With Hockey Canada set to name its selection roster for the 2013 World Junior Hockey Championship on Monday, TSN Hockey Insider Bob McKenzie offers up a preview of what to expect as selection camp gets under way on Dec. 10.
In the second part of his analysis, he looks at Canada's depth at forward.
Hockey Canada's dream team - or at least the one that will be assembled if all the best players are made available - starts with a star-studded first forward line.
Florida Panthers first-rounder Jonathan Huberdeau of the Saint John Sea Dogs would be the left winger, Edmonton Oilers centre Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, currently in the AHL with Oklahoma City, would be in the middle and Winnipeg first-rounder Mark Scheifele of the Barrie Colts - a natural centre who can play wing - would likely be on the right side.
New York Islanders pivot Ryan Strome of the Niagara IceDogs would centre the second line. Based on a strong performance in summer competition against Russia, as well as his outstanding play in the Quebec League this season, Montreal Canadiens prospect Charles Hudon of Chicoutimi looks like a lock on the left side, leaving only one spot amongst the top six forwards (second line right wing) up for grabs.
St. Louis Blues first rounder Ty Rattie of the Portland Winterhawks is a natural finisher who could easily fill it. He was Team WHL's best player in the final Subway Series game in Victoria, B.C. But potential No. 1 overall pick Nathan MacKinnon of the Halifax Mooseheads could also push in that spot.
But for the most part, the top six forward positions appear to be spoken for with mostly bona fide NHL-calibre talent. That could leave a lot of gifted offensive players - draft eligibles Jonathan Drouin of Halifax, Kamloops Blazers forward J.C. Lipon, Medicine Hat's Hunter Shinkaruk as well as Ottawa Senators first-rounder Matt Puempel of Kitchener - on the outside looking in. If these skilled players don't fit in the top six, they're unlikely to be considered for third- or fourth-line duty.
Columbus Blue Jackers prospect Boone Jenner - who has dominated in Oshawa this season - would be a lock as the third-line centre and Blackhawks prospect Phillip Danault of Victoriaville is the logical fourth-line centre. The real battle for positions on this team looks to be for third- and fourth-line wingers. Based on their Subway Series games, or in some instances the summer exhibition games against Russia, the most prominent candidates include Washington first-rounder Tom Wilson of Plymouth, Dallas prospect Brett Ritchie of Niagara, Chicago prospect Mark McNeill of Prince Albert, draft-eligible Sean Monahan of the Ottawa 67s and Halifax's MacKinnon, Florida prospect Francis Beauvillier of Rimouski, Predators prospect Colton Sissons of Kelowna, Boston prospect Anthony Camara of Barrie, Carolina prospect Phil Di Giuseppe of the University of Michigan and if he's recovered from a knee injury, Edmonton prospect Travis Ewanyk of the Oil Kings.
But there are other possibilities as well, including Minnesota prospect Tyler Graovac of the 67s and Philadelphia first-rounder Scott Laughton of Oshawa, amongst others.
Now if the lockout ends, all bets are off and the battle for all positions is wide open.
Failing that, though, I could see a scenario where as many as nine or 10 of the 13 forward positions are spoken for when the final camp opens on Dec. 10 in Calgary.