Canadiens Well Represented at World Juniors
With the 2012 World Junior Championships just around the corner, Canadiens fans can take great pride in knowing that three prospects of the team will suit up for Team Canada when the tournament opens on December 26th in Alberta. Forwards Brendan Gallagher and Michael Bournival will play for Canada, along with this years first round draft pick Nathan Beaulieu.
This is no small feat for the organization, considering Team Canada has featured no more than one Habs prospect per year in the past few years. To have three on the final roster for this years tournament not only provides a lot of hope for the future, but should give these three prospects a great learning experience that will hopefully make their eventual transition to the pros that much easier. Of course, the team is a relatively inexperienced one, and there were a lot of open spots, but that still doesn't take away from the achievement. Of course, this isn't exactly shocking news. While none of the three Canadiens prospects on the team were exactly locks, many speculated that they would make the roster.
One of the really great things about this is that each player will very likely be looked to in different situations. Vancouver Giants forward Brendan Gallagher was a player that many people expected to make the team, and not just because Canadian Head Coach Don Hay is also the coach of his junior club. Gallagher, who turned heads during his time with the Habs in the pre-season, has been an offensive dynamo in his WHL career thus far, putting up 91 points in 66 games last season. So far this year he is on pace for another great year, with 24 goals and 46 points in 28 games.
Despite his small stature of only 5'8”, Gallagher is known for playing big, and has drawn comparisons to Canadiens captain Brian Gionta. The interesting thing about Gallagher on this team is that he can provide stellar offensive play and score the all-important goals, but at the same time can grind it out with the bottom lines if he is asked to do so. Gallagher could very well be a vital member of Team Canada in this years tournament, and will hopefully benefit from the experience as other Habs players have in the past, such as Carey Price, PK Subban and Louis Leblanc.
While there shouldn't really be a “fourth line”, there is a good chance Michael Bournival will be centering what is supposed to be the checking line. That is not to say he can't provide a scoring punch as he has potted 15 goals in just 16 games with the Shawinigan Cataractes of the QMJHL. Bournival is a heart-and-soul type of player who gives it his all on every shift. It is entirely likely that Bournival will be looked at to provide energy for the team, but also to contribute defensively. He is an all around player with the talent and ability to be solid in all three zones, and while his offensive flare might not translate to the NHL level, his future is still a bright one, and this World Juniors appearance could be the start of it.
Lastly, Nathan Beaulieu was named to the roster as one of seven defensemen on the team. He is best described as a very mobile, puck-moving defenseman. He will probably see a lot of action during the power play, and adds to Team Canada's offense with his decision making and great passing ability. That is not to say, of course, that he isn't useful in his own zone. Canadiens fans got a chance to see his work doing the pre-season this year, and while his offensive abilities are his main selling point, he's no slouch defensively either. He is far from a defensive liability, and can be relied on in multiple situations, in either end of the ice. Beaulieu isn't small either, standing at roughly 6'3”, he isn't easy to knock off the puck, despite his frame still having some catching up to do.
The focus will certainly be on these three players, but that doesn't mean that they are the the only Canadiens prospects at this years competition. There a few other players who have a shot at representing their respective countries in Alberta, most notably is American defenseman Jarred Tinordi.
Tinordi was the Canadiens first round pick in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. He has a great chance to play for Team USA this year, but nothing is for sure. If he does make the team, it will be his first taste of World Junior play, but he shouldn't have any trouble adjusting. Tinordi is a gigantic stay-at-home defenseman, towering over his opponents at 6'7”. Assuming Tinordi does make the American team, he will be asked to provide a physical presence on the blue-line, which isn't exactly anything new. Since before he was even drafted, Tinordi has been described as a player with a mean-streak, not afraid to go for a big hit to punish any forwards brave enough to challenge him. While he is certainly a defense-first player, he does have some good skill and offensive ability. The thing that surprises scouts the most is his skating ability, which is very impressive for someone of his size. Tinordi will add another dimension to a tournament that can, at times, be heavily oriented towards offensive players. When the American roster in announced in the next week or so, it would be fairly surprising if Jarred Tinordi isn't on the team.
As for less notable names that could represent the Canadiens at the World Juniors, there is one. Daniel Pribyl,who was drafted in the 6th round in 2011 by the Habs, is expected to suit up for the Czech Republic team. While he likely won't be one of the stars of the team, he is considered by many who follow Czech junior players to be a lock to make the team. According to Hockey's Future, Pribyl is more of a skill player than a grit player, despite his deceptive size. He is a bit of a project, but this World Junior experience could potentially do a world of good for his development.
The tournament will be a very interesting one for Habs fans to say the very least. Not only are the World Juniors an extremely entertaining tournament in general, but having Canadiens prospects in it make it that much better. As these players showcase their talents at the international level, legions of Habs fans will be watching with dreams of these players one day leading the bleu-blanc-et-rouge to glory once again. The tournament officially opens on December 26th as Canada takes on Finland.