Friday, December 23, 2011

World Junior Rosters Are Set

Most countries in the World Junior Under 20 Championships have their rosters set for the tournament that begins Boxing Day.

There are plenty of draft eligible players from around the world, some that we will get to see for the first time. Team Canada and Team USA have the fewest draft eligible players participating with two a piece. That is if you don't count US goaltender Andy Iles, who will only be used on an emergency situation. They are followed by Team Sweden with only four draft eligible players on their roster.

At the opposite end of the spectrum is Team Denmark who's team is comprised of completely draft eligible players. Only Nicklas Jensen (Vancouver Canucks, 2011) and Mads Eller (2013 eligible) are not eligible for the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.

The Czech Republic and Russia (who announced their roster today) have eight and seven players respectively that are not eligible for 2012.

Much is being said in some circles about the politics in hockey and choosing the players. Many believe that Team USA, and to a lessor extent Team Russia penalize players that jump to the Canadian Hockey League as opposed to playing in their homeland. Team USA has seven CHL players on their roster while Russia has six.

The argument isn't so much how many are on the teams, rather who is not. If you look at the US goaltending situation, one could make a serious argument that the London Knights (OHL) Michael Houser should be ahead of Jack Campbell of the Soo Greyhounds (OHL) and John Gibson of the Kitchener Rangers (OHL) or at least ahead of Andy Iles as an emergency call up. Based on the season the three have had in the OHL, I have to tend to agree with those arguments. But you can't just shove aside Campbell's performance in big games and prior international exposure in which, as you know he's excelled in.

There are also those that believe the London Knights' Jared Knight should be well ahead of many chosen to be on Team USA. Many believe that Knight is being "blacklisted" for taking the CHL route as opposed to college hockey and that there was never any intention of having him on the final roster and his invitation to camp was just a token gesture.

When Team Russia announced their cuts early this morning, many couldn't believe that the Knights' Vadislav Namestnikov (Tampa Bay Lightning, 2011) didn't make the squad, but it was revealed later in the day that he had an injury that he hadn't told anyone about. Russian Coach Valeri Bragin said afterwards that if he had known about the injury, he would have changed Namestnikov's practices.

Personally, what I believe is this : Each and every country, team, coach and player want to win. To leave the best players off the roster would leave them susceptible to losing. It's why the US selected the Etems, the Saads and the Watsons. Or why the Russians selected the Yakupovs and the Grigorenkos.

However, I do believe there is some politics involved. I believe that all things being equal, the teams will select the players loyal to their countries as opposed to those that jumped to the CHL. That said, Micheal Houser should be no worse than the emergency call up for Team USA. And Jared Knight? I can think of half a dozen players that he should be ahead of.

I've stayed away from the topic in the past, and this is the only thing I'll say about it going forward. It will still be a fantastic tournament to watch and enjoy and will be interesting seeing some of those eligible for 2012 for the first time.

For a list of team rosters, click on the WJC tab at the top of the page.

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