Leafs' McKegg left out of selection camp

RYAN PYETTE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:51 PM ET

Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Greg McKegg just capped one of the best weeks in his impressive junior hockey career.

The Erie Otters star and St. Thomas native scored four goals against Belleville, lit up the Kitchener Rangers and assisted on the overtime winner against Guelph.

He still wasn't invited to the Canadian world junior selection camp.

The OHL's hottest player won't be among the 39 picked by Hockey Canada Monday to try out for the Buffalo-bound team Dec. 12-15 at the MasterCard Centre, the Leafs' practice facility.

"Maybe they should've held off one more week before making the announcement," McKegg joked from Erie, "because I was in a slump before that."

A lot of top OHL scorers were left out in the cold.

McKegg, 24-goal man Tyler Toffoli of Ottawa and Oshawa's talented Christian Thomas didn't make the grade. Only five of the 23 forwards named, including Stratford native and Owen Sound star Joey Hishon, come from OHL teams.

"We weren't looking at where they were from," Hockey Canada head scout Kevin Prendergast said. "We were looking at chemistry and what kind of players we needed to give us the best chance of winning (in Buffalo)."

McKegg, a Leafs third rounder last summer, is fifth in OHL scoring with 20 goals and 40 points. After Toronto returned him to Erie, he made it a goal to earn a world junior invite.

"Yeah, it's disappointing," the 18-year-old said. "You always want to be part of something like that. The world juniors, it's a national pastime watching it on TV and you want to given that kind of opportunity.

"It looks like they have a mix of 18 and 19-year-olds going. Those guys, they're all legitimate players, but yeah, it'd be a dream to play in it and I'm disappointed I won't be part of it."

The NHL has decimated the Canadian world junior team's goal-scoring potential. Former OHL stars Taylor Hall (Edmonton), Tyler Seguin (Boston), Jeff Skinner (Carolina), Ryan O'Reilly and Matt Duchene (both Colorado) were all eligible to play this year, but are unlikely to be released for the tournament.

Erie GM Sherry Bassin thought McKegg was worthy of a selection camp spot. Notre Dame forward Riley Sheahan, an Otters draft pick, got the call and he has four points in his freshman season with the Irish.

"I don't have a beef with who they invited because I know how hard it is to choose and these are good players," Bassin said from Minneapolis, "but I thought McKegg deserved at least a shot to show what he could do with the big boys. I was surprised he didn't get a spot at the camp.

"One thing I know about Greg McKegg, he makes players around him better. Put him with good players and he could help make them great."

McKegg has one forgettable finish on his international resume. He was part of the Canadian under-18 team that flopped at the worlds in Belarus last spring.

"We had a good team and I think we ended up finishing seventh or eighth," McKegg said, "and when you're representing Hockey Canada, that's not good."

That result had no bearing on this selection camp, Prendergast said.

"No one was doomed by anything," he said. "I came in this year and everyone had a clean slate. It was based on what the players did this year and what we were looking for in a team."

Bassin said McKegg entered that u-18 tournament as Canada's 12th, 13th forward, "and by the end of it, he was at the top and he was No. 1 in faceoffs," he said. "I don't know for sure if they did this, but with a guy like McKegg who still has another season, they might hold off until next year. I would be very surprised if it didn't take (Hockey Canada) a lot of discussion before deciding on him."

Mississauga's Casey Cizikas, Sudbury's Marcus Foligno, Hishon's Owen Sound teammate Garrett Wilson and Windsor's Zack Kassian were also invited up front.

On defence, London Knight Scott Harrington was left off behind two other 17-year-old blueliners -- Kitchener's Ryan Murphy and Everett's Ryan Murray.

Acadie-Bathurst goalie Olivier Roy is the frontrunner to earn top crease duties. Mississauga's JP Anderson, Niagara's Mark Visentin and Seattle's Calvin Pickard are also in the mix.


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