Sunday, December 26, 2010

Looking Ahead to the 2012 WJC Tournament: Team Canada

Sure, it's a little early to look ahead as the greatness that is the World Junior Championships commenced only hours ago, but after hearing all of the chatter about returning players I figure it's never too early to scout things out for next year.


Unfortunately for Canadian fans, next year's squad will boast a similar number of returnees as this year's team (4 - Schenn up front; Ellis, de Haan and Cowen on defence). Of the 22 players on Team Canada this year, only 6 are eligible to return for the 2012 tournament:
  • Mark Visentin, G
  • Erik Gudbranson, D
  • Brett Connolly, W
  • Ryan Johansen, C
  • Jaden Schwartz, W
  • Quinton Howden, W
  • Sean Couturier, C
Canadian fans are only seeing Gudbranson suit up this year because of a contract fallout with the Florida Panthers, so it would be far too optimistic to expect Gudbranson back in the fold in 2012. Couturier should be the #1 pick in this year's NHL Entry Draft and I would expect that he is a full-time NHLer this fall. Connolly and Johansen are both early picks from the 2010 NHL draft, and while I don't see them being NHL-ready this fall, both players will have every opportunity to earn a NHL job after being top 10 picks.

That leaves three potential returnees: Visentin, Schwartz, and Howden.

Seeing how long it takes goalies to develop into the pro game, Visentin should be a staple for Team Canada in 2012. After seeing a new goalie in the crease from year-to-year, Canadian fans may feel a little more at ease hearing a familiar name will be stopping rubber for the Canadians.

St. Louis drafted Schwartz in the first round of the 2010 draft and, with so many players around in their farm system, one would expect that Schwartz returns to Colorado College for the 2011-2012 season. If so, Schwartz will be a lock for next year's Team Canada squad and will shoulder the offensive load.

Howden will be an excellent player to have back in the fold, and should be more than able to take on a leadership role amongst the skaters; however, if people were concerned about scoring this year, they will be hopeless next year as Howden does not provide the elite skill needed in order to succeed in this tournament.

Thankfully Canada has a deep pool of '92 born players who can step in and perform.

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