KForbesy.ca
28Nov/110

QMJHL invites for Team Canada

In a few short hours, the selection camp roster for Canada's 2012 World Junior roster will be announced.

Here's a quick look at what players I think will be invited from the QMJHL:

Jonathan Huberdeau, Saint John Sea Dogs - Selected third overall by the Florida Panthers last summer, Huberdeau is arguably the top player in the QMJHL this year, even if he's missed the past month with a broken foot. He's expected to be healthy by mid-December, just in time for the tournament. If he's healthy and capable, he's on the final roster.

Zach Phillips, Saint John Sea Dogs - A Minnesota Wild draft pick, Phillips is currently in the middle of a 19 game scoring streak and has picked up much of the slack in Huberdeau's absence. A centre, he might be hard-pressed finding his way on the final team's roster, but his chemistry with Huberdeau might also be his ticket.

Michael Bournival, Shawinigan Cataractes - Playing in front of his hometown crowd in Shawinigan, this Montreal Canadiens prospect does it all. By all reports, he had a strong showing during Canada's summer camp and should fit in as a yeoman in the bottom six for Team Canada. He's missed time this season with injury, but his versatility should be his ticket onto the final roster. Can win a faceoff, kill a penalty, play physical and chip in offensively.

Phillip Danault, Victoriaville Tigres - A similar player to Bournival in what he brings to the team, Danault, a Chicago Blackhawks draft pick might be competing with the older Bournival to fill the same role. It might boil down to a numbers game with Danault, but since he's still 18, the experience will help him for next season.

Nathan MacKinnon, Halifax Mooseheads - A 16-year-old wunderkind, MacKinnon is the early favourite to go first overall in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. The common thinking is that he'll be stepping directly into the NHL as an 18-year-old and that thinking might work in his favour when vying for a roster spot on Team Canada this year. On next year's team, he'll be counted on to be, if not the go-to player, at least one of the top offensive contributors and thus acclimatizing him to the World Junior experience this year can only help matters, provided there's a roster spot available. MacKinnon might be able to sneak in as a 13th forward, or if they decide to construct the team with three scoring lines.

Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Gatineau Olympiques - A prospect for the Ottawa Senators, Pageau has continued to surprise after a coming-out season last year. Though diminutive in size, there's nothing small about his talent and ability. Unfortunately, he's been hampered by a broken finger that has kept him out of the lineup for most of the month. Even if he is healthy in time to attend the camp, he still faces an uphill battle for a roster spot. Pageau likely needs to win a spot on a scoring line to be able to contribute.

Brandon Gormley, Moncton Wildcats - It hasn't been an ideal season for Gormley thus far as Moncton continues to rebuild but his no-nonsense two-way play should be his ticket onto Team Canada all the same. Although he wasn't at top form for the Super Series, I still think the Phoenix Coyotes prospect wins a roster spot on the final squad.

Jerome Gauthier-Leduc, Rimouski Oceanic - A draft selection by the Buffalo Sabres, Gauthier-Leduc has been on fire offensively this year and could parlay that into a roster spot with Team Canada. At this point, it's hard to imagine him in any other role than a powerplay quarterback but his 37 points in 26 games speak wonders to his ability to create offense from the blue line. If Hockey Canada wants to go with a dedicated offensive defenseman, Gauthier-Leduc could be their man.

Nathan Beaulieu, Saint John Sea Dogs - Another Sea Dog and another Montreal Canadiens prospect, Beaulieu didn't look out of place playing with NHLers during the pre-season and has been solid thus far in Saint John. A two-way blue liner, Beaulieu has the tools to do it all, but I'm unsure if he'll be able to find a niche with Team Canada. It's also hard to say if he'll be available to be in the mix next season as a 19-year-old, or perhaps playing in Montreal full-time.

Louis Domingue, Quebec Remparts - The goaltending position might be as wide open as it has ever been for Team Canada with no clear-cut front-runner, but I think Domingue figures into the equation. The Phoenix Coyotes prospect was invited to the summer camp and played in the Super Series and is really the only prominent QMJHL goaltender in the age-range that Hockey Canada would be looking at. He's been splitting time this year in Quebec with Francois Brassard, a rookie, but none of that matters when camp starts up. I don't think he makes the final roster, but his fate really is in his own hands.

So that's how I see it and we'll find out soon enough how close to the truth I am. I've heard other names like 2012 draft-eligible Charles Hudon from Chicoutimi, Cape Breton's Morgan Ellis (yet another Canadiens prospect) or maybe one of the guys from the top line in Acadie-Bathurst (Matthew Bissonnette or Zach O'Brien) but I just don't see it happening (maybe Hudon next year?).

As a side point, there was an interesting conversation on Twitter last night started by my friends at The Pipeline Show about whether or not Team Canada needs a coach from the QMJHL as a member of their coaching staff. Currently there is no representative from the Q on the coaching staff for this year.

One of the top comments I read was from Jerome Berube, talking about how without a QMJHL coach who is familiar with some of the less prominent players, the coaching staff might be more likely to turn towards players that are more of a known quantity from their own leagues. The key players on the list above that I feel this might hurt the most are guys like Phillips, Danault, Pageau, Gauthier-Leduc and Beaulieu. All of them are guys that I feel could very easily be on the final roster, but might be left on the outside if there isn't someone in the decision room to champion for them, as there will be for players from the OHL and the WHL.

But then again, there's not too many prominent QMJHL coaches who would be easy choices to fill that role right now either...