(Marc Smith/DiscoverMooseJaw) The best junior hockey players in Canada are on the ice in Victoria this week with the 2018 World Junior Selection Camp underway.
Moose Jaw Warriors head coach Tim Hunter will be leading the Canadian National Junior Team this season after serving as an assistant coach for the team over the past two years, winning a gold medal in 2018 and a silver medal in 2017.
Hunter said getting the opportunity to lead Team Canada was a goal of his when he started coaching in junior hockey.
“A lot of guys go from winning the World Junior gold to playing in the NHL and winning a Stanley Cup eventually and I’m going the other way around, I’ve already won a Stanley Cup and then won a World Junior gold,” said Hunter.
Canada is always loaded with talent heading into an international tournament and this year’s World Junior squad will be no different. Hunter said it will be a challenge to trim the roster down to the 22 players that will represent Canada this year.
“It’s really hard to split the hairs to pick the team because there’s a lot of good hockey players in Canada,” said Hunter.
“We had a criterion of players that we wanted to invite and it’s now split them down into the guys that can comply and fit into the way that we want to play. We want to play a certain way and if they want to do that, they’ll be on the team.”
Speed and puck possession is the name of the game now across hockey and this year’s Team Canada squad will be no different.
Hunter said if you’ve watched a Warriors’ game this season, the systems and identity that they’ve been playing with will be very similar to what he’s planning on doing with Team Canada.
“We’re going to be a tough team to play against, a team that plays fast everywhere, not just with the puck but without, and a team that thinks the game very fast as well,” said Hunter.
“I’ve done a lot of things here in Moose Jaw that I’ve garnered from Hockey Canada and then things that we’ve learned over the last two years at the World Juniors with Dominique Ducharme and Joel Bouchard, and then lots of things that I’ve innovated myself and things this year that I’ve tried with the Warriors that I want to try at the World Junior Championship this year, some have worked and some haven’t.
“We’ve had some good success so far here in Moose Jaw and it’s good to see that it’s the right type of hockey to play.”
One player that will be very familiar with how Hunter wants the team to play is his captain here in Moose Jaw, Josh Brook, who is one of 12 defencemen vying for a spot on Team Canada.
Hunter said Brook just has to play to his skill set and he’ll make the team.
“He’s a real good two-way defenceman, he can score, he can pass the puck with a great first pass, he can join the rush and he defends very well,” he said.
The World Junior Selection Camp runs Tuesday through Friday in Victoria with Canada taking on the U Sports All-Star team in a three-game exhibition series on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.
Canada will open pre-tournament action next Wednesday against Switzerland.