Team Canada is set to begin camp for this year's World Juniors in 8 days in Calgary, Alberta. Tomorrow, Team Canada will announce their tryout roster for that camp. It's speculated that the list could be as large as 38 names, with Bob McKenzie re-iterating that point this afternoon.
Last week it was reported that Team Canada and head scout Kevin Prendergast would be naming 14 or 15 players from the WHL to the tryout camp. So, as a bit of a project today I decided to throw some names out there and try to see if I can get most of them correct. We'll see tomorrow, but below you'll find my predictions for WHL guys named to the tryout squad. Keep in mind that they are that, predictions. They aren't necessary a list of players who I would pick if it were up to me.
Laurent Brossoit - Edmonton Oil Kings - Essentially a lock to be invited. After Bruins prospect Malcolm Subban, the major favourite to start, it's a bit of a free-for-all. Brossoit is in that group to be named as a backup for the team. From everything I've seen, I would expect St. Louis Blues prospect Jordan Binnington to be a hot contender for this spot along with Brossoit, with a slight edge to the OHL goalie right now.
Eric Comrie - Tri-City Americans - Might be quite a bit younger than Brossoit, but this kid's got game. Has had a fantastic season this year for the Americans and is tracking to be a potential 1st rounder in the 2013 NHL Draft. Would take a massive performance to end up on this squad, but he'll soak up some valuable experience regardless of how things play out.
Mathew Dumba - Red Deer Rebels - Definitely a kid in the mix for a roster spot. Has a great history with Hockey Canada, serving as team Captain for the Under-18 squad in the past.
Morgan Rielly - Moose Jaw Warriors - Some bold people out there have essentially called him a lock already for this team and I actually agree. A dynamic skater who will be a 1A PP QB option and a top 4 guy overall.
Griffin Reinhart - Edmonton Oil Kings - A big body who can play a shutdown role and provide some offence if needed. I think he finds a way onto the team, but camp will determine a lot for him. This year's event is in Russia on a big ice surface, so that's something that will play into things too.
Ryan Pulock - Brandon Wheat Kings - The lone draft-eligible D to make my list but he's very deserving. Smooth two-way defender with a bomb of a shot. Like for Comrie, experience during an event like this will be huge for him going forward. Health is a bit of a question for him right now, having missed 5 straight games currently.
Duncan Siemens - Saskatoon Blades - Has gotten stronger as the season has gone along for the Blades. Can provide a physical, shutdown game at a different level than any other WHL guy on this list and that's why he cracks it, in my opinion.
Tyler Wotherspoon - Portland Winterhawks - Plays a safe, shutdown game on D. I think he cracks this list mainly because of the injury to Ryan Murray. Murray won't be there to provide his defence and leadership. If Canada needs to help replace those attributes, this Flames prospect is a guy who might fit the bill.
Travis Ewanyk - Edmonton Oil Kings - This gritty forward would have been in the running to make the team, but an injury during the recent Super Series might have cost him a chance. He hasn't been on the ice since being hurt in that game and it might mean he gets an invite, but won't actually have the ability to contend for a spot.
JC Lipon - Kamloops Blazers - A dynamic offensive player who is tied for the WHL lead in scoring with 45 points. Have heard from a few sources that Hockey Canada is very high on him, making me think he earns at least a tryout here.
Adam Lowry - Swift Current Broncos - A man-mountain who can play the wing, centre, provide leadership and play in every situation possible. I have him penciled in to make the final roster, so it only makes sense that he gets that started with a camp invite.
Mark McNeill - Prince Albert Raiders - Similar situation to Lowry. Can fill a number of different roles and is very versatile. Hasn't had the best background with Hockey Canada for some reason, but I have to think he'll have every chance to make this team this time around.
Ty Rattie - Portland Winterhawks - The WHL doesn't have the most pure offence to offer up to Hockey Canada this year, but one of the guys who fits that bill is Rattie. Pure scorer who will definitely garner interest for a final roster spot.
Hunter Shinkaruk - Medicine Hat Tigers - The lone draft-eligible forward on this list but he deserves a shot to try and make the team. Has a good history with Team Canada and has produced on the big stage before.
Colton Sissons - Kelowna Rockets - See above with Lowry/McNeill. Sissons is a gritty guy with size and a lot to like. You would have to think one of these three guys makes the team and it will be a battle for all three to separate themselves from the pack. Sissons has at least earned a chance to show what he can do.
Chris Driedger - Calgary Hitmen - G - If there was going to be a 3rd WHL goalie invited, it would likely be him.
Keegan Lowe - Edmonton Oil Kings - D - Grit and physicality but is a darkhorse to be named to the tryout camp.
Derrick Pouliot - Portland Winterhawks - D - Extremely dangerous puckmover, but I would call him a darkhorse for an invite considering the stable of names on the depth chart already.
Michael St. Croix - Edmonton Oil Kings - FW - Extremely talented offensively but with guys like Nugent-Hopkins, Huberdeau and MacKinnon set to make the squad, I'm just not sure where he fits. I fully expect him to stay in the WHL and use the month to climb up the scoring rankings.
Colin Smith - Kamloops Blazers - FW - He's tied with Lipon in WHL scoring, so why doesn't he get an invite? I'm not exactly sure. Remember, this is a prediction. I've heard how much HC likes Lipon, but haven't heard the same about Smith. For me, I would have Smith there instead, but again, I don't make the calls. Wouldn't be shocked if he was indeed picked to take part in tryouts and he might be the 15th guy on the list tomorrow if Ewanyk isn't on it because of injury.
So, there's my guesses for who are among the 15 names from the WHL to be invited to tryout camp for Hockey Canada at the WJC. Looking up and down at the roster I've chosen, it's pretty clear that D continues to be a strength for the WHL. I'm excited to see how things play out tomorrow and finally find out which WHL players will earn the chance to show much they want to represent their country this year.