ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — Tyler was there, Taylor was not.
The Canadian junior hockey team summer camp opened Wednesday at Mile One Centre with NHL second-overall draft pick Tyler Seguin itching to get on the ice and No. 1 pick Taylor Hall notably absent from the group of 46 players.
Hall opted out in order to prepare for the Edmonton Oilers camp, citing fatigue from having played two long seasons in which he led the Windsor Spitfires to consecutive Memorial Cups. He also played at the world junior championships last winter.
Seguin had no such impediment, having been a late cut from the world junior team that won silver in Saskatoon in January and seeing his Plymouth Whalers knocked out of the Ontario Hockey League playoffs by the Spitfires.
“I didn’t make the world junior team at Christmas and I really wanted to come here,” Seguin said Wednesday as the five-day camp kicked off. ”Any time I can get selected to any Team Canada event, whether it’s a training camp or for the team, it’s a big honour.
“It’s an experience. It’s a nice thing in the summer to go out against the best (under-20) players in Canada and continue my development.”
A smaller number of players will be invited to a selection camp in December, where the squad will be cut to 22 for the world junior tournament that begins Dec. 26 in Buffalo, N.Y.
According to Hockey Canada policy, Hall is disqualified from playing in the tournament because he did not attend the summer camp.
But Scott Salmond, Hockey Canada’s senior director of hockey operations, had a good laugh when asked if the policy would be upheld in the unlikely scenario that Hall doesn’t make the Oilers, is sent back to junior and is available for the tournament.
Would Canada really not have a player of Hall’s size, skill and experience on the team? It appears an exception may be made.
“As the policy states right now we wouldn’t,” said Salmond. “Having said that, we review our policies throughout the year. But, as of today, that would be the case.”
In the weeks leading up to the NHL draft in June, Hall and Seguin appeared to be joined at the hip was they were paraded around as the top two prospects. The Oilers finally chose Hall, even though NHL Central Scouting had the gifted Seguin ranked first. The Boston Bruins selected Seguin at No. 2.
Now the 18-year-old Seguin, the OHL scoring leader with 48 goals and 106 points last season, is the most high-profile player at a camp that is short on returning players from last year.
The only returnee on the ice this week is Brandon Wheat Kings forward Brayden Schenn.
Two others, Ottawa Senators defence prospect Jared Cowen and New York Islanders defence hopeful Calvin de Haan, are at camp but won’t skate. Cowen is recovering from mononucleosis while de Haan is coming off shoulder surgery. It is the second year in a row that Cowen is unable to skate at the summer camp.
Salmond said Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Brad Ross of the Portland Winter Hawks will also be kept off the ice with a pulled groin suffered this week.
“They’ll partcipate in all the off-ice things, the discussions with the coaches, and they’ll be around the team,” he said. “What happens on the ice is important but what happens off-ice, getting to know the team and the staff, is part of the process too.”
Windsor defenceman Ryan Ellis opted out of camp but the Nashville Predators prospect is eligible to play because he has participated in two previous world juniors while Hall has only been to one. That leaves only one Spitfire in camp — forward Zach Kassian.
Others of note include defenceman Erik Gudbranson of the Kingston Frontenacs, who was drafted third overall by Florida, forward Ryan Johansen of Portland, taken fourth by Columbus, and forward Jeffrey Skinner of the Kitchener Rangers, selected seventh by Carolina.
There is also six-foot-three forward Sean Couturier of the Drummondville Voltigeurs, who is expected to go high in the 2011 draft.
While Hall signed a three-year entry level contract a month ago with the Oilers, Seguin’s signing was announced only on Tuesday by the Bruins. Both signed for the maximum US$900,000 per season plus bonuses.
“It wasn’t so much a relief as a proud moment for my family and I,” he said. “It’s nice to get that thing that’s been in my head out of the way so I can just stay focused on my training this summer and making an impression at training camp.”
That is what the summer camp is mostly about — getting noticed by Cameron and the rest of the staff — even if a bigger factor in making the final roster will be their play for the club teams in the first half of the coming season.
”That’s the goal,” said defenceman Brandon Gormley of the Moncton Wildcats, a first-round pick of the Phoenix Coyotes. ”It’s a great opportunity to make that first impression and get invited back to the one in December and hopefully make the team.”
Camero said he expects the intensity level to be high, even if some of the players eventually will be teammates.
”These players here get the first kick at the cat in terms of impressing the coaching staff,” he said. ”The strength of our program is our depth.
”There are another 40 players at home who think they should be here, so don’t take anything for granted. The best way to do that is, when you’re on the ice, go hard.”
The players had a practice on Wednesday night and were to work on special teams on Thursday before engaging in red-white intrasquad games Friday and Saturday nights.
Hockey Newfoundland is celebrating its 75th anniversary and will host three national events this season — the junior camp, the Four Nations women’s tournament in November and the Telus Cup Canadian midget championship in April.