Neither player is new to international hockey, but Josh Morrissey is looking at tonight’s Subway Super Series game at the Centrium as a ticket to the Canadian national junior teams final selection camp, while Griffin Reinhart will be out to prove he deserves a second tour of duty with the national team.
“It’s going to be fun,” Morrissey, a Prince Albert Raiders defenceman, said Tuesday following a practice session with Team WHL in advance of the 7 p.m. Super Series clash with Team Russia.
“I’ve been lucky to have my fair share of opportunities in international competition and I guess I’ve kind of learned to just make sure that I prepare myself like I would for any other game. It’s going to be exciting. It’s my first time in the Subway Series and I can’t wait to get out there.”
Morrissey, an 18-year-old from Calgary and the Winnipeg Jets’ first-round pick — 13th overall — in June’s NHL entry draft, has worn the maple leaf in the World Under 17 Challenge as well as the World Under 18 Championship and the Memorial of Ivan Hlinka tournament.
The supremely skilled rearguard now has his sights set on a berth on the Canadian squad for the 2014 World Junior Championship set for Dec. 26-Jan. 5 in Sweden. Tonight’s game is an audition of sorts, although he insisted he won’t be feeling any extra heat.
“Obviously my goal is to play on the world junior team and there’s going to be a lot of people watching,” said Morrissey. “You want to do well but I don’t know if it adds any extra pressure. If you look at it that way, it could, but I’m just trying to look at it as another game.
“Go out and work hard and just be myself and not try to do too much. If I just go out and play my game at the end of the day hopefully everything will take care of itself.”
Red Deer Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter will handle bench boss duties for Team WHL tonight and will be in the same role for the Canadian world junior team this year, his third time around. Morrissey agreed that he won’t get a better chance to impress Sutter.
“You want to relish this opportunity for sure and play your best and try to implement the systems that he’s put in place for the game. I just have to play my game,” said Morrissey. “Brent has seen me play a lot, but having him right there on the bench . . . it’s a great opportunity to show yourself.”
Reinhart, meanwhile, would normally be considered a shoe-in for this year’s Canadian squad for the WJC as the only returning player appearing in tonights contest, but he’s not taking anything for granted.
Like Morrissey, he’s also represented Canada at the under-17 and -18 level, and last December was with the Canadian world junior team squad in Sochi, Russia.
“I’m accustomed to international hockey, but no matter what there are always nerves in a game like tomorrow’s and you always have to be at your best,” said the Edmonton Oil Kings defenceman, a first-round pick — fourth overall — of the New York Islanders in 2012.
“Canada has had great teams the last couple of years and you have to continue to prove yourself. They’re not going to take you because of your name or because you were on the team last year. The Hockey Canada people start fresh every year and evaluate players throughout the year. If you’re not playing well and you don’t perform well in (the final selection) camp they’re not going to take you.”
Reinhart would normally be a given for the 2014 Canadian WJC squad, expect that he will likely have to sit out the first three games of this year’s tournament.
The West Vancouver native was handed a four-game suspension for high sticking U.S. forward Vince Trocheck in a 2013 WJC semifinal and missed the bronze-medal game versus Russia.
As it stands, the last three games of the sentence will have to served during this year’s world juniors.
“As of now it’s supposed to carry over,” said Reinhart. “Hockey Canada is trying to deal with that, but I’m not too sure what’s going on and there’s nothing I can do. All I can do is come and do my best and hopefully they’ll still take me.”
In the event that he has to miss the first three games of the WJC, Reinhart is confident that he’ll be able to be effective through the rest of the tournament.
“I’ve had a one-week break before without playing. I’ll just have to get back into it and in the middle of the year it will make it that much easier,” he said. “You want to play every game, but if I go there and miss the first three games. I’ll be back for the New Year’s even game versus the States.”