TORONTO — Sitting in the stands at the ACC, 19-year-old Patrick Wiercioch immediately took control of the media scrum that surrounded him.
The highly touted Senators prospect flatly stated he was not going to comment on his knee injury or the world juniors he will now miss.
A few minutes later, he couldn’t help himself.
“Disappointed is probably the best word,” said the 6-foot-4, still-filling-out defenceman chosen by the Senators in the second round of the 2008 draft. “I think if there’s anything I’ll comment on, it’s that I’ve been a Canadian hockey fan since I can remember.
“I remember waking my parents up at 5 in the morning to watch the games that were overseas. I remember taking a bus downtown to watch the games in Vancouver (for the 2006 world juniors), three or four connections on a bus and buying scalpers’ tickets. It was a big part of my life growing up. It’s just tough.”
Somewhat confusing is why Team Canada officials sent him home from selection camp on Sunday, one day after Wiercioch showed up in Regina and less than 48 hours after he played nearly 30 minutes for the University of Denver vs. Minnesota Duluth.
“We think they only want the best players, and therefore if he’s hurt, they don’t have the time to sit around for a day or two to recover,” said Senators GM Bryan Murray. “We’ve looked at him (yesterday). It’s not real serious. He may have had a Grade 2 (injury) a couple weeks back, but he played on it.
“We will have our doctors look at it (in Ottawa today). The fortunate thing now is ... he has a couple of weeks before Denver starts (playing) again. He should be 100% healthy then.”
The Senators love Wiercioch, who had 12 goals and 35 points in 36 games as a freshman, and has two goals and 10 assists in 16 games this season. They see a blue line with Wiercioch, Erik Karlsson and Jared Cowen, and they wring their hands with excitement.
“He just happens to be more talented than most prospects,” said assistant GM Tim Murray, who’s also considered a pretty shrewd scout. “He’s one of the best defencemen in college hockey.”
So, when is Wiercioch going to come out? Might this be his last year in college?
“Love it to be,” said Wiercioch. “But I’d also love to get a degree. That’s important to me. I don’t think it’s going to hurt me to stay there four years. But my goal is to play professional hockey. It might take one more year, it might take two years or three years of maturity.
“I don’t think it’s worth it to leave school right now and play in the American Hockey League right away. I’d like to have a legitimate chance to make the (Senators).”
Coach Cory Clouston hasn’t seen Wiercioch play much, but sure likes his attitude.
“He’s confident,” said Clouston. “He wants to be here. He thinks he’s going to be a player. That’s really important. You have to have that inside you.”
A burning desire to show junior officials they made a mistake isn’t bad, either.
The Alfredsson best set another place setting or two around the Christmas dinner table. Erik Karlsson will not be playing for Sweden at the world junior championship. “He is staying in Ottawa,” Murray said of Karlsson, who's been living, along with his girlfriend, at the Daniel Alfredsson's home. “We’ve talked to him, talked to the Swedish coach, unless something different happens in the next couple of days, Erik is going to stay with the big team. We think for player development, for his furutre, just being around our players and practising and playing, we can have a big impact on that. we believe it’s the right thing.” Karlsson is delighted with the decision. “Right now, I want to stay here,” he said. “I think if I get the opportunity to play here, it’s good for me. This is what I want to do.” ... The Senators will not be putting in a claim for Nepean D Aaron Ward, who was placed on waivers by the Hurricanes. Murray likes him, but just can’t afford him. The 36-year-old Ward is making $2.5 million in the final year of a contract.
Tough day for Toronto sports figures. Argos coach Bart Andrus gets fired. Jays ace Roy Halladay reportedly gets traded. Leafs enforcer Colton Orr gets pummelled ... Fact: Alfredsson gets booed louder by Leafs fans at Scotiabank Place than he does at the ACC ... Karlsson mentioned watching a Sandra Bullock movie Sunday night. Now that’s a hot woman, eh Erik? “She’s old enough to be my mother,” he said. Oh yeah ... Veteran writer Ken Campbell, on the hiring of colleague Chris Stevenson as Sun Media’s national hockey columnist: “You couldn’t do better than that?” Of course, there’s no such thing. And his pal Kenny knows it ... The Leafs might not have the greatest record when part-time Digital Roundtabler Jim Cuddy sings the anthem at the ACC, but the Blue Rodeo star kills he song in both official languages ... Listen to XM’s Hockey This Morning (between 6 a.m.- 9 a.m.) for a replay of an interview that was so long it should be called The Life And Times of Gordie Wilson. Was the Senators broadcaster good? “He didn’t spit in the mike once,” reports XM’s Terry Mercury.