Canada’s Alexis Lafreniere (11) hoists the Hlinka Gretzky Cup following the Hlinka Gretzky Cup gold medal game against Sweden, in Edmonton on August 11, 2018. Lafreniere is not only projected to be first overall pick at the 2020 NHL draft, the event will be held at the Bell Centre in Montreal — about a 40-minute drive from his hometown of Saint-Eustache. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Codie McLachlan

Top NHL draft prospects Lafreniere, Byfield named to Canada’s world junior camp

A trio of 17 year olds were named to Monday’s list of 31

Canada will be counting on Alexis Lafreniere for offence at the upcoming world junior hockey championship.

And with the status of some of the other veterans from last year’s team up in the air, add leadership to his to-do list.

The presumptive No. 1 pick at the 2020 NHL draft, Lafreniere was one of 31 players named to the country’s selection camp Monday.

The 18-year-old centre is joined by defencemen Jared McIsaac and Ty Smith, who were also part of the roster that finished a disappointing sixth in Vancouver in Victoria some 11 months ago.

McIsaac, however, has played just one game this season following shoulder surgery, while a trio of 19 year olds from the 2019 squad — centres Joe Veleno and Barrett Hayton, and defenceman Noah Dobson — are playing professionally and might not be available for the tournament that begins Dec. 26 in the Czech Republic.

Hockey Canada’s head scout, Brad McEwen, said last year’s experience for Lafreniere, who had one goal in five games as the youngest player on the team, should serve both himself and the program well.

“Until you live it, it’s sometimes hard to put it in words or explain what it’s all about,” McEwen said on a conference call. “His experience last year and the role he played will only make him stronger going forward. He’s going to be a real good, positive guy for our team.”

Lafreniere leads the Canadian Hockey League with 59 points (17 goals, 42 assists) in 28 games for the QMJHL’s Rimouski Oceanic this season.

“I like our group that were a part of it last year,” added Mark Hunter, who is part of Canada’s brain trust for the 2020 event. ”Good or bad, it’s an experience that they see, the pressure of how to play in certain situations.

“It’s only going to help our group to be able to show (the new players) how to play under pressure and how we, as a group, push together.”

Four goaltenders, 10 defencemen and 17 forwards will battle for spots on Canada’s roster at the selection camp, which runs Dec. 9 to 12 in Oakville, Ont.

Veleno, who is property of the Detroit Red Wings and currently in the American Hockey League, seems like the most likely of the players eligible to be released to the Canadian team.

Hayton has suited up for 14 games with the Arizona Coyotes this season, while Dobson has played seven times for the New York Islanders. Kirby Dach, 18, was expected to be available, but the No. 3 pick at the 2019 draft has five goals and 10 points in 20 games for the Chicago Blackhawks.

ALSO READ: NHL player Borowiecki halts attempted robbery in Vancouver

A trio of 17 year olds were named to Monday’s list of 31, including Quiton Byfield, who’s also expected to go high at next June’s NHL draft, fellow centre Cole Perfetti and defenceman Jamie Drysdale.

Lafreniere was the only 17 year old at last year’s camp, while none were invited the two previous years and just two got the call in 2014, 2015 and 2016.

“We felt strongly that they were the best players,” McEwen said. ”(Regardless) of age, they’ve been good, productive players.”

A six-foot-four, 215-pound member of the OHL’s Sudbury Wolves, Byfield has 20 goals and 50 points in 28 games this season, and likely has the best shot at making the team.

“He’s a big body that possesses the puck,” McEwen said. ”He brings some real qualities with the overall package and skill.”

Hunter said Byfield’s big frame could set him apart at camp.

“We want a big power forward that can do things at high speeds and drive to the net,” he said. “We need some bigger bodies that can play heavy with top-end skill.

“I want to see him use his feet, strength and skill to do some things that some other smaller skilled players can’t do.”

The crop of defencemen set to compete for roster spots is led by the smooth-skating Bowen Byram, who was picked one spot after Dach by the Colorado Avalanche in June.

Hunter said puck possession will be key on the bigger ice surfaces in the cities of Ostrava and Trinec — which sit roughly 400 kilometres east of Prague — when Canada’s tournament starts Boxing Day against the United States.

“We can’t just throw the puck blindly,” Hunter said. ”We really believe we’ve got good skaters out here that can skate at high speeds and different ways and stop on a dime.”

Only two of the five goalies invited to the World Junior Summer Showcase in suburban Detroit four months ago — Olivier Rodrigue and Hunter Jones — made the cut, with Nico Daws and Joel Hofer getting the call over Colten Ellis, Zachary Emond and Alexis Gravel

Size is clearly a factor in the crease for Canada.

Rodrigue, who appears to be the front-runner, stands six foot one, but Daws is six foot four, while both Jones and Hofer both come in at six foot five.

“Our goaltending people from Hockey Canada stamped all four, liked all four, wanted all four,” Hunter said. ”It’s going to be very competitive.”

___

Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Cattle Show set to return to Stettler Jan. 31st and Feb. 1st

“Stettler, historically, has been a very strong cattle community. It was a real hub for the cattle industry.”

RCMP Major Crimes Unit lays charges in Stettler death

Nicholas Climb Johnson, 32, of Stettler is charged with second degree murder in the death of his father

Stettler’s Big Brothers Big Sisters has plenty of events lined up for the first part of 2020

January is Mentoring Month across Canada and throughout North America

RCMP remind drivers about dangers of unlocked and idling vehicles

Leaving a vehicle running unattended creates a situation that criminals find difficult to resist

Stettler Junior Curlers traveled to the Wetaskiwin bonspiel Jan. 11th and 12th

Coming up on Feb. 8th and 9th, the Club will be hosting its own junior bonspiel with 28 teams registered

Canada to bolster screening of central China passengers for virus at 3 airports

Additional measures will include messaging on arrivals screens in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver

Rebels fight back from 3-1 Raider lead to win 4-3 in shootout

Two goals by Zak Smith key to Rebels comeback

PHOTOS: Eastern Newfoundland reeling, search underway for missing man after blizzard

More than 70 centimetres of new snow fell overnight, creating whiteout conditions

Prince Harry, Meghan to give up ‘royal highness’ titles

‘Harry, Meghan and Archie will always be much loved members of my family,’ says Queen Elizabeth II

RCMP Major Crimes Unit lays charges in Stettler death

Nicholas Climb Johnson, 32, of Stettler is charged with second degree murder in the death of his father

Metis nations ask Ottawa to negotiate directly with them, not national body

Three provincial Metis nations will work through the national council until after the federal government releases its 2020 budget

Canada to give $25,000 to families of each Canadian who died in Iran plane crash

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also made it clear that Canada still expects Iran to compensate victims

Oil and gas industry applauds top court’s dismissal of B.C.’s Trans Mountain case

The high court’s ruling Thursday removes one of the remaining obstacles for the project

Sylvan Lake RCMP seek assistance in locating missing male

Mark Crier, 17, was last seen in Sylvan Lake on Jan. 13

Most Read