Make Canoe my Homepage

Looking ahead to 2012 world junior in Alberta

- January 5th, 2011

BUFFALO — The Americans have proven at the 2011 world junior championship that a raft of returning players from a gold-medal team does not guarantee success the following year.
On Monday night, the U.S. pulled the chute against a dominating Canada in a semifinal. This with eight players in the lineup who won gold last winter in Saskatoon.
In usual cases, the more returning players, the merrier. With that in mind, three of the four teams involved in medal games on Wednesday have to be stoked when they look ahead to the 2012 world junior in Edmonton and Calgary.
Canada has seven players who are eligible to play in Alberta — goalie Mark Visentin, defenceman Erik Gudbranson and forwards Sean Couturier, Jaden Schwartz, Quinton Howden, Ryan Johansen and Brett Connolly.
Gudbranson, a Florida Panthers first-rounder, stands a good chance of being in the NHL next season. Ditto for Couturier, who should be a top three pick in the NHL entry draft in June.
But Visentin, who has taken over from Olivier Roy as the starter at this tournament, should be back. The offensively gifted Schwartz will have a bee in his bonnet after missing most of the 2011 event with a broken ankle, while Johansen has been Canada’s best forward after Brayden Schenn.
In short, there appears to be a fine nucleus in place for the 2012 team. And nine players who were cut at the selection camp in December were born in 1992, so they can return as well.
Sweden also has seven potential returnees, including defenceman Adam Larsson, who has had a strong tournament and like Couturier is a blue-chipper for the draft. Forward Gabriel Landeskog is part of the group that can play in Alberta, and like Schwartz, would have something to prove after missing most of the tournament. Landeskog, the Kitchener Rangers captain, has a high ankle sprain. Similar to Couturier, however, Landeskog might crack an NHL roster after he is selected in June.
Russia is the oldest team playing on Wednesday. The Russians have one player, forward Yevgeni Kuznetsov, who is eligible to play in 2012. With close to an entirely new team next winter, then, they could fall out of medal contention.
The Americans? Well, nine of the players who helped disappoint on Monday can play in Alberta. Goalie Jack Campbell and his backup, Andy Iles, are eligible. Defencemen Derek Forbort, Jon Merrill and Justin Faulk are eligible, as are forwards Charlie Coyle, Jason Zucker, Emerson Etem (let’s hope Etem still has a Twitter account) and Nick Bjugstad. But it’s hard to say what this group will have learned in a positive sense from this year.
And keep an eye on Finland in 2012. Six Finns can return, and this was a young group here. Three Finns can play in the 2013 world junior, never mind next year.
Finland lost to Switzerland 3-2 on Tuesday night in a shootout, meaning that they have finished sixth and the Swiss fifth.
The Czech Republic won the relegation round and finish in seventh place. Slovakia is eighth, and Norway and Germany have been relegated. They will be replaced Denmark and Latvia next winter.
Switzerland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Denmark and Latvia will not challenge for a medal in 2012. The Russians might not either.
Plenty can happen in the course of a year, but Canada, Sweden and the U.S. will have the most experience. Finland probably will not be far off.

Cameron in no mood for history discussion

- January 4th, 2011

Dave Cameron has not made many friends in the media during the 2011 world junior championship.
But we’re willing to bet the Canada coach doesn’t care, because that’s not why he is in Buffalo.
Cameron mostly has been guarded in his dealings with reporters, and did not care on Tuesday to comment on the history of the Canada/Russia hockey rivalry.
He would not give his thoughts on the rivalry, even when asked several times by one reporter. Cameron said he has them, but was not willing to elaborate.
“I do, but I’m not going to share them now because it has nothing to do with my preparation for tomorrow,” Cameron said. “If you want history after, come on over. I will gladly discuss it. But it has nothing to do with me getting ready. A lot of these kids can’t go back five or six years, so I am not going to give them a history lesson now.”
Some reporters have been mumbling about Cameron being a jerk, among other things.
Cameron is far from it. There have been times when he has been entertaining during the tournament, and others when he has not. Keith Allain, the U.S. coach, seems to have gone out of his way to be boring. At least Cameron has not been that.

