Despite missing their captain, the Kootenay Ice pulled out a 3-1 win over the Prince George Cougars on Tuesday night.
That’s because Sam Reinhart was on a plane heading to Ontario to attend the Team Canada selection camp for the World Junior Championships for the next month.
Should he make the team, he will be gone for the next month to compete in the world’s premier U20 tournament, which is hosted by Sweden in Malmo.
After the Prince George game, Ice head coach Ryan McGill headed back to Cranbrook with the team and flew out to Toronto on Wednesday to join Team Canada bench boss Brent Sutter and fellow assistant Benoit Groulx for the camp.
It’s a different look for the Canadian squad this year, which only features 25 skaters as opposed to larger camps in the past that included around 40 players. Only three cuts—two forwards and one defenceman—will be made before the final roster of 22 players is submitted to the International Ice Hockey Federation on Dec. 25.
McGill made no secret about what the Team Canada coaching staff is looking for.
“Their best. First and foremost, their best,” said McGill. “And then, obviously, we’ll slot them into roles and once that is given to the public, obviously, we’ve got some good ideas of who’s playing with who and where guys are playing and then we’ll make that decision on the final roster.”
The camp roster was compiled by Hockey Canada head scout Ryan Jankowski and staff with the Program of Excellence, which was whittled down to 25 players after 38 skaters attended a summer camp and exhibition tournament in Lake Placid, USA.
A few names that didn’t show up in the summer camp have a chance to make the team, based on the list that was unveiled on Dec. 2.
Rearguards Chris Bigras (Owen Sound) and Aaron Ekblad (Barrie) played their way onto Hockey Canada’s radar, while forwards Taylor Leier (Portland) and Josh Anderson (London) did the same.
“A lot of these kids proved themselves in Lake Placid for 10 days versus some of the European teams and in practice,” said McGill. “And then they proved themselves from September until the Subway Series.”
“…To have a camp like they’ve had in the past with 40 guys, I think what you’re doing is you’re just muddying the waters. I think the management group has done a great job of scouting for what the coaching staff would like to see as far as players, and they’ve been real specific in who they think is ready for the opportunity and that’s why there are that many players.”
All but Ekblad, Reinhart and Connor McDavid are drafted by NHL teams. Reinhart and Ekblad are considered top prospects in the 2014 draft, while McDavid is eligible next year.
Reinhart, who has 50 points in 33 games with the Ice this season, can play either centre or on the wing, and will use that to his advantage during the camp.
“Obviously, we’d like to see him fit anywhere,” said McGill. “He is very versatile and you know what? He’s going to do just like everybody else on that team. They’re going to try to take the best of the opportunity they can with what they’re given, and I’m sure he’ll be just fine.”