Entering the ice at Westerner Park Centrium in Red Deer on Tuesday, day one of Team Canada junior selection camp, Mavrik Bourque touched on a dream he has long cherished.
Bourque is one of the 47 players invited by Hockey Canada for this long marathon, which will stretch over 51 days for players who carve out a place with the national team for the World Junior Hockey Championship in Edmonton on December 25. until January 5.
“It’s a big event that I’ve been watching since I was young,” he said on Tuesday after his first practice. It’s cliché to say, but it’s a dream for me to be here today and have the chance to fight for a position with Team Canada. “
If there is an advantage, for Hockey Canada, in the current pandemic, it is that all the best players under 20 years old are at the selection camp, with the exception of Alexis Lafrenière, since the National League of hockey has still not resumed operations. So there will be talent per square foot in Red Deer, and competition will be fierce for available positions.
“I came here for a reason and everyone at camp has a chance to make the team,” said the Shawinigan Cataractes center. I just have to be myself. I am a smart player on the ice with a high level of competition. That’s what I want to bring to this team, both on offense and defense. A vision shared by ECJ head coach André Tourigny.
THE QMJHL AHEAD?
“He’s doing a lot of good things on the ice. Mavrik, it’s his hockey intelligence and the way he passes the puck that sets him apart. He’s a very skillful guy who sees his options. When I watch Mavrik Bourque, I don’t see a lot of things that he can’t do. Now it’s about proving he’s capable of doing it internationally against top players. “
Bourque is one of nine QMJHL players invited by ÉCJ. In other words, the nine players on the Courteau circuit are the only ones present at the camp to have played high level hockey this season, apart from perhaps Chicago Blackhawks forward Kirby Dach, who played his last. game on August 19, during the NHL playoffs in the Edmonton bubble. So do the QMJHL players have an advantage over the rest of the competition? Let’s wait before jumping to conclusions, warns Tourigny.
“I see they have pace, the execution was good. However, this is our first practice. To start saying who’s been the best on the ice, phew! it’s a good question ! “
WAITING FOR LAFRENIÈRE
The Quebec coach was then questioned about Alexis Lafrenière, whose possible presence with ECJ will depend on when the NHL returns to play. Certainly he has no intention of spending his days on his cell phone waiting for a response from the New York Rangers.
“It’s not complicated, he’s going to be able to choose whatever number he wants (if he joins the squad),” he joked. But we don’t wait until after that. Would we like to have it? No need to ask the question, it’s crisp and clear. However, we are happy with the players we have here. We will ask the players to focus on the present. If I don’t, it doesn’t make sense. If we are told that we are finally going to have Laf, don’t worry, give me a second and I will be able to adjust. However, we will focus on the players we have. “
We knew the 2021 Junior Team Canada camp wasn’t going to be normal, and Tuesday’s opening day was the most tangible proof of that.
About 15 players were unable to take part in the first day of training on Tuesday as they were still awaiting the result of their most recent test.
According to TSN, the only network present in the Red Deer bubble, 14 players were not on the ice Tuesday: Taylor Gauthier, Jamie Drysdale, Thomas Harley, Ryan O’Rourke, Matthew Robertson, Braden Schneider, Quinton Byfield, Dawson Mercer, Ridly Greig, Hendrix Lapierre, Jakob Pelletier, Cole Perfetti, Xavier Simoneau and Philip Tomasino. In the case of Lapierre and Mercer, they completed the last day of their mandatory quarantine yesterday after a staff member of the Saguenéens de Chicoutimi contracted COVID-19.
“We want to make sure we are as careful as possible,” said coach André Tourigny. When we announced the holding of this camp, we mentioned that the health of our players would be the most important. All absent players are awaiting the results of their tests. The lab is overwhelmed and we don’t want to put anyone in the bubble until they test negative. There is no rush as it’s not like the tournament starts next week. “
THREE PLAYERS IN QUARANTINE
In addition to the missing 14 players were Alex Newhook, Devon Levi and Dylan Holloway, who will have to self-isolate for 14 days before they can join their teammates as they arrive from the United States, where they play in the NCAA. They will still be able to skate, but in a trio.
This should not harm them in the evaluation process, also assured Tourigny.
“We have time. It’s going to be the same if ever we have a player who gets injured. We are lucky to have a camp that will be long, which will allow us to assess everyone. […] These guys can’t be with the group, but they’re on the ice anyway. You can do video with them and build a relationship. “
Also, there will only be Canadian officials this year at the World Juniors due to current circumstances. Hockey Quebec announced Tuesday that eight of its representatives had been selected to work in the tournament, namely Olivier Gouin, Alexandre Garon, Guillaume Labonté, Mathieu Menniti, Kevin Maillé, Maxime Chaput, Guillaume Brunelle and Jonathan Deschamps.