Americans growing as world junior unfolds

- December 30th, 2010

The United States quietly is pointing itself back to the semi-finals.
Much of the attention at the 2011 world junior championship has been on Canada, but the U.S., the defending gold-medal champions, are one win away from leaping past the quarter-finals.
“We’re growing as a team and the chemistry is good,” said U.S. forward Jerry D’Amigo, a Maple Leafs prospect. “We’re playing good defensively, and that’s the main thing. And no goals (against) tonight. Guys are back-checking and last year we had the same thing.”
D’Amigo scored his first goal of the tournament on Thursday night as the U.S. blanked Germany 4-0. Charlie Coyle, Jon Merrill and Chris Kreider also scored for the U.S. Jack Campbell made 14 saves in the U.S. net. He was relieved for the final 9 1/2 minutes by Andy Iles, but Iles did not face any shots. U.S. coach Keith Allain said afterward that Campbell was not hurt.
Forward Jeremy Morin, who had been hurt earlier, was back in the U.S. lineup.
The Americans improved to 3-0 and should finish the preliminary round with a perfect 4-0 record. The U.S. plays Switzerland on New Year’s Eve.
Most observers and NHL scouts at the world junior think the U.S. and Canada will meet for the gold medal. So far, that meeting is on track.

Kassian’s suspension a little harsh

- December 29th, 2010

Zack Kassian found out on Wednesday that the IIHF doesn’t fool around when it comes to head shots.
That Kassian has been suspended by IIHF disciplinarian Dan Marouelli for an extra game, however, is a little much.
Kassian is sitting out on Wednesday night versus Norway and will not play on Friday against Sweden.
Kassian was assessed a match penalty for hitting to the head and neck when he checked the Czech Republic’s Petr Senkerik in the neutral zone during a 7-2 win by Canada on Tuesday night. Kassian didn’t leave his feet and his biggest offence might have been that he is 6-foot-3 and 226 pounds.
The suspension for the game against Norway was automatic. The suspension for the game against Sweden was a decision made by Marouelli.
One game would have been more than enough. But what message does the IIHF send to Kassian by sitting him for another game? That he is too big for hockey?
This was not like last week, when Kassian clearly got his arms up when he hit Finland’s Joel Armia during an exhibition game. For that hit, Kassian was assessed a minor penalty.
At some point, Canada coach Dave Cameron should have reminded Kassian — and maybe he did — that games are called differently by IIHF officials. But Kassian certainly did not appear to be headhunting on the play. He planted his shoulder and Senkerik crumpled to the ice in a heap. Senkerik did not practise on Wednesday.
Canada, by the way, will catch a break against Sweden, as one of their top forwards, Kitchener Rangers captain Gabriel Landeskog, is expected to miss the rest of the tournament with a high ankle sprain.

Visentin not upset with backup role for Canada

- December 27th, 2010

BUFFALO — Mark Visentin once sat on the end of the bench with the Niagara IceDogs and watched 33 games in a row.
Needless to say, the 18-year-old Canada goaltender is not losing sleep because he has become the backup to Olivier Roy at the 2011 world junior championship.
“I am here for a reason, and that is what I try to tell myself,” Visentin said on Monday. “Olivier is a great guy. I love him personally, and we work hard together. If I get a chance to play, I have to prove I deserve to be here.”
Roy will start on Tuesday afternoon against the Czech Republic, head coach Dave Cameron said. That means Visentin’s only chance to play in the preliminary round will come on Wednesday night against Norway. Unless Roy falters or is hurt, he will play in the final game of the preliminary round against Sweden on Friday.
Cameron said Visentin “would get in at some point.”
For Visentin, who has a 13-4-2-2 record for the IceDogs, the concentration level will be turned up a notch now that he knows he will be backing up, but expected to perform exceptionally at a moment’s notice.
“You have to have an even keel, and I can not stress that enough,” Visentin said. “On the bench, I am always paying attention, knowing what the coaches are saying, just trying to stay in the game (mentally) even though I am not in it.”