Red Deer Rebels forward Willie Coetzee is just one example of a highly-talented player who simply fell victim to the numbers game this week.
When the roster of players invited to the Canadian national junior team selection camp was released on Wednesday, Coetzee, despite a strong performance with Team WHL in a 4-2 Super Series win over Team Russia on Nov. 26 at Kelowna — a showcase contest in which he scored a goal — wasn’t on the list.
He needn’t feel bad, considering a mere 10 WHL players were selected to attend the 36-man tryout camp opening on December 12 in Regina, and not all of them will be there when the final 22-player product is decided for the 2010 world junior championship Dec. 26-Jan. 5 in Saskatoon and Regina.
“It’s real difficult when you have so many special players and all of them are unique and bring different things,” said Team Canada head coach Willie Desjardins.
“Some guys don’t make (the selection camp) because you have three or four other guys that can play that (same) role. It’s not like players that were left off may not have been good enough. I know there’s guys that are great players and will be real successful with their careers. It’s disappointing for them that they didn’t get picked. I certainly wish we could have taken everybody, but you can’t.”
Regina Pats star Jordan Eberle is a lock for the team after producing big-time for the victorious Canadian squad during the 2009 WJC in Ottawa.
His Regina teammate, defenceman Colten Teubert, was also with the Canadian junior nats last winter and is another favourite to crack this year’s roster.
Both are cognizant of the fact that some tough decisions are on the horizon.
“Obviously there’s a lot of good talent, no surprise,” Eberle told the Regina Leader-Post, in reference to the evaluation-camp roster.
“Canada is one of the greatest hockey producers for young talent. I’m excited to get the opportunity to skate with some of these guys and hopefully play on the team. It’s going to be tough for Willie to try to find the right line combinations and try to find the right guys to put on this team because we don’t get very long to do it. “There’s always some good players that get sent home. Kudos to him for trying to do it.”
As has been the case in previous years, Team Canada won’t necessarily consist of players with the glossiest offensive stats or the highest NHL-draft status.
“For sure, we want players that will accept certain roles,” said Desjardins. “That’ll come in the evaluation camp. We’ll see as we go. There’s lots weighed into every decision. Nothing just kind of happens.
“There’s lots of time put into it.”
Just notes: Even the mighty fall — and fail — once in awhile, and the Saskatoon Blades are no exception. The owners of the league’s best winning percentage have been on the short end of their last two games, falling 5-4 to the visiting Calgary Hitmen and then absorbing a 7-2 beating from the host Brandon Wheat Kings on Wednesday. As a result, Blades GM/head coach Lorne Molleken was in a somewhat surly mood on Thursday. “It’s going to be a fun one today. The goalies will probably not get a shot,” Molleken told the Saskatoon StarPhoenix prior to hitting the ice for a practice session that was not on the team’s original schedule. “We haven’t competed in our last two games and that’s a real concern,” said Molleken. “We played two teams we’re competing with at the top of the standings and we didn’t show up. It’s time for us to really do a little soul-searching and see where we’re at.” . . . Craig Hartsburg was another ticked off coach following the Everett Silvertips 6-2 loss to the visiting Kelowna Rockets on Wednesday. “They have a real arrogance about them, this group right now,” Hartsburg told the Everett Herald. “I think they think they’re a lot better than they are, and that’s a big problem here. When you’re arrogant in this game it’s going to catch you, and it’s catching us right now. We have some players who don’t understand that the work and compete level has to be high every game, and this is the result of that.” . . . Highly-touted prospect Drew George is skating with the Regina Pats after being traded by the Vernon Vipers and refusing to report to his new BCHL team, the Cowichan Capitals. “Right now I’m practising with them and waiting to see what Cowichan is going to do with my rights,” the Regina native told the Regina Leader-Post. “I kinda went out to B.C. to be in Vernon and that didn’t work out. I’ll talk it over with my family about what I want to do. We’ll see where it goes from there.” George, a star forward with the midget AAA Notre Dame Hounds last season, chose the Vipers over the Pats in search of a U.S. college scholarship and is still leaning towards staying in the junior A ranks.
On the move: The Swift Current Broncos acquired goaltender Mark Friesen, 19, from the Chilliwack Bruins this week in exchange for a third-round selection in the 2010 bantam draft. Friesen comes to the Broncos with a 3.21 goals-against average and a save percentage of .891. The deal suggests that former Red Deer Rebel Morgan Clark’s days with the Broncos may be numbered. Morgan, also 19, has a 3.34 GAA and .866 save percentage. . . The Kootenay Ice gained the services of 16-year-old defenceman Jagger Dirk on Wednesday. Dirk left the Salmon Arm Silverbacks of the BCHL to join the Ice.