team Canada hopefuls have arrived in Calgary. COVID has provided the Team Canada brass with an opportunity to extend the Selection Camp and hold a full try out. The team will begin with a set of three intra-squad games before their first round of cuts leading up to their annual matchup versus the U Sports All Stars.
The Selection Camp began earlier this week, with 47 players invited to camp; five goalies, 15 defenseman and 28 forwards. Of the players invited, nine are from the QMJHL, 18 from the OHL, 15 in the WHL, 4 playing in the NCAA, and one player coming down from the NHL. This list will need to be cut down to 23 players (3/7/13) by the time the tournament rolls around, with one player already removing himself from the list.
Michigan University defenseman, and potential lottery pick in the upcoming 2021 draft, Owen Power will not be taking part in the Selection Camp. With the COVID restrictions and protocols in place in the NCAA, Michigan decided not to release Power, since they are considered a favourite to win the Frozen Four this year. While the news hurts Team Canada, this does create an opportunity for a certain Habs prospect.
Looking at the rosters, let’s take a look at five names worth monitoring during these intra-squad games!
1. Kaiden Guhle (Team Red)
Let’s start with the obvious one for all Habs fans. Guhle is far from a lock to make this team with the amount of talent that Canada possess on the back end. The group consists of six players chosen in the First Round of their respective Draft years with nine of the 14 invited to camp being left handed. Outside of the top pairing of Byram and Drysdale, no player is a lock to make this team.
Looking at the breakdown of the two teams, Guhle will for the most part, play with a partner from the QMJHL. Both Barron and Spence hold a bit of an advantage since their teams play in the Maritimes, which has allowed them to play actual games and be on the ice far more than their competition. Hopefully Guhle can feed off of this, because if you read between the lines a little bit, Team Canada seems to be separating the teams with clear pairings in mind.
For starters on Guhle’s team (Red), the extra Left Defenseman will create a shuffling on partners, seeing who can build chemistry right away. Guhle and O’Rourke along with Barron and Spence are all candidates for the third pairing on this team. The internal competition on Team Red will be something to monitor, while keeping an eye on Matthew Robertson and Thomas Harley on Team White. However, the latter projects to be the number 2 left defenseman for Canada.
2. Devon Levi (Team White)
A quick disclaimer, Levi is currently one of three players at the Selection Camp still in quarantine. Levi, Alex Newhook and Dylan Holloway all made the trip back from the United States and therefore are required to clear protocol before joining the team.
The Dollard-des-Ormeaux native joined the Lac St Louis Lions (Midget AAA) in his first year of Midget and rewrote their Record Book over the next three years. After losing in the final of the of the Quebec Midget AAA championship in 2019, Levi joined the Carlton Place Canadians of the Central Canada Hockey League (CCHL). To say he lit the CCHL on fire would be an understatement, finishing the season with a 34-2-1 record.
We reached out to Levi’s trainer, Matthew Dopud at Complete Goaltending Development (CGD) to give us a proper breakdown of Levi’s game. Dopud, a former LSL Lions goaltender himself, is the only goaltender in the team’s history to post better numbers than Levi with the Lions, just check the Record Books. The pair worked together extensively this past off-season at CGD at the SHIFT Performance Center leading up to the draft. Levi was the eventual 7th Round Pick by the Panthers, joining a long list of CGD and SHIFT alumni who play in or have been drafted to the NHL which includes Andrei Vasilevski!
Here is what Dopud had to say:
“I worked with Devon Levi over this passed season with the Carleton Place Canadians, and he has one of the best work ethics I’ve ever seen. If I had half the work ethic he did I would probably still be playing. He comes to the rink prepared to work and always willing to learn and get better. If he has the same mindset going into camp as he did with us at Carleton Place last season, I don’t see why he won’t make the team.
He has the right frame of mind and is a winner. He wants to win and he wants to help his team win. He has a team first attitude, and that goes a long way being a goalie, getting the trust from your teammates on and off the ice. Devon is fast, quick, flexible and reads plays before they happen and his ability to track pucks and read plays are phenomenal. One of the best parts of Levi’s game is his ability to play the puck. He saved his teammates from countless injuries last season because he played the puck all the time.
