2005 WJC should have bigger Oiler presence

By Guy Flaming






WJC Should Have An Oiler Presence

Unlike last year in Finland, the 2005 World Junior
Championships being held in North Dakota should be of much more interest to
Oiler fans. The 2004 tournament was
played with only one Oiler player involved, that being Swedish forward Fredrik
Johansson who did well on a disappointingly weak team. Summer camps have opened and this time
around there are four Oiler prospects that all have terrific chances at making
their national teams to play in the winter tournament.

 

Kalle Olsson

 

The surest bet for Oiler representation, like last year,
appears to be a product of Sweden.
Nineteen-year-old Kalle Olsson is being called an ‘A’ prospect
for the Swedish National team, basically a shoe-in. The native of Munkendal has notched two points in the three games
Sweden has played thus far in the annual three-country summer tournament hosted
by the U.S.

 

At 6’0 and 180lbs, Olsson is described as being a very good
skater who also plays with a physical edge.
Olsson had 26 points in 30 games last year on Frölunda’s junior team and
it looks as though he should crack the national team this time around as a
predominant player.

 

Robbie Schremp

 

He was cut from the team last year for a lack of
conditioning, but after a stellar year in London, Robbie Schremp is back
at the USA camp with new focus and determination. After watching the Americans go on to capture their first
ever-gold medal, Schremp knows he certainly can’t be bitter about not making
the cut a year ago.

 

I got cut last
year but they went on with a good squad and won the gold so there’s not much
you can say,” Schremp conceded during a conversation with Hockey’s Future in
late July. “‘They should have picked
me’? How do you figure when they just
won the gold medal?”

 

Admitting to
himself that he wasn’t good enough last year may have been a hard pill for
Schremp to swallow, but in the end, it’s given him more drive to make the club
with his second chance.

 

“This year I think
I have a good shot but I’ll go in with a game plan,” Schremp continued. “Maybe last year I could have been in better
shape but this year I’ve got my priorities straight and I’m focused.”

 

Oiler VP of Hockey
Operations Kevin Prendergast believes that the team’s new first round pick has
a very good chance to grab a roster spot this year because of some changes to
the team. There’s a new coach in Scott
Sandelin who replaces new Columbus Blue Jackets assistant coach Dean Blais as
the bench boss for Team USA.
Player-wise, Zach Parise has graduated to the pro level leaving
the door open for an offensive dynamo like Schremp.

 

“I know that they pretty much have set
with what they got last year but he’s a different player this year and they’ve
got to defend a gold medal,” Prendergast commented. “To do that they’re going to have to score goals and make things
happen and he’s certainly got to be at the top of their list for that type of
player. This kid can help your hockey
team and it’s the same with any coach in any league, if a player
can help your team win then you’re going to take him.

 

Schremp contributed two assists for his
side against the other half of US players on Friday but overall his ‘team
white’ is 0-3 and has been beaten by all three of the other teams.

 

Devan Dubnyk

 

Canada’s goaltending situation is largely
still up in the air as four different keepers find themselves in Calgary this
week as first time invitees. Kamloops
rubber stopper and Edmonton’s first choice at the 2004 Draft, Devan Dubnyk
might be an early favorite for one of the two roster spots because of his
previous international experience. In
2003, Dubnyk backstopped Team Canada at the U18 World Championships alongside
skater Cam Barker, Wes O’Neil, Jeff Schultz and Andy
Rogers
all of whom are also at this WJC camp.

 

Dubnyk’s competition is largely unknown
to him as two of the other keepers come from the OHL (David Shantz and Ryan
Munce
) and the third is Rejean Beauchemin from the Eastern
Conference of the WHL. To Dubnyk, this
unfamiliarity might produce stronger competition between them.

 

“I think so, you get familiar with a guy
and whether you think he’s better than you or you than him and it can make you
sit back or go that much harder, it depends,” admitted Dubnyk Thursday after
the first on-ice session. “It does
create competition, it makes you curious and you want to watch and see what
they’re like, how they play and their style.
I think a big thing for this camp being wide open, you have to focus on
what you’re doing, your game and how you play because if you concentrate too much
on the other guys too much then you’re going to be watching them all the time
instead of doing what you do. All four
goalies out here can play and all four can be the guy at a certain time so it’s
going to be who does it on a regular basis and any of these guys can do that.”

