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McKenzie: A personal view of how things stand at WJHC camp

Bob McKenzie
12/15/2009 1:29:12 AM
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Take this for what it's worth - the superficial ramblings of someone who has seen all of two Team Canada Red-White games. But here's my deeply personal view of how things stand at the Team Canada final evaluation camp as they head into the final audition Tuesday night against some Canadian university players.

At centre, returnee Patrice Cormier is a given. I also believe Brayden Schenn is locked and loaded. The Windsor line looked so good in tonight's scrimmage, I can't imagine Adam Henrique not being there either.

As poorly as Nazem Kadri played on the first night, I thought he was very good offensively on Day Two. Admittedly, he was a dangerous player at both ends of the ice on Day Two, but given the fact no one individual - especially amongst the pivots - has stepped up in a large way offensively, Kadri strikes me as a guy who you have to take because he has a high-end quality that most of the other players lack. He could be a player who emerges as the No. 1 offensive centre; he could be a guy relegated to 13th forward status, but he has seems to have a dynamic offensive dimension that is lacking in this group. So, going into the final test, those would be my four centres.

That would leave potential No. 1 overall pick Tyler Seguin on the outside looking in, but like Taylor Hall last year, Seguin seems a little overwhelmed at this stage of the game. Maybe that changes tonight versus the CIS players but he's going to need to make major strides forward to make it.

Luke Adam has had good offensive flashes but perhaps not enough to mask the defensive deficiencies. That leaves Cody Eakin on the bubble and he's in the running for me as the 13th forward. More on that later.

On the right side, Jordan Eberle is an absolute lock. Brandon Kozun has only been so-so in the camp but he has played so well all season long and possesses a dynamic offensive dimension that I think he'll be there in the final analysis.

Greg Nemisz, playing with his Spitfire linemates, looks to be a solid pick. And I like the strong positional play of Jordan Caron for the fourth spot. That would leave Scott Glennie as an odd man out and he hasn't impressed, even before he was injured in the Monday night game. Louis LeBlanc, a converted centre, has shown a few flashes, so let's not dispense with him just yet and put him, along with Eakin, in the holding tank.

On the left side, returnee Stefan Della Rovere is a lock. So is Taylor Hall, the potential No. 1 overall pick, who is using his speed not just for offensive forays but strong and physical forechecking and puck pursuit. For me, Gabriel Bourque and Brandon McMillan have been terrific. I will be shocked if they aren't solid bets to grab the remaining left wing positions.

That would leave John McFarland as a promising prospect who'll be a major factor next year and Philippe Cornet as odd men out.

With Cormier, Schenn, Henrique and Kadri at centre; Eberle, Kozun, Nemisz and Caron on the right side; Della Rovere, Hall, Bourque and McMillan on the left side, that leaves Eakin and LeBlanc as candidates for the 13th and final forward spot. Both have the flexibility to play centre or wing, but Eakin, an almost a goal a game player, may have a little edge so I'll say he prevails over LeBlanc.

On defence, the three returnees are set: Colten Teubert (even though he has had some rough moments), Alex Pietrangelo and Ryan Ellis (assuming that shot block in the final minutes doesn't turn into a fracture). Marco Scandella and Travis Hamonic, based on their strong summer camps and good starts in their respective leagues, look like solid bets to round out the top five on the blueline.

That leaves lots of competition for the final two defence berths.

Even though he's not fully over the reconstructive knee surgery of last season, Jared Cowen has been solid and it wouldn't surprise me if he nails down one of the two remaining spots. As for the final blueliner berth, there are no bad choices.

Tyler Cuma, especially considering he was a last-minute injury fill-in, has looked good. Draft-eligible Brandon Gormley has been rock solid and mature beyond his years but his relative inexperience may still be a factor. Shawn Lalonde and Nick Deslauriers have had some good moments but haven't, in my opinion, asserted themselves enough to knock off higher profile possibilities.

That leaves Calvin DeHaan and Dylan Olsen as candidates for the final spot. Of the two, Olsen has perhaps been a little more effective and he would be my best guess, but the truth is it could be anyone. There hasn't been a ton of separation amongst the bottom four or five blueliners.

In net, none of the goalies have really stood out; none of the goalies have really fallen apart. Jake Allen's international history would appear to give him the inside track. Olivier Roy, based on play at this camp, may be a shade behind the others at No. 4, which would leave Matt Hackett and Martin Jones battling for the second goalie berth. Honestly, it's hard to say with any authority, based on play in this camp, who should prevail.

We will have to see what Tuesday night and the game against CIS players brings. A whole lot could change very quickly but based on what we've seen so far, that's my take.

Keep in mind, though, that I don't watch these players on a regular basis and this truly is a superficial exercise from someone who just dropped in on these proceedings and is trying to get up to speed on who'll be there for Team Canada in Saskatoon.

Bob McKenzie

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