Nine young hockey hopefuls got the call they were dreading early Monday morning as they were informed that they had been cut from the roster that Team Canada will be sending to Buffalo for the upcoming World Junior Hockey Championship.
"It's obviously not the nicest wakeup," said defenceman Brayden McNabb as he prepared for the long trek back to British Columbia to rejoin the Kootenay Ice. "It's pretty hard to take right now; obviously I wanted to be on the team."
Joining McNabb in disappointment this morning was fellow blueliner and Toronto Maple Leafs draft pick Jesse Blacker, who admitted to feeling a sense of dread when he was awoken from his slumber Monday morning.
"You look at the phone for a second and you realize that it's for you or your roommate," Blacker told reporters. "It's a disappointing feeling."
Other players who were released to their junior clubs included forwards Brad Ross of the Portland Winterhawks, Brendan Gallagher of the Vancouver Giants, Linden Vey of the Medicine Hat Tigers, Ryan Howse of the Chilliwack Bruins as well as Garrett Wilson and Joey Hishon of the Owen Sound Attack.
For Hishon, who was a first-round pick, 17th overall, of the Colorado Avalanche in this past June's NHL Entry Draft, it was particularly hard to take. However, he stressed that he bore no ill will.
"This is probably the first time I've ever been cut from a team," said Hishon. "It's pretty hard to argue with Hockey Canada's decision with their track record. I'll be their biggest fan over Christmas."
Forward Reilly Smith, who was one of four players invited to camp who did not ply their trade in the CHL, said he felt players from the NCAA were at a distinct disadvantage; however he was not bitter at the experience.
"It's definitely a transition coming from college hockey, it's a different style of play," said Smith, who is now heading back to Miami (Ohio) University in the CCHA. "It's not overly too bad, it's just tough to see it end this way."
Some of the younger players whose camps ended in disappointment had come to the realization that being cut is all part of the process of their development.
"I'm not going to have any regrets going back to my club team," said Gallagher as he prepared to return to Vancouver. "I thought I came here and did everything that I could so I'll come back here next year and do everything that I can".
To a man, every player who ended up on the outside looking in said they were not bitter about being released and would still be behind Canada for the upcoming tournament.
"It's a tough feeling and a tough pill to swallow but I know they are going to pick a good team," said Howse, who will now turn his attention back to the Bruins' playoff push. "Judging by the players they've got here they've got a good shot at winning gold this year. It was good to be a part of it for sure."
While there were no real surprises amongst the players who were cut, what was somewhat surprising was the fact that all four underage players, Sean Couturier, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Ryan Murray and Ryan Murphy, survived the first round of cuts leaving head coach Dave Cameron and his staff plenty of decisions still to be made in terms of the final roster.
"They are all good hockey players," said Cameron. "It's just part of the process that we have to make decisions and they are tough decisions."
Assuming this year's squad goes with 13 forwards, seven defencemen and two goaltenders, there are still four forwards, three blueliners and two goalies left to be released.
The remaining hopefuls will get their final shot at impressing Team Canada's brass in Tuesday night's game against a team of Canadian university all-stars. Cameron is then expected to make his final cuts Wednesday morning to finalize the 22-man roster that Canada will ice to face Switzerland in a pre-competition game on December 20th in Oshawa, Ontario before the tournament proper opens on the 26th against the Russians.