 

The Oilers have been represented by
goalies at Canada’s summer camp for the last few years including two failed
tryouts by Jeff Deslauriers.
Last year Deslauriers battled with Marc-Andre Fleury, Cam Ward
and Josh Harding for a roster job but lost out as he did in 2002 to David
Lenevue
in what was a controversial decision at the time.

 

Jeff got stuck
with a group of really good goalies last year so you can’t fault him at all on
that one, that group of goalies was unbelievable!” said Dubnyk. “For myself I’m going to work as hard as I
can just to make the team and nothing else.”

 

Day 1 of Canada’s
camp consisted of two separate 45-minute skates for the split group of 45
invitees. Although short in duration,
the initial practice was enough to get the flow going again.

 

“Yeah it was brief, but it was a quick
way to knock the rust off that’s for sure,” laughed the 6’6” Calgarian. “I go on the ice regularly with my workout
group so it hasn’t been that long but you never get the chance to go out with
these kind of shooters everyday; you don’t get one break where you can ease up
and think ‘okay, this guy’s going to shoot it into the logo’, there’s not one
guy out there who can’t put the puck in the net.”

 

The other notable difference for Dubnyk
is that with numerous blueline giants in attendance, his own towering frame
doesn’t garner him nearly as much attention as usual.

 

“There are guys who are probably bigger
than I am!” he laughed. “Guys are
getting bigger and stronger and that’s what I need to do; get stronger. It’s kind of nice that I don’t stick out so
much though. There are a lot of big
guys out there and they’re not just big pylons either, these guys can move,
shoot and they can pass.”

 

Marc-Antoine
Pouliot

 

While Marc-Antoine
Pouliot
is present at the Canada camp, he won’t be making much of an
impression. After having surgery in
June to repair the abdominal injury that followed him around last year, Pouliot
is recovered nicely but certainly won’t be put into a position here that could
jeopardize that in any way.

 

“I might skate
sometimes but I definitely won’t be in any of the contact drills,” Pouliot told
Hockey’s Future prior to learning he wouldn’t skate at all on Day 1.

 

Although he wasn’t
on the ice, Pouliot kept busy in the fitness room at the Father Bauer complex
by riding the bike and chumming with Rimouski teammate Sidney Crosby who also
didn’t practice because he beat his equipment to Calgary by at least one day.

 

Canada’s coach
Brent Sutter knew well in advance that Pouliot would not be able to go hard
this week and instead will reserve judgment on the talented forward through the
start of the QMJHL schedule and the December WJC camp. A strong start to the Océanic’s campaign for
Pouliot alongside Crosby, a guaranteed returnee, would be a tough thing to look
past for Sutter.

 

Others

 

The four above are
the Oiler players who have the best chance to make WJC appearances, but they
aren’t the only ones.

 

Right wing Colin
McDonald
was surprisingly left off the USA invite list but should he pick
up in his sophomore year with Providence where he ended his freshman one, he
could be a late addition to the club like defenseman Matt Greene was in
2003.

 

Another player in a
similar situation to McDonald’s is Michigan Wolverine right wing David
Rohlfs
. While his omission was not
as surprising as McDonald’s, an equally strong start in the NCAA might give USA
some interest in the power forward as an injury replacement.

 

It is highly
unlikely that left wing Liam Reddox will figure into Canada’s plans this
year but as the country’s top player at last April’s U18 tournament in Belarus,
he might gain a consideration or two should he lead Peterborough to an
impressive beginning.

 

The mini-tournament
hosted by the U.S. in Grand Forks wraps up on the weekend with each team
playing a final game. Canada’s camp
runs through to August 19th in Calgary and will feature three
inter-squad games commencing on Monday night.

 

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2004 Hockey’s Future Do not duplicate without written permission of the
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