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1Dec/120

QMJHL invites for Team Canada

On Monday, December 3rd, Hockey Canada will announced their selection camp roster for the 2013 World Junior Championships. As I did last year, here's my prediction on what QMJHL players will be invited to the camp.

RDS's Stephane Leroux predicts that there will be between 6 and 8 QMJHL players invited to the camp.

Here's my list:

Jonathan Huberdeau, Saint John Sea Dogs - Huberdeau is a no brainer to be invited and to be on the team. A returning member from last year, Huberdeau was tied for second on Team Canada in scoring last year with a goal and nine points in six games. If it wasn't for the NHL lockout, Huberdeau would be playing for the Florida Panthers in the big leagues. Instead, he'll be a top line player for Canada's offensive attack.

Phillip Danault, Victoriaville Tigres - Danault was invited to the selection camp last December but didn't make the cut. In fact, he was likely competing with fellow QMJHL player Michael Bournival for the same role on the team. Bournival made the team, but has now graduated to pro hockey, opening the door for Danault. The Chicago Blackhawks prospect impressed at the Canada-Russia Challenge over the summer and can fill a bottom six role with plenty of PK opportunity. I see him making the team.

Charles Hudon, Chicoutimi Sagueneens - Another player who impressed at the Canada-Russia Challenge, Charles Hudon is an offensive talent that has forced his way into serious consideration for a spot on Team Canada. A Montreal Canadiens prospect, Hudon might be smaller in stature, but his skills and determination on the ice make up for any shortcomings. At a game last night against Halifax, Hudon left the ice briefly under what appeared to be considerable pain, but returned  for the next period. A relief for both Hudon and Hockey Canada, as I see him making the final team.

Nathan MacKinnon, Halifax Mooseheads - Highly touted, there were many who thought Nathan MacKinnon should have made last year's World Junior squad as a 16-year-old. Now a year older and no less impressive, MacKinnon is a strong favourite to be drafted first overall at next summer's NHL draft. In the mean time, his speed and offensive abilities will add to Team Canada's forward corps. I have him making the team.

Jonathan Drouin, Halifax Mooseheads - Drouin has made a name for himself so far this year by proving to be just as dazzling on the ice as his linemate MacKinnon. With both players eligible for next summer's draft, Drouin makes a strong argument for himself to be considered among the first few players picked. A wizard with the puck, Drouin might unfortunately find himself victim to the numbers game due to the NHL lockout. There's a chance he'll still be available next season, but I think he'll be hard pressed to break the roster this year.

Xavier Ouellet, Blainville-Boisbriand Armada - Another player who played well during the Canada-Russia Challenge,  Xavier Ouellet is currently suffering from sprained ankle but should be healthy by the time the selection camp rolls around. Despite being known as a more offensively talented player, Ouellet,a Detroit Red Wings prospect, filled a shutdown role with Canada over the summer and will likely be called to do that again on the final team, especially due to the injury to Ryan Murray that will rule him out for this year's World Juniors. I see Ouellet making the final squad.

Etienne Marcoux, Blainville-Boisbriand Armada - A teammate of Ouellet's, Etienne Marcoux could have injury questions of his own. Early reports from last night have him suffering a shoulder injury, which is concerning news as the undrafted goaltender has a history of shoulder issues. If he's healthy, he's likely the best in the QMJHL at his age group, but he'll be in the dog fight to fill the backup role behind expected starter Malcolm Subban. With Team Canada expected to bring their #3 goaltender along with them to Russia, Marcoux might squeak in to a spot on the team.

Zach Fucale, Halifax Mooseheads - Arguably the top draft eligible goaltender for this year's draft, Fucale is young but his play on the ice certainly does not reflect his age. His calm demeanour and controlled movements on the ice pace the rest of the Mooseheads and there's good reason why he was the co-MVP of the team last year alongside MacKinnon. With Hockey Canada's historical preference towards older player when it comes to the World Juniors, this invitation to the selection camp might be more for experience than anything else. He'll get his opportunity soon enough.

So that's my eight players. If Hockey Canada only invites six players from the QMJHL, I see Drouin and Fucale on the outside looking in. In total though, I see at least five of these players (Huberdeau, Danault, Hudon, MacKinnon and Ouellet) on the final roster. After the camp is announced, I'll write up my prediction on the final roster, based mostly on my observations from the Canada-Russia Challenge and some changes that have happened over the course of the season thus far.

Other possibilities for QMJHL players to be invited:

Francois Brassard, Quebec Remparts - The other top goaltender in the QMJHL, Brassard was drafted by the Ottawa Senators last summer. Like Fucale, he could be brought along for the experience and could compete for a spot next year.

Dillon Fournier, Rouyn-Noranda Huskies - A puckmoving defenseman, Fournier plays big minutes for the Huskies, which coincidentally is Team Canada's assistant coach, Andre Tourigny's team. Drafted by Chicago last summer, he could be in the mix next year.

Finally, there's Maxime Lagace, a goaltender for the PEI Rocket. Lagace was a member of Team Canada at the Canada-Russia Challenge, but played poorly in his single game of action. Signed as a free agent by the Dallas Stars over the summer, Lagace has had a poor start to the season, including losing his starting role in PEI. He's unlikely to still be in Hockey Canada's plans, as could be seen by the fact that he was not invited to play at the Super Series games.