Hockey Canada

Notes from WJHC camp: Canada's anonymous defenceman

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Mark Masters
12/14/2011 7:41:55 PM
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MEET CANADA'S ANONYMOUS DEFENCEMAN

Scott Harrington wants to thank the media covering Canada's world junior hockey selection camp for leaving him alone.

The London Knights defenceman did not get one interview request until after being named to the squad on Wednesday. To put that in context: 31 of the 42 players at the camp conducted interviews on Saturday after arriving in Calgary.

Media availabilities took place before and after games throughout the camp, but nobody asked to talk to the 6-foot-3, 200-pound Kingston, Ont. native.

"I think that any time, especially in a camp like this, any time you can just kind of keep to yourself and stay focussed on the task it's easier," Harrington said, finally breaking his media silence on Wednesday. "That's why I think I was a little bit lucky in a way. I could focus on myself the last couple days and now that the team's made I know that'll change, but it's a nice little break for sure."

Some players like talking to the media while others loathe the process. When reporters ask pointed questions it can plant seeds of doubt that weren't there before, especially in a short camp where the pressure is sky high. 

NOT FLASHY, BUT EFFECTIVE

Harrington's style of play likely contributed to his anonymous stature at the camp, but it also helped him make the team. 

"I consider myself a defensive defenceman, someone you put out to shut the other team's best players down," said Harrington, a Pittsburgh Penguins prospect. "That's something  I tried to do in camp and something I'll try and keep on doing in the tournament."

"Really consistent play," said head coach Don Hay when asked why Harrington made the team over others like the offensive-minded Ryan Murphy. "That's a big thing that we looked at. He plays for a good team in Ontario in London and he's been consistent throughout the summertime and here. He's a real sound defender. He does't take a lot of chances, but he doesn't get beat a lot."

Harrington will not stay in the shadows for long. The media attention at the selection camp will be nothing compared to the actual tournament.

"There's been media all over the rink and today's unbelievable," Harrington said. "I've never seen this many before."

So will Harrington's play slip once the microphones start getting shoved in his face?

"In junior we get a lot of requests every day and that prepares you for times like these so that should't be too much of a factor," he said.

IMPROBABLE JOURNEY CONTINUES

For a brief moment on Wednesday morning, Tanner Pearson thought he was done with Team Canada. He was glued to Twitter watching reporters post messages about each cut player as they were announced. With just one cut left to be made someone sent out a tweet indicating it was the Barrie Colts forward.

"He said he was nervous, but I think he was even more nervous than he said he was," said forward Quinton Howden, who was Pearson's roommate. "You could see his facial expression go down right away when that tweet came in."

But the tweet was wrong and moments later Pearson received confirmation: he would get to wear the Maple Leaf this Christmas.

"As soon as that knock came on the door, you know, it was unbelievable," Pearson said. "Knowing that you made this big step and will be on this big stage for the world juniors is just an unbelievable feeling."

TOUGH START

Pearson, who leads the Ontario Hockey League in scoring with 26 goals and 40 assists in 30 games, was disappointed with how he performed early in the selection camp, which opened on Sunday.

"Probably the first two days I didn't really do what I could," he said.

"I was just fighting the puck, that kind of thing, and last night I kind of found my game back and my stride and was able to handle the puck and make plays.

"I thought I played well and last night was probably the first time I thought I could make this team."

He only barely did. Head coach Don Hay confirmed Pearson was one of the final players chosen. He edged out Victoriaville's Phillip Danault. 

"You're looking for a weighty forward that's a good puck-protection player," Hay said, "a good down-low player, somebody who can go to the net and be a force in that area ... We wanted to make sure that we had skill, but also people who could play different roles and compete at a high level and he was one of those players.

"We were really looking for somebody to fill a certain type of role and Tanner was that guy."

Pearson has a fairly good idea what his role will be when the tournament opens on Boxing Day.

"I probably say I'd be a banger, crasher that can put up points. I don't think I'm going to be the highest-scoring guy on the team, but I'm going to try and contribute whenever possible."

NOT SURPRISED

Mark Scheifele, Pearson's teammate in Barrie, is not surprised.

"Honestly, right from the start, right when he got chosen [to attend the selection camp], I said he was going to make the team," said Scheifele, who grew up with Pearson in Kitchener, Ont. 

"He's an unreal player. He's so skilled, hardworking, dedicated, everything that makes a good player he has. I've grown up with him and I've spent a lot of time with him and you just kind of see that drive he has in his eyes and it really makes him a great player. Just seeing that the last two years you just have a feeling in your mind that he's going to be able to achieve his goals."

But Pearson has been passed over before. In fact not once, but twice he was left unpicked in the NHL draft.

"My expectations for myself here, they were, I wouldn't say too high, but I knew what I had to do to make this team," Pearson said.

NOT LETTING IT GO TO HIS HEAD

The 19-year-old admitted it is satisfying to make the team when so many other teams doubted him before. But in the same breath he thanks Scheifele and Howden for helping him earn the spot.

"Mark's been through Hockey Canada stuff before and he's kind of helped me a bit and the same with Howden. He was here last year and knows the ropes and he's kind of helped me out too."

Pearson, who credits an off-season conditioning program for giving him the confidence to take his game to the next level, is no longer flying under the radar. But that does not mean he is letting his newfound fame go to his head.

"I'm just staying levelheaded," he said. "It's obviously an honour to be here and be with the great guys we have here. There's lots of high-calibre players and lots of high-calibre players that got cut also so to be here is an honour."

NOT CONTENT WITH BACKING UP

Scott Wedgewood isn't content with simply making the Canadian junior team. The Plymouth Whalers goalie wants to start when Canada opens the tournament on Boxing Day. 

Head coach Don Hay anointed Mark Visentin, who played well during most of last year's world junior championship, as his No. 1 man in the crease at the start of the selection camp, but that does not faze Wedgewood. 

"He's got the experience from being here last year and things like that and coach has kind of given him the starting job here at the start of camp, but I'm not going to settle for second place," the New Jersey Devils prospect said. "I'm a competitor. I want to play so it's going to be a tough job for him to keep. I'm going to push him and it's going to be fairly tough between the both of us."

Wedgewood (13-5-2 with a save percentage of .904) is have a stronger season – at least statistically – than Visentin (11-7-0, .899). 

Wedgewood outplayed Tyler Bunz and Louis Domingue to earn the second goalie slot on the team.


REFUSING TO TAKE THE BAIT

Visentin is not worried about Wedgewood's comments.

"That's his focus," the Niagara IceDogs goalie said, "but my focus is just to go out there and play and have fun. I don't like to look too far ahead."

This is the first time two Ontario Hockey League goalies have made Team Canada since 1995 (Dan Cloutier of the Soo Greyhounds and Jamie Storr of the Owen Sound Attack), which is also the last time Hay led the national program.

"Knowing Scott and playing against him the last three years in junior I think he's a really good goalie and a really good person so I think he'll be a good fit on the team," Visentin said.

Scott Harrington (Photo: OHL Images)

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(Photo: OHL Images)
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