Sports Hockey

WORLD JUNIOR

Canada's forward depth put on display

By Terry Koshan, Toronto Sun

Connor McDavid is seen during practice on the second day Canada's National Junior team selection camp was under way at the Meridian Centre in  St. Catharines on Tuesday December 16, 2014. (Bob Tymczyszyn/St. Catharines Standard/QMI Agency)

Connor McDavid is seen during practice on the second day Canada's National Junior team selection camp was under way at the Meridian Centre in St. Catharines on Tuesday December