The WHL has put forward another impressive showing, with 9 of the league's players being named to Canada's team for the upcoming 2012 Ivan Hlinka tournament.
Only 13 WHL players were invited to the tryout camp in the first place, so to have 9 of those guys make the team is a rather impressive feat. The WHL's reputation of producing players on the backend continues as well, as 4 of the 7 defenders named to the team come from the league, as well as one of the two goalies.
This team is a huge jumping point for prospects as it gives them solid exposure and a confidence boost before their draft years (in most cases). Last year, the WHL had 5 players named to the team, including 4 that were taken in the top 10 of the 2012 NHL Draft. The players were Hunter Shinaruk, Griffin Reinhart, Morgan Rielly, Mathew Dumba and Derrick Pouliot. Talk about a good jumping point for those guys.
The following WHL players made the cut for this year's team:
Josh Morrissey - The Prince Albert Raiders defenceman was considered a lock by me after his continued progression as a player over the last two years. He does a little bit of everything on the ice and should be seeing time on the special teams in the event, especially on the powerplay.
Eric Comrie - The goaltending battle was a tight one and it sounds like Comrie's solid performance on the final day might have given him an edge in the battle for a spot. Tristan Jarry of the Edmonton Oil Kings put up a great fight here as well. Zach Fucale of the Halifax Mooseheads is the easy choice as the starter, though.
Madison Bowey - The big, rangy Kelowna Rockets defender impressed people at camp with his mobility and physical play. He's my 7th ranked WHL player for the 2013 NHL Draft and this will be another chance for him to showcase his unique skillset. I expect to see his big showed used on the PP in the event and he should eat up minutes as a PKer too.
Shea Theodore - Last week on this blog I called the Seattle Thunderbirds D an underrated player. That looks to be changing in a big way. He scored a pair of goals in the tryout camps first two Red-White games, both off big point shots. All reports from the camp seemed to point to the fact that he was a rock as a standout on the blueline. Good for him, a very talented player.
Morgan Klimchuk - Klimchuk is a well rounded player, but seemed to be given a chance to shine offensively in tryouts, getting put on a line with the team's best player in Nathan MacKinnon. He made it pay off as he was an easy choice for the team. Expecting big things from him at this event and in the coming year with the Regina Pats. Luckily I'll get to see him live a ton to track his progress.
Curtis Lazar - Was one of my three locks for the team and was an obvious choice for a ton of reasons. Is likely a top 3 offensive player on the team, he works hard and he can play some defence. The Edmonton Oil Kings C came on bigtime down the stretch last season and he will be a big threat in the event. He should provide an impressive 1-2 punch with Nathan MacKinnon on Team Canada's top two lines.
Sam Reinart - He was the third and final player from the WHL that I called a lock for this squad. He was the 2nd youngest player trying out for the team, but that didn't phase me or him. He's had a history of playing big in big situations and this tournament will likely be no different. He can fill a number of different roles and can be counted on for offence especially, if needed.
Nic Petan - A small guy that will definitely fit into this team playing the agitators role. The Portland Winterhawks forward will definitely benefit from making this team as he has a big year ahead. The Winterhawks will lose some key bodies from last year's team and there is a chance for Petan to take on a much bigger role. He's a gritty little player with great hands.
Kayle Doetzel - The darkhorse for making this team out of the WHL players has to be Kayle Doetzel of the Red Deer Rebels. I only saw him a handful of times last year and didn't ever really stand out too much to me. He only played 43 WHL games last year and was a dismal -22 with only 3 points. He stood out at camp with his intense physical play and with his 6'2+ frame, he'll need that to continue.
The full roster can be found here: http://bit.ly/OVe8FA
The event starts fully on August 13th. It runs until the 18th in Slovakia and the Czech Republic. Last year at the event, Canada won the Gold, knocking off Sweden 4-1 in
the final game after finishing 2nd in their pool behind the Swedes.