November 29, 2011
Canada's junior team awaits word from pros
By ERIC FRANCIS, QMI Agency
CALGARY - There is still hope at least half of the eight junior-eligible skaters playing in the NHL could join Team Canada for the world juniors.
So says the team’s senior director, Scott Salmond, who has had talks with all eight NHL teams housing his potential stars.
“With Jeff Skinner, Tyler Seguin and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, we’ve got three definite ‘nos’ but you’ve got to make the call,” smiled Salmond of a process that has him trying to convince NHL GMs how valuable the world junior pressure-cooker could be for a player’s development.
“We’re going to keep talking to the other guys and we’re going to remain hopeful until they tell us no. I’ve been encouraged by the conversations we’ve had with them.”
It’s been two years since St. Louis Blues loaned Team Canada Alex Pietrangelo, who went on to become the tourney’s top defenceman.
Such a move has become a rarity but if a player isn’t getting regular shifts as an NHL rookie sometimes such an arrangement makes sense.
That might be the case with Florida Panthers rookie blueliner Erik Gudbranson, who has been a healthy scratch six of his last eight games.
As long as he can be at the Calgary camp by Dec. 10, he’s eligible to play.
Ryan Johansen in Columbus and Sean Couturier in Philadelphia would be shoo-ins up the middle. Anaheim’s Devante Smith-Pelly would help on the wing, as would Tampa’s Brett Connolly.
“I had a good conversation with (Lightning GM) Stevie (Yzerman) — if he wants to come back to the Olympic team, he’s got to let that guy go,” joked Salmond.
Team Canada brass chose the 41-player invite roster assuming no NHLers return.
However, all five would be guaranteed to make the final roster if they were loaned out.