MONTREAL — Benoit Groulx says it will take more than flashy statistics to ensure a spot on Canada’s junior hockey team.
The Gatineau Olympiques head coach will lead Canada in its quest to end its gold medal drought at the 2015 world junior hockey championship held in Montreal and Toronto at the end of this year.
As Groulx begins naming players to his roster over the next two weeks, he wants to look beyond goals and assists when sending out invitations to training camp. He and the rest of the coaching staff are looking to reinvent the selection process that has proved unsuccessful in the last tournaments.
“Recent history has shown us that being a hundred-point guy on a first line is no longer enough at the Juniors,” Groulx said after Hockey Canada introduced him as the team’s head coach. “Our players have to raise their game. These are players who will one day be in the National Hockey League. They have the talent, but can they elevate their play?
“That’s the message we’re sending. The level we’ve competed at these last few years simply wasn’t enough.”
Canada is suffering through a five-year gold medal drought at the tournament after winning five consecutive years between 2005 and 2009. The team’s last medal, a bronze, came in 2012.
Groulx was an assistant coach at the 2014 junior championship in Malmo, Sweden, where Canada finished fourth after losing to Russia in the bronze-medal game. The 46-year-old says only elite players can challenge for the top of the podium.
“We need guys who are self-driven, who are relentless, guys who want to make the difference,” said the Hull, Que., native. “We need hundred-point players who are ready to make changes, ready to play out of their comfort zones. To win that championship, you need world-class players.”
Canada has 11 players eligible to return from last year’s squad, including goalie Zachary Fucale and forwards Jonathan Drouin, Curtis Lazar and NHL prospect Sam Reinhart. The team’s one-week development camp begins Aug. 9 in Montreal.
The Canadians will also host an exhibition tournament involving the Russian and Czech national junior teams which will be held in Montreal and Sherbrooke, Que. The goal is to keep competitiveness high as the world junior championship approaches.
“Those are two great countries, two teams that we lost to last year,” said Hockey Canada’s Scott Salmond. “Any time you can bring those teams back in a competitive environment, and send a message to them, it’s great. It’s not a summer camp, it’s a competition, and we want to play to win.”
After the exhibition games, Canada opens the 11-day tournament on Dec. 26 with a group game against Slovakia in Montreal.