In my opinion, I think he will be one of the top goalies at the camp, Hockey Canada is lucky to have him. He is the only goalie from Quebec and we take pride in being Canada’s goalie factory!”
A big thank you to Matt and the guys at CGD and SHIFT! Good luck Devon, we are all pulling for you here at Hot Sauce Sports!
3. Hendrix Lapierre (Team Red)
Lapierre has been the topic of much debate this off-season starting with the build up to this past NHL Entry Draft. However, if we stopped talking about injuries and just let his play speak for itself, he’s ready. The QMJHL has had a tumultuous start to their season to say the least, and unfortunately Chicoutimi was one of the hardest hit teams. This limited Lapierre’s games played so far, but to this point he has posted three goals and five assists in just five games. The additional ice time will be a huge benefit for not just Lapierre but for all QMJHL players because no matter how hard you try, you cannot replicate game intensity in practice.
Lapierre will be in a battle to make this team, Canada has an abundance of talent which is why making this team is such a career accomplishment. He will not have his Chicoutimi line mate Dawson Mercer to play next to on in camp, but playing between Cole Perfetti and Jacob Pelletier is a nice consolation prize. Lapierre figures to be a bubble player and will likely need to accept a bottom six role on this team. He is not known for his grit, but at 6’0 tall, he isn’t afraid to mix things up with anyone.
4. Kirby Dach (Team White)
There are no words to properly express how excited I am to see Kirby Dach play for Team Canada. In a rare, probably never to be seen again situation, Dach will look to play on Team Canada for the first time. Dach was kept up in the big league by Chicago last season, missing the World Juniors, but they allowed him to join the team this year since it will not conflict with the NHL regular season. The former third overall pick is expected to be a juggernaut for this team and to lead the charge both on and off the ice.
Dach’s expect leadership role on this team was on full display yesterday as he showed up late for practice. After talking with Andre Tourigny (Head Coach), he along with Dylan Cozens (another prominent leader) took responsibility for their actions, getting undressed and watching practice from the bike. Accepting this team first mentality and showing an internal locus of control is a welcomed sight in such a young player. However, it will be Dach’s play on the ice that will be the ultimate test as he is expected to lead by example on the ice as well. The 6’4 Power Forward will look to quite literally man handle the competition in an attempt to go back-to-back, winning on home soil.
5. Shane Wright (Team Red)
If you wanted to get a glimpse at the next generational player before he gets to the NHL, make sure you watch these games! The projected 2022 First Overall pick (yes 2022) will attempt to be the first player since Connor McDavid to make Team Canada as a 16 year old. Wright received Exceptional Player status from the Canadian Hockey League last year, joining the Kingston Frontenacs as a 15 year old. In his first season with the team, Wright was named Assistant Captain, leading the team in points with 66 in 58 games and winning Rookie of the Year honours in the OHL.
Wright is currently skating on a line in camp with Ryan Suzuki and Jack Quinn and will likely be around for a while at Selection Camp. If Wright were to make this team it will likely be as a 13th forward, much like the previous young superstars before him did. To have that amount of talent in your 13th forward is a testament to the skill level in Canada, and don’t expect Wright to go down without a fight. You do not reach the level of talent and stardom without an elite compete level, something that Wright puts on full display nightly in Kingston. Even if he does not make the team this year, he will without a doubt be a prominent player on next year’s team
The three intra-squad games will take place this Saturday (Nov. 21), Sunday (Nov. 22) and Tuesday (Nov. 24). The games will unfortunate only be broadcast on TSN.ca but we will be sure to follow up with analysis, cuts and hopefully a few chuckles as Canada trims down their roster.
Still need more of your hockey fix? Listen to this week’s episode of the Podcast as Peeze, Terry and Eagle speak with one of the hardest working men in the business, Julian McKenzie! A shorter list would be who he doesn’t work for, but this prominent Montreal sports voice was a pleasure to talk with. He even get’s Terry to channel his inner Mariah Carey!
Taking a break from hockey, the guys talk NBA on Weekly Sauce! Alex the Intern, Terry brought back Freddie Henderson from All Sport All Play ASAP Network! We love working with any and all of the guys over at ASAP and be sure to check them out and give them a follow!
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