Players hoping for a spot on Team Canada practised in Brossard on Monday at the national junior team development camp.
The camp started on Sunday at the Bell Sports Complex and runs until Aug. 8. It’s the first step in a long evaluation process to decide who will play for Canada at the next World Junior Hockey Championship. The annual tournament is being held in Montreal and Toronto and starts on Boxing Day.
“The goal this week is to know our players – to get to know them on the ice, but also off the ice,” said Benoit Groulx, the head coach for Team Canada.
“We want to start to build a team – a group of players that are able to play in the three zones,” Groulx added.
The coach also rhymed off a few other elements: team players who are able to working tirelessly and execute at high speed.
“That’s a bit of the identity that we want to give ourselves,” Groulx said.
Of the 40 players invited to the camp, 10 played for Canada at last winter’s world juniors in Sweden, including forward Connor McDavid and defenceman Aaron Ekblad, who was selected No. 1 overall in June’s NHL entry draft by the Florida Panthers.
Ekblad said his main goal is to play in Florida this coming season.
“I need to focus on being ready for that,” he said. “But if I get this opportunity to come back and play for my country there’s no doubt that I’ll be willing and able.”
The 22-player roster for Canada’s world junior team will be chosen in December.
Asked about the prospect of playing on home turf at this year’s tournament, McDavid said: “It would be unbelievable obviously. I was at Game 6 in the Montreal-Boston series at the Bell Centre, it was crazy. So I can’t imagine what it would be like for the world juniors.
“It was pretty tough not to imagine playing there with a whole bunch of screaming Canadians,” McDavid added. “But that’s getting down the road there. (We’ve) got to focus on what’s in front of us here.”
Two Canadiens prospects are taking part in the camp: goaltender Zach Fucale and forward Jeremy Grégoire.
(Photo by Allen McInnis/The Gazette)
Habs prospect Grégoire turning heads by Brenda Branswell
You can watch a video from camp by Gazette photographer Allen McInnis: