At the start of the season, I presumed that the Canucks might have three of four prospects at Team Canada’s selection camp this season for the World Juniors, with most recent first round picks Bo Horvat and Hunter Shinkaruk, as well as last year’s first rounder Brendan Gaunce. Maybe there was a spot somewhere for Belleville’s Jordan Subban.
Ultimately though, Hockey Canada decided to go with a 25-man camp this year, cutting Gaunce and Subban before it began. Bo Horvat was a lock all through the camp, but Shinkaruk, who has been nursing a hagging hip injury this year and had just 16 points so far in 18 games, was one of the first cuts from the camp, along with New Jersey prospect Damon Severson.
This was probably a decision between Shinkaruk and Detroit second rounder and QMJHL leading scorer Anthony Mantha, who is having a career year with the Val-d’Or Foreurs. Surely there are going to be some people second-guessing the Canucks’ brass decision to select Shinkaruk, who was once considered a lottery pick for the 2013 draft but wound up slipping to 24th.
Anthony Mantha (DET) beat out Hunter Shinkaruk (VAN) in a battle for a spot on Canada, as the latter was cut. Mantha didn’t do a ton early on, but later in the game showed the speed and offensive creativity that makes him pretty desirable as a prospect for a big man. Shinkaruk has not looked himself since a hip injury in October for the last few weeks and this cut almost seemed inevitable.
Here’s Mantha’s goal today for Team Canada in the pre-tournament game against Finland:
I’d hope that this goal wasn’t the determining factor, but throughout camp I’d been pretty bearish on Shinkaruk’s chances at the camp. He had the disadvantage of being a winger on a team full of centres, and competing for a spot with a player like Mantha who has been absolutely dominant this season in the Q. Mantha has also some chemistry with Jonathan Drouin and Charles Hudon, also on the team. I’d think that once Drouin enters the lineup for Canada (he’s been sitting games out, mostly precautionary, due to a concussion sustained) coach Brent Sutter may go back to that Q line.
So the bad news is that Shinkaruk is out, but the good news is that Bo Horvat is a lock for the final spot, and was actually getting some minutes alongside Connor McDavid and Sam Reinhart, two talented wunderkinds who may very well be the top picks in the 2015 and 2014 drafts, respectively.
Here’s a little bit of what McDavid can do: he avoided a check while simultaneously dishing a puck off to Horvat for the finish:
So the Canucks will have one of their prospects on Team Canada, for the first time since Cody Hodgson in 2009 (coincidentally, the last time Canada won gold). That is unless something frightful happens against Sweden and he doesn’t make the team’s final 22-man group, but right now I’d assume Horvat is a lock.