Team Canada announced the roster today for the World Under-18 Championship tournament which will be held in Crimmitschau and Dresden, Germany, next week (official games begin April 14th).
This post will analyze the 2011-eligible players *only*. We'll get to the 2012 draft prospects in a later post.
At first look, this Canada team will avoid the poor performance of the 2010 entry a year ago. It has some balance between skill and power, finesse and brute force. There is an interesting dynamic on defense, where the majority of the players at that position are 2012-eligible players (4-3), whereas at forward, the roster leans heavily to 2011 (11-2).
How it will work out this month remains to be seen, but at face value, the team has the talent and versatility to win gold in Germany. A lot of it is going to come down to the goaltending, but this squad has to be seen as a contender.
Andrew D'Agostini, G- Small, unorthodox goalie was under siege for much of the year playing for the Peterborough Petes, and his numbers reflect that: 10-25-2 record, .882 save percentage, 4.35 GAA. He's not a butterfly-style goalie and to be honest, at his size, the current accepted netminder style is not a good fit. He tends to rely on his quickness, positioning and never-say-die attitude to get things done. Unfortunately, his size limits him, and he wasn't able to overcome Peterborough's talent issues this season. He'll backup Malcolm Subban (Montreal defenseman P.K. Subban's brother), but may be on the team because of his mental makeup and ability to play under extreme pressure, which is what this kind of tournament is. If Subban falters, D'Agostini could enjoy success given the talent level of the team in front of him because he's used to seeing a ton of rubber and having to deal with playing from behind a lot. He's seen it all before.
Ryan Murphy, D- We won't break down his talent here. Just go to the myriad posts this blog has done in the past, including this week's "case for" entry to see what the small but dynamic Murphy brings to the table. His presence on the U18 squad is a validation of the snub he got from Al Murray over the summer, when Murphy was not selected for the gold medal-winning team that traveled to Slovakia for the Ivan Hlinka tourney. With 26 goals and 79 points in just his second OHL season, this kid is the real deal and will give Canada a legitimate offensive threat every time his skates touch the ice. He could make or break a potential top-five selection in the 2011 draft with his performance this month, and if his performance to date is any indication, we believe he'll raise his stock when the games are in the books.
Scott Harrington, D- If Murphy raised his stock this season and and answered a lot of questions about his NHL upside, Harrington's season had the opposite effect in many scouting circles. With good size and skating ability, Harrington was projected as a player who was a solid defensive presence, but who had some offensive potential as well. Unfortunately, that element of his game did not come in what was a pretty tough year for the London Knights. The defense isn't so much an issue for Harrington with the scouts as it was his indecision and attempt to bring the offense, only to be met with a lack of success. He has the attributes to be a solid NHL defender in time, but he took a step back in his development with his six-goals and 22 points. He's rock solid defensively, using his strength to keep the front of his net clear and an active stick to limit time and space and take away shooting lanes. He can make the basic breakout, but isn't much of a puck mover. He keeps things simple, and as long as he doesn't try and do too much, he's fine. Harrington could end up being a real value pick for an NHL team if he drops, but he could also just be one of those meat-and-potatoes role players who never really establishes himself as the kind of player scouts thought he might be going back to last year.
Reece Scarlett, D- This raw, but very intriguing rear guard is your classic stealth prospect right now. He played for Swift Current, not a choice destination for scouts these days, so he could very well be much higher on certain team lists of those who saw him more than others, because one scout told us that Scarlett has to grow on you a bit. He's extremely lean, and doesn't have great height either, but he has long limbs which contributes to a fluid stride and a nice wingspan. He didn't get much production for the Broncos (6-18-24 in 72 games) but he didn't have a lot of help up front, either. You can't read too much into the stats with him because much of what makes him an interesting prospect is found in his hockey sense and decision-making. If he gets stronger, he has the potential to hit a rapid developmental stride and become one of those late-bloomer types that has everyone wondering how he slipped down to where it was he's likely to get drafted.
Daniel Catenacci, F- Small, ultra-skilled forward is still learning how to better use his teammates, but he's going to be one of the most dangerous scoring players in the entire tourney. Extremely fast and quick, he can handle the puck at speed and goes fearlessly to the net. His 45 assists were fifth-best in the OHL among 2011 draft prospects, but when you analyze his game, he's capable of doing so much more to create for his linemates and be a little more unselfish with the puck.
Austen Brassard, F- Disappointing year for the Belleville prospect who looked so good for the Bulls after being acquired from the stacked Windsor Spitfires at the 2010 OHL trade deadline. Power forward is a good skater with a powerful stride and some underrated quickness. He's got a big, heavy shot and is one of those guys who may bring a big payoff in time because all the physical tools are there. Some scouts question his overall feeling for the game and sense of urgency at times, but these are things to watch, and he'll likely get called sooner rather than later because of his size, skill level and upside.
Brent Andrews, F- 6-1, 197-pound winger is a grinder who won't get you much in the scoring department, but goes up and down the wing, works hard and is a responsible player in all zones. He played on one of the weaker QMJHL clubs in Halifax and isn't going to wow anyone with his skill set, but is an intelligent and disciplined player. He scored 12 goals and 29 points in 67 games for the Mooseheads this season.
Colin Smith, F- Small, skilled forward for Kamloops tallied 21 goals and 50 points this year on the non-playoff Blazers. He is a quick, darting player who hits holes in defenses and has a knack for the net. He tends to get physically overpowered because of his lack of size and strength, but he brings good depth and energy for Team Canada, albeit as a more unheralded player not seen as much of an NHL draft prospect by at least one NHL scout who covers the west we spoke to.
Alan Quine, C- One of the 2011 draft's "what the hell happened to?" guys this season: average sized, but excellent skater who possesses the offensive hockey sense and hands to be a high-flying scorer. Very soft hands and on paper is one of the most talented of any 2011 draft prospect coming out of the OHL, but got off to a poor start with Kingston and was then traded to Peterborough. Not much for the defense side of things, but if you're looking for a kid who can set 'em up with the best of them, Quine is certainly right there. Like most guys his size and body type, he lacks strength and has a lot of work to do in that area. Does not play much of a physical game, but has some of the best natural offensive upside of any forward on the team. A disappointment of a draft season, yes, but don't count this guy out just yet.
Nick Cousins, C- Tiny at 5-9, 155-pounds, this kid can absolutely fly and is one of the more underrated scorers to come out of the OHL this season. With Cousins, it's easy to see him get lost in the shuffle a bit with so many solid OHL draft prospects coming out in 2011, so he could do a lot to gain some attention for himself at this tournament. Great wheels, hands and sense- works hard and had as solid as season for a non-playoff club as you can have. Underrated. Beyond the size, the scouts don't have a bad word for this kid.
Seth Griffith, F- Give FOB (friend of blog) Dominic Tiano credit (and he has his own very nice OHL blog you should visit) for turning us onto Griffith, but the diminutive but tenacious scorer for London last summer. Speed and hockey skills aside, what really earns Griffith high marks with scouts is how well he performed and produced *after* a lot of veteran players were traded away from London in December and early January. He took full advantage of the ice time and delivered, scoring 22 goals and 62 points in 68 games, but showing some real potential because a good portion of his production came against good teams and were meaningful goals/points. In the playoffs, he added three goals and seven points in six games, with the last two games getting blanked by Owen Sound.
Mark McNeill, C- This bull of a center is one of the draft's meteoric risers. We talked to his former Prince Albert teammate Ryan Button, who is in Providence of the AHL right now after being traded to Seattle at mid-season, and Button raved about McNeill's physical maturity (6-2, 210 and capable of getting even stronger sources say), pure strength and skill package. McNeill scored 32 goals and 81 points for the lowest-seeded team to make the WHL playoffs (and went out in the opening round against Saskatoon), and McNeill then had an excellent postseason as well, despite being the focus of the Blades' checking attention. He's a powerful skater who goes to the net, fights off checks and has the vision, hands and stick to be a legitimate scorer at the next level. He will undoubtedly be one of the focal points of scouting efforts across the board in Germany.
Mark Scheifele, C- Big pivot is versatile to play wing, too. Good skater, but lacks top geat and breakaway speed, but agile and powerful. Tough to knock off stride when he gets going. A good puckhandler and playmaker, Scheifele has been steadily rising all year after a 22-goal, 75-point season for the non-playoff Colts. One scout we talked to wasn't impressed with the 6-3, 180-pounder early in the year, but moved off of that opinion and acknowledged that he has upside and is a pretty safe pick to develop into a solid NHL player in time.
Travis Ewanyk, F- Raw, but big-hitting power forward is rising on draft lists despite his modest production on the Edmonton Oil Kings. Potential high payoff in time because he skates well and has a nice shot. A nice open-ice hitter who relishes contact and will be even nastier when he adds mass to his 6-1, 184-pound frame. Posted 16 goals and 27 points, but added 126 penalty minutes as a hard-nosed, intimidating presence you win tough games with. His production is poised to make a big jump next season and potentially beyond. Definitely a player to watch.