When it comes to Canada’s roster for the 2020 World Junior Championships, there really can be too much of a good thing.
In this case, that “good thing” is skilled defensemen.
The Canadian roster is deep every WJC, and this year is no exception. But only seven (or, in some rare cases, eight) defensemen make the cut each iteration.
This year, top Dallas Stars prospect Thomas Harley wasn’t one of them.
The talented, smooth-skating blueliner was a strong contender to make the team, but in the end, Hockey Canada’s coaching staff had other plans.
Thomas Harley: "I did OK, but at the end of the day you gotta do better than OK so the coaches made a decision, it's not the one I wanted, but I'm going to live with it ... I'm only 18 so I have a chance next year to make it"https://t.co/frDTS2jv6Z— Mark Masters (@markhmasters) December 13, 2019
Why didn’t Harley make it? There are a couple of different reasons.
First, Canada had two big names already penciled in on the left side in Ty Smith and Jared McIsaac, a pair of 19-year-olds who were on the roster at last year’s event. Their age and experience put them a hair above the 18-year-old Harley.
Secondly, it appears that Canada wanted specific players for specific roles. Also making the team as a left-shot defenseman is Kevin Bahl, a mammoth shutdown defender and penalty-killing specialist (who was also involved in yesterday’s blockbuster Taylor Hall trade), while 2018 Pittsburgh Penguins second-rounder Calen Addison is heading to the Czech Republic as a right-shot power play specialist.
For what it’s worth, I think Canada made a mistake by leaving Harley at home. As someone who has seen Addison play in person a few times, I wouldn’t have thought twice to keep Harley over him, regardless of his shooting hand and power play prowess. Addison is nowhere near the skater that Harley is, and skating ability is a huge difference-maker on the bigger international ice.
Making matters even worse, this actually might be Harley’s last chance to play in this event — he could be in Dallas full-time come December of next season.
That’s one hell of a consolation prize, of course, but playing in the World Juniors is something that many young hockey players dream about — including Harley, by the looks and sounds of it.
All that’s left for Harley now is to keep doing what he has been doing all season for the Mississauga Steelheads and prove to the Hockey Canada brass that they made a mistake by not giving him this chance.
North American Juniors
Even though the Stars’ top defense prospect won’t be taking part in the World Juniors, their top forward prospect in Ty Dellandrea will be playing. This is far less surprising, as the two-way pivot was always considered a strong favorite to make the team.
Dellandrea is the bonafide No. 1 center in the OHL for the Flint Firebirds, but due to his high-end capability as a shutdown forward it looks like he’s going to be playing in more of a checking line/penalty-killing role in this tournament.
Team lines at Monday's practice in Vienna— Mark Masters (@markhmasters) December 16, 2019
Lafrenière - Hayton - Foote
Byfield - Cozens - Lavoie
Foudy - Dellandrea - Dudas
McMichael - Groulx - Thomas / Mercer
McIsaac - Smith
Bahl - Bernard-Docker
Byram - Addison
Absent: Veleno (AHL)
Team special teams units at practice— Mark Masters (@markhmasters) December 16, 2019
Lafrenière - McMichael - Hayton
Byram - Lavoie - Foote
Foudy - Dellandrea
Dudas - Groulx
Thomas - Mercer
McIsaac - Bernard-Docker
Bahl - Drysdale
Absent: Veleno (AHL)
According to TSN’s prospect guru Craig Button, however (and I fully agree), don’t be surprised if Dellandrea still turns out to be a major difference-maker for the gold-medal favorite Canadians.
“The WJC are always about those moments where somebody turns the tide. You want to find a player who does that? Ty Dellandrea - the catalyst - is your guy.”@CraigJButton profiles the Flint forward & Stars prospect ahead of the #WorldJuniors: https://t.co/zRsDqflyBD #TSNHockey pic.twitter.com/OPLhtaKuZa— TSN Hockey (@TSNHockey) December 14, 2019
Even though he’s not lighting on the score sheet at the moment, Riley Damiani still must be feeling pretty good considering his Kitchener Rangers team has rattled off nine straight wins, getting them back into the playoff race after a slow start to their season. Damiani has seven points in that nine-game span and still leads Kitchener in scoring on the year, with 32 points in 29 games.
Like parent club, like minor league club.
The Dallas Stars proved themselves to be quite a story last month, following up a horrid stretch of hockey with a big winning streak. And since imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, the Texas Stars decided to do something similar.
After a 12-game winless stretch that spanned October and November, Texas has been on fire ever since, winning eight out of their past 10 games, including a five-game winning streak that ultimately came to an end on Saturday.
Even more impressive, they maintained their winning focus after head coach Derek Laxdal was brought up to Dallas in the wake of the Jim Montgomery firing, being replaced by Neil Graham, who had been coaching the ECHL’s Idaho Steelheads.
“It was a long week in a lot of different ways,” Graham said of the whirlwind week to Stephen Meserve at 100 Degree Hockey. “There’s a lot on everyone’s mind and to get four of six points, we’ll take that as a positive.”
Texas kicked things off on Wednesday, one day after the coaching changes, with a 3-1 victory over the Manitoba Moose. Jake Oettinger continued a string of recent strong play by turning aside 26 of 27 shots and earning the game’s second star.
Landon Bow took his turn in net on Friday and fared equally well, turning aside 31 of 33 against the same Moose squad in a 3-2 triumph. Adam Mascherin’s fourth goal of the season early in the third period stood as the game-winning tally.
Their streak had to come to an end sometime, however, and that sometime turned out to be Saturday’s 3-1 loss to the Tucson Roadrunners.
It was a big week overall for the team’s newly formed line of Jason Robertson, Joel L’Esperance and newcomer Anthony Louis, who is currently on an AHL-only deal and was acquired from the Charlotte Checkers. All three amigos picked up three points in the three games as Texas’ most dangerous scoring line.
To say that winger Tye Felhaber is getting his confidence back with the Idaho Steelheads would be something of an understatement. He has six points in five games since being reassigned by Texas, and seems to be enjoying himself in the process.
For a full database of the organization’s prospects and their stats, check out the Stars’ “In the System” page on Elite Prospects.