TORONTO - Wonder how awkward the conversation then Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors coach Dave Cameron had with his No. 1 goalie, J.P. Anderson, was last December.
You know, the one where Cameron had to tell Anderson he wouldn’t make the Canadian junior team, that Mark Visentin and Olivier Roy were the guys he wanted to go with at the world junior tourney.
Had to be the very definition of awkward, don’t you think?
Well, not entirely, according to Anderson, who shook off the decision and backstopped the Majors to the Memorial Cup final.
“Obviously it was disappointing when I got cut,” Anderson said. “I don’t think I had a real good camp so that didn’t help my cause much. I get lots of questions because I got cut by my coach. But that’s the way Dave Cameron works, you have to earn everything. I understand why I was cut.”
Cameron’s out of the national junior team picture this year — he’s an assistant coach with the Ottawa Senators — but Anderson can be found front and centre among the goalie prospects hoping to catch on this year.
Visentin, the Niagara IceDogs top stopper, probably has a spot locked up but there’s no clear-cut favourite for the second job. Anderson’s competition among his OHL counterparts, never mind those from the WHL and QMJHL, is pretty stiff — Owen Sound’s Jordan Binnington, Belleville’s Malcolm Subban, Plymouth’s Scott Wedgewood and Visentin were the OHLers invited to Hockey Canada’s summer goalie camp — so there’s no telling who will land the coveted invitation to the evaluation camp next month.
“I think if I somehow get back to camp, I have that experience (from last year to lean on),” Anderson said. “I’ve tried not to think too far ahead. I honestly just try to focus on what I have to do. You can’t get caught up worrying about what (Hockey Canada) are thinking. I think it’s best that you focus on what you can do.”
Anderson’s numbers are slightly off those he put up last season but this year’s Majors are much younger and he’s been leaned on heavily to bail them out, which often translates into less gawdy statistics. But in 15 games he’s got a 3.00 goals-against average and .914 save percentage to go with a pair of shutouts, not bad at all.
“I know I’m counted on to lead this year,” he said. “I have to be a lot more of a factor on a nightly basis. I think so far we’ve kind of met expectations.”
Anderson has a little more than a month to show Hockey Canada’s evaluators that he deserves another chance to play in the world juniors. And if he gets an invitation to camp, chances are he’ll be having an entirely different conversation with Don Hay after the team is picked.
AGNEW BACK IN OHLM
Oshawa Generals fans have been clamoring for Chris DePiero’s head and Monday they got it. Sort of, anyway.
DePiero will stay on as general manager of the under-achieving Gens but he’s turned over coaching duties to former two-time OHL coach of the year Gary Agnew.
“I’m thrilled to be a part of this tremendous organization,” Agnew said in a press release announcing the change. “The Oshawa Generals have a long and distinguished history and I’m confident that we can add to that winning tradition this year. We have a very strong team and I looked forward to working with everyone here.”
Agnew, who coached 10 years in the OHL — seven with the London Knights sandwiched around three with the Kingston Frontenacs — is an old-school guy who can probably get the Generals turned around by cracking the whip.
With five high-end NHL draft picks, including Vancouver Canucks first-rounder Nicklas Jensen, the Generals (8-10-0-2) have too much talent to be fourth in the East Division nearly one-third of the way into the season. But they’ve been racked by lengthy suspensions, which hasn’t helped their cohension.
Niagara IceDogs forward Tom Kuhnhackl, picked up from the Windsor Spitfires in a mammoth trade last week, could find himself with plenty of time on his hands over the next month or so.
Kuhnhackl is facing what could be the longest suspension of the season after drilling Kitchener Rangers stud defenceman Ryan Murphy with a nasty head shot Friday, leaving the Carolina Hurricanes first-round pick with a concussion ... and a fuzzy future.
Murphy reportedly failed a baseline test Sunday and has been completely shut down by the Rangers while Kuhnhackl, who received a major penalty for charging, awaits his punishment. With the OHL cracking down on hits to the head, it wouldn’t be all that surprising if Kuhnhackl is given a suspension in the range of 20 games.
The odd thing is, Kuhnhackl isn’t the type of player who goes looking to hurt the opposition. The 19-year-old German, who had just 47 penalty minutes in 63 games a year ago, likely got caught up in trying to make a good impression on his new team and, in a split second, made a bad choice.
Murphy, meanwhile, could be out for a lengthy period of time. That’s bad news for the Rangers and the Canadian junior team. The slick-skating blueliner was a virtual lock to play in the world juniors.