The U20 Showcase is nearing its end, and though many people put little stock into the summer exhibition series, there have been quite a few interesting developments to come from the camp.
Out of the 40 athletes invited to the camp, it’s unlikely all 40 will return come December when the final roster is constructed. It’s possible that players like Lawson Crouse, Michael Dal Colle, Dylan Strome, Robby Fabbri, and Jake Virtanen stick with their NHL clubs, but it’s also likely we see a guy like Jakob Chychrun or Jake Bean make an appearance at the camp. There are a lot of moving parts from now until puck drop on Boxing Day, but it’s clear Canada will be a contender given the extensive list of players in their arsenal, such as the following standouts from this Augusts camp:
Mason McDonald and Mackenzie Blackwood: It was clear these two were a step ahead of Samuel Montembeault, and are likely the front-runners heading into the December selection camp. I do feel we may only see one of these goalies on the final roster. There are a lot of good options out there, such as Lethbridge Hurricanes net minder (and 2017 eligible) Stuart Skinner, as well as Lucas Pressini or Adin Hill. I could name goalies that have a chance all day long, but what I’m getting at is that the position is wide open for whoever earns the job.
Travis Dermott: Was surprised by his defensive ability and overall awareness. Played a physical game for a guy who’s been primarily labelled as an offensive defenceman. He’s a smooth skater who makes smart outlet passes. He’s young, which is something Team Canada has shied away from in the past when selecting defenders, but if he keeps up the play we saw this week he has a legitimate chance.
Brandon Hickey: If you’re going to teach someone how to skate, make sure you show them some video on Brandon Hickey. He’s the smoothest skater I’ve seen in a while, and though he’s considered an underdog to make the squad, I think he has a real chance to be that reliable 5/6 guy who can kill penalties and play in key defensive zone situations. Oh and if you’re wondering whether or not he’s coming to Red Deer, I’d say there’s a better chance the Oilers deal McDavid.. But I’ve been wrong before.
Lawson Crouse: For a while now scouts have said “you have to see him live to understand what he brings.” Well, last night was a first. His defensive instincts are off the chart. He doesn’t quit, and I don’t mean he goes 80% up and down the ice, he goes 110% for the entire game. The thing about Crouse is that he does all the little things right, whether it’s cycling the puck when the defence double down on him or knowing when to make a big hit, he does it right. I would not be surprised if he cracks the Panthers roster this year.
Travis Konecny: Throughout his draft year all you really heard about was the injuries and inconsistency around him. If I knew absolutely none of the players and sat down to watch this four game set, I’d say Travis is a first line player all day long. His vision and passing ability are something to marvel at, and though some may label him as a playmaker or an offensive player, he played some solid defence and was always one of the first guys on the backcheck. Philly has a good one here.
Though there were some solid standouts, such as the players listed above, there were just as many players who were quite underwhelming. Both Hadyn Fleury and Travis Sanheim played unusually weak. Sanheim was beat to the outside more than a few times, and Fleury seemed to have trouble in the decision-making department as he made some poor passes and wasn’t the best in his own end. Jake Debrusk was inconsistent. The Swift Current sniper looked slow and made some bad shot selections. John Quenneville had a chance to display his physical ability, but ended up looking fairly sluggish on most shifts. Don’t get me wrong, I love Johnny’s game, but if he’s going to crack the roster he needs to bring that physical presence we’re used to seeing.
What exactly would a Canadian World Junior article be if I didn’t make a comment on Josh Ho-Sang? He’s good. Very good. In fact he may be one of the best offensive players at the camp. The problem with Josh, that I haven’t had the chance to see prior to the Russian game, is his inability to grasp the concept of passing the puck. There were three instances in the game against Russia where we saw Ho-Sang circle around the offensive zone with the puck on his stick for about 20 seconds then end up losing it. He has this sense that he always has to be “The Guy” and though he is a tremendous offensive player, I doubt he makes this team.
So if the team was being selected from the players invited to this camp, here is what I believe the lineup would look like:
Fleury – Dermott
Sanheim – Hicketts
Hickey – Juulsen
Dal Colle – Fabbri – Virtanen
Crouse – Strome – Marner
Perlini – Point – Konecny
Chartier – McCann – Bleackley
Beauvillier – Quenneville