Only seven players from the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League were invited to camp in Kitchener, looking to grab a spot with Team Canada. Once again, the biggest asset coming from the Quebec league will be goaltenders, with two invited to camp. Only one defenseman and four forwards were invited. Team Canada will leave for Europe December 18th and play two exhibitions games again Sweden and Austria before competing in the medal rounds. Their first matchup will take place December 26th against host Finland, in Helsinki.
Both Maxime Daigneault and Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers were attempting to secure the backup goaltending job in competition with Cam Ward and Josh Harding. The recent release of Marc-André Fleury from Pittsburgh will make things much more competitive since Fleury has already been named the starter. Daigneault (Val D’Or) and Drouin-Deslauriers (Chicoutimi) both play for under .500 teams in Quebec while averaging 3.00 per game and a save percentage of .910. Drouin-Deslauriers was selected 31st overall by Edmonton in 2003. He will try to earn his job after falling short to David LeNeveu last year. Daigneault is a part of the future “french-quebecer” tandem of the Washington Capitals with ex-QMJHL star Maxime Ouellet. [Note: Daigneault was cut from camp on December 14th]
What had become a dream for New York Islanders prospect Bruno Gervais has now become a nightmare. The only defenseman chosen from the Q suffered a knee injury in his first intersquad matchup in Kitchener. The 6’1″ 195-pound Acadie-Bathurst player was expected to be a part of the team travelling to Finland. He has 10 points in 23 games with his team. He almost cracked the Islanders lineup in training camp but was cut in the final days.
Pittsburgh’s Maxime Talbot and Stephen Dixon are also looking to be a part of Team Canada, competing for one of the 13 available spots. Talbot is seventh in scoring in the league with 43 points and is an integral part of Gatineau’s success. He gained a lot of leadership last year, leading his team to the Memorial Cup.
Vancouver prospect Marc-André Bernier, a power forward in development, was invited to camp but has since been cut. He has 24 points in 29 games with Cape Breton.
Stephen Dixon had almost a point per game last year and is constantly improving, looking like a good steal as a seventh round pick for the Penguins in 2003. The small center from Nova Scotia is having a great season with 39 points in 29 games. Pittsburgh scouts will have to look at these two youngsters in training camp to see if they have what it takes to make it to the next level, and join Marc-André Fleury in the big league.
Last but not least, Sidney Crosby will have every chance to prove to everybody why he is already considered the favorite for top pick in the 2005 draft. If he can’t make the team this year, he will definitely be a lock for the next tryout in 2004.
A lot of good players were held off from the invitation list because of injuries and sub-par seasons. At defense, Gatineau’s Doug O’Brien (Tampa Bay, 6th round, 2003) and Moncton’s James Sanford (Eligible 2004) will be missing. The Wildcats will also count on Steve Bernier (San Jose, first round, 16th) throughout December, a high-rated player who didn’t get an invitation. Another 2003 first rounder will have to stay in the Q; Edmonton pick Marc-Antoine Pouliot was once again plagued with injuries. He’s having a great season captaining the Oceanic and will help his team during Crosby’s absence. Some juniors producing great numbers this year were also passed on, notably Prince-Edward-Island’s Cory Urquhart (MON) and Michael Lambert (MON), Lewiston’s Alexandre Picard (Eligible 2004) and Rimouski’s Dany Roussin (FLA). All of them will get a chance to prove their value in the regular season and lead their team to a playoff spot.
Finally, many QMJHL European players were chosen to participate in the tournament for their respective countries. Petr Vrana (Halifax) and Martin Vagner (Gatineau) were both selected to represent the Czech Republic. Both were drafted by NHL clubs (New Jersey and Dallas respectively) and are expected to become regulars soon. Vrana is currently injured, but he could be ready to play in Helsinki. The preliminary Russian roster included wingers Alexandre Kojevnikov (Val D’Or) and Alexei Shkotov (Quebec). Michal Sersen (Rimouski), Richard Stehlik (Lewiston) and Vladislav Balaz (Lewiston), Milan Hruska (PEI), Michal Gavalier (Shawinigan) and Vladimir Kutny (Quebec) will defend Slovakia’s colors. The Swiss will repatriate Victoriaville’s Daniel Manzato (Victoriaville) while Martin Karsums (Moncton) is going to head with Latvia. His teammate Konstantin Zhakarov is also playing in the tournament with Belarus, Group B.
|Player||NHL Team||QMJHL League||GP||G/ W-L-T||A/GAA||Pts/SAV%||PIM/SO|
|Maxime Daigneault||Washington 2002||Val D’Or||28||8-12-7||2,85||0,910||0|
|Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers||Edmonton 2003||Chicoutimi||22||8-12-2||3,22||0,910||1|
|Bruno Gervais||NY Islanders 2003||Bathurst||23||4||6||10||28|
|Maxime Talbot||Pittsburgh 2003||Gatineau||26||9||34||43||16|
|Marc-André Bernier||Vancouver 2003||Cape Breton||29||16||8||24||17|
|Stephen Dixon||Pittsburgh 2003||Cape Breton||29||11||28||39||16|
|Sidney Crosby||Eligible 2005||Rimouski||33||33||43||76||36|