John Tavares and Evander Kane have graduated to the NHL, but new talent like Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin will be battling for spots on Canada’s world junior hockey team.
They were among 36 players invited Wednesday to a selection camp for the Canadian team that will compete at the world junior tournament beginning Dec. 26 in Saskatoon and Regina. The camp will be held Dec. 12-16 in Regina.
The list includes three players under 18 — Seguin of the Plymouth Whalers, John McFarland of the Sudbury Wolves and defenceman Brandon Gormley of the Moncton Wildcats — as well as Hall of the Windsor Spitfires who just turned 18.
All four are expected to go in the top 10 of the NHL draft in June.
“We don’t deal in quotas,” said head scout Al Murray. “When they hit the ice, no one looks at birth certificates.
“It’s not unusual for a 17-year-old to come in and make the team.”
The camp will be used to select a 22-man squad that will try to bring in a sixth consecutive gold medal for Canada.
Seven players return from last year’s gold medallists in Ottawa, including defenceman Alex Pietrangelo, who was made available by the St. Louis Blues. He’s played nine games for the NHL club this season.
Others are defenceman Colten Teubert and forward Jordan Eberle of the Regiona Pats, defenceman Ryan Ellis of Windsor and forwards Cody Hodgson of the Brampton Battalion, Patrice Cormier of the Rimouski Oceanic and Stefan Della Rovere of the Barrie Colts.
Hodgson, who led the 2009 world junior tournament in scoring, has yet to play a game this season due to a back injury. He has been skating and is expected to be able to play both at the camp and the tournament.
NHL clubs have kept several players still eligible for the under-20 tournament, including Tavares with the New York Islanders, Kane with Atlanta, Matt Duchene and Ryan O’Reilly with Colorado, Tyler Myers with Buffalo and Michael Del Zotto with the New York Rangers.
But Murray said top talent is lost to the NHL every year and the team has still found ways to win.
“We feel we have enough depth in this contry at all positions,” he said. “If a player is ready for the NHL, we wish him the best.
“That’s the ultimate goal for all young players. It makes it more difficult for us, but it gives a chance to other players.”
Hall, the MVP of the Memorial Cup tournament in May, leads the OHL with 23 goals and 30 assists in 30 games, while Seguin is seventh with 20 goals and 20 assists.
The camp roster include four goaltenders, 12 defencemen and 20 forwards.
It has 13 from the Ontario Hockey League, 10 each from the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and the Western Hockey League, as well as three from U.S. universities — centre Louis Leblanc from Harvard, Patrick Wiercioch of Denver and Dylan Olsen of Minnesota-Duluth.
The Memorial Cup champion Spitfires will also have forwards Adam Henrique and Greg Nemisz in camp.
Teammates in camp include Seguin and goalie Matt Hackett from Plymouth, Cormier and forward Jordan Caron from Rimouski, goalie Olivier Roy and forward Luke Adam from the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles and defenceman Nicholas Deslauriers and forward Philippe Cornet from the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies.
The Calgary Hitmen have both goaltender Martin Jones and forward Brandon Kozun, who has dual U.S.-Canadian citizenship and was invited to the American camp but elected to try out for Canada. Kozun currently leads the WHL with 51 points, one more than Eberle.
Cornet is second in scoring in the QMJHL, just ahead of Adam and another campmate, Gabriel Bourque of the Baie-Comeau Drakkar.
Defencemen include high draft picks Jared Cowen of the Spokane Chiefs, Calvin de Haan of the Oshawa Generals. Forwards Brayden Schenn of Brandon and Nazem Kadri of the London Knights also received invitations.
The fourth goalie invited was Jake Allen of the Montreal Junior.
The head coached is Willie Desjardins of the Medicine Hat Tigers.
The U.S. team, which used to forego a camp and just name its 22 players, has opted to follow Canada’s lead with a camp Dec. 17-19 in Grand Forks, N.D.
Among the 29 players invited are Windsor defenceman Cam Fowler, who is also pegged as a top-five draft pick, and Ryan Bourque of the Quebec Remparts, son of former NHL defence great Ray Bourque. Vancouver Canucks prospect Jordan Schroeder will be gunning to play a third straight world junior tournament.