Yesterday, four Tampa Bay Lightning players were named to the Team Canada roster for the 2018 World Junior Hockey Championships. Watching these players at camp, we saw Canada lose two games in a row to the Canadian University All-Stars, but defeated Denmark this afternoon. Canada was either good at defending or easily overtaking a weaker opponent.
Running the gauntlet of talent, Canada had some hard choices to make. What they didn’t think was hard was the choice to keep all four of the Lightning prospects they have:
Cal Foote, defender, Kelowna Rockets (WHL)
30GP - 6G - 24A - 30Pts
The 2017 first round pick (14th overall) is the son of Adam Foote, the long time Quebec Nordique/Colorado Avalanche player who played for Canada at the 1990 World Juniors. He’s following in his fathers footsteps this season, though he doesn’t get a big trip to Helsinki, just to Buffalo. Foote will be playing with other top defence picks Conor Timmins and Cale Makar. This is Foote’s first time playing for Team Canada.
Brett Howden, centre, Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL)
20GP - 13G - 18A - 31Pts
Selected in the first round in 2016 (27th overall), Howden is in his second year captaining the Moose Jaw Warriors. This is his third time playing for Canada; he wore the red, white, and black at the World U17 Championships in 2015 and twice at the World U18 Championships in 2015 (bronze medal) and 2016.
I got a chance to chat with three Bolts prospects yesterday.
RC: You were at [Tampa Bay Lightning preseason] camp this year, how was that?
Howden: It was good. It was my second year, so I had familiarity with everyone, and how it was. It was fun.
RC: Was there any advice on what to work on this year? Are they [the Lightning staff] keeping in touch?
Howden: Yeah they’re really good at staying in touch, always talking to us. I spoke with the skating coach. They help us out with everything we need during the season.
RC: Was there any specific moment from the World Juniors that was your favorite?
Howden: My brother played in the last tournament that was in Buffalo actually [Quinton Howden, currently playing with Dinamo Minsk in the KHL], I thought that was very special. It was something we would never forget. The next year he was there in Calgary and Edmonton. Just being a part of that family, seeing my brother on the ice, scoring goals, that was a great feeling.
RC: If you make the team, knowing New Era Field was buried under an avalanche on Sunday, is there anything you’re planning in case a blizzard shows up halfway through the outdoor game?
Howden: [laughs] I think we’re all used to that, playing outside as kids. I figure we should be pretty good.
Boris Katchouk, winger, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL)
30GP - 27G - 18A - 45Pts
Katchouk played for Canada at the 2016 U18 World Championships, so this isn’t his first time trying out for the national team.
RC: Coming out of Lightning camp, the Gryhounds have rockets up the OHL standings and before you left to come here, you guys took over the top spot in the OHL. How does that feel?
Katchouk: It’s massive. It’s such a confident room right now, and we’re trying to win every game. It’s coming easy to us and everything is coming into place. The team chemistry we have right now is amazing.
RC: How did it go at Lightning camp this fall?
Katchouk: It was great. I mean, it was an excellent experience over there. I played in two preseason games and felt I got a lot more confidence as camp went on.
RC: Was there any direction from the team on training this season?
Katchouk: Every aspect I think I need to work on. I’ll need to work to make the jump to that level.
RC: Looking back on the past, what was your favorite World Junior memory?
Katchouk: The Jordan Eberle goal against Russia - we were in Ottawa at the time so we all watched it in the hotel room together.
Taylor Raddysh, winger, Erie Otters (OHL)
30GP - 15G - 29A - 44Pts
Raddysh is the most experienced of the group, winning a silver medal in last year’s World Juniors tournament.
RC: Looking back on the World Juniors of the past, what was your favorite moment?
Raddysh: The Eberle goal got us really psyched. I was watching with my family - it’s our Christmas tradition to watch together - and to see the team come back like that was awesome.
RC: Have you seen any improvement in your play this year? For the Otters you’re one of the best scoring, most reliable players out there.
Raddysh: With all the guys we lost last year, we’re a little weaker team this year. My two way game has improved this year. I’m playing more on the penalty kill, my offensive game is improving as well.
RC: Leaving the Otters to come to camp, and the OHL trade deadline only a couple days after the tournament, do you think you've played your final game in Erie?
Raddysh: I’m trying to keep it out of my mind as much as I can. You’re going to see it though. I’m on twitter all the time (@Raddy1998) so you’re going to see it, it might happen. I don’t really know, but if it was my last game, it was great while I was there.
Team Canada is now going to practice and try to gel as a team ahead of their first official pre-tournament match up against the Czech Republic on December 20th in London, Ontario.
The 2018 World Junior Championships are being held in Buffalo, New York from December 26th to January 5th. You can watch in the US on the NHL Network and in Canada on TSN and TSN GO.