Saturday, 3 January 2015

Will the Canadiens be under-represented in next year's World Junior Championships?

One question I had last night while watching the Canada-Denmark game was what the Canadiens’ representation would be at next year’s World Juniors. This year we had a healthy crop of prospects, with Zach Fucale, Jacob de la Rose, Arturri Lehkonen, Martin Reway, and near-misses like Mike McCarron and Nikita Scherbak. Jérémy Grégoire was held up as a shoo-in if not for his injury, although I’m not so sure watching the forward corps on Team Canada, but then again I’ve really never seen him play, so what do I know.

Next season though, I can’t think of anyone in our system who might make it. All the current prospects will be graduated, save for young Mr. Scherbak. He may be in Hamilton and loaned out to the Russian team, but since they passed him over this year, I don’t think that’s likely. His exclusion is a baffling decision we attribute to strategic or chauvinistic reasons, but I suspect may be due to his lots-of-heat-little-light showing at the Canada-Russia junior All-Star series earlier this year. In any case, we don’t have any guaranteed returnees this year, like we did at last year’s tournament.

I think that’s another indication of how ‘lucky’ the Canadiens got in the 2012 draft, with many picks high in the draft order, and gathering up numerous touted prospects who ‘fell’ to us. Again, I’ll mention that during his end-of-draft recap press scrum, Trevor Timmins was asked how he felt about picking up so many ‘value’ picks, which experts and mock drafters had ranked much higher. His answer was something like “Did we really?”, or words to that effect expressing interest and mild surprise. In essence, the Canadiens were operating off their own list, and were unaware of/uncontaminated by Central Scouting’s and other resources out there.

Conversely, last summer’s draft was devoid of a second-round pick, and the Habs were slotted low in the order. Further, the Canadiens this time didn’t snap up consensus prospects, but guys more off the radar, long-term projects who don’t necessarily quicken the pulse. So we don’t have obvious WJC candidates for the 2016 tourney.

And players picked up in the 2015 draft will not be likely to make it either, since we’re told again and again how it’s a “19-year-olds’ tournament”. While star players from smaller hockey nations like Switzerland or Denmark are guaranteed to make it, Canadian or American players need to really be exceptional to make it the season after they’re drafted.

Making lemonade, I’ll accept our meager hopes at the World Juniors for the McCarron-Sherbak-de la Rose-Fucale in Hamilton tradeoff, callup-ready kids who’ll make the Bulldogs more formidable and hopefully boost the Canadiens like the late-eighties version was with great young talent from the Sherbrooke Canadiens.

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