Canada’s junior hockey team status depends largely on NHL lockout

Fitzgerald Cecilio – 4E Sports Reporter

Calgary, AB, Canada (4E Sports) – Canada’s chances of winning the 2013 world junior hockey championships depend largely on the NHL lockout.

If the labor impasse drags on, Canada will field one of the deepest and strongest team in the country’s history as Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Mark Scheifele and Jonathan Huberdeau available to play in Ufa, Russia.

However, if the NHL lockout ends before the tournament starts on Dec. 26, then Canada will have to settle for a team that has ability but not enough star power.

“I’ve spoken personally to each NHL general manager with a player on the recall list,” Hockey Canada’s senior director of operations Scott Salmond said. “We haven’t at any time asked for a commitment.”

“We’ve agreed that we’ll continue to talk as things may or may not change with the negotiations and that’s true all the way through. We don’t have to have our roster set until Dec. 25. We’re hopeful that we’re going to leave Canada on Dec. 15 with 23 players who are going to stay with our team, but at this point, we haven’t asked for that commitment,” Salmond added.

The Canadians are scheduled to face Germany in the opener on Dec. 26.

Canada recently received good news when Nugent-Hopkins announced that he would be joining the world-junior team for its training camp after spending a week in Edmonton getting his left shoulder evaluated.

Nugent-Hopkins missed 20 games in his NHL rookie season last year, recovering from shoulder surgery, an injury that effectively cost him the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s rookie of the year.

He had been playing this season for the Oilers’ American Hockey League affiliate, the Oklahoma City Barons, and wanted to get a clean bill of health before committing to the junior squad.

Nugent-Hopkins tried out for Canada’s world junior team two years ago and didn’t make the cut as a 17-year-old.

Overall, there are six returnees from Canada’s 2012 world junior team, which settled for a bronze medal at the event held in Alberta.

For the 2013 team, Canada has invited a quartet of 19-year-olds, three from the Ontario Hockey League — Owen Sound’s Jordan Binnington, Saginaw’s Jake Paterson and Belleville’s Malcolm Subban — along with Edmonton’s Laurent Brossoit from the Western Hockey League.

Binnington and Brossoit were drafted by the St. Louis Blues and Calgary Flames, respectively, in 2011, while Paterson and Subban were 2012 draft choices by the Detroit Red Wings and Boston Bruins, respectively.

The team is closely studying who among Binnington, Broissoit and Subban will be the team’s starting netminder.

“The pressure’s always huge for a goaltender on this stage,” said Kevin Prendergast, Canada’s chief scout. “The ability to stop the puck was the first thing we looked at.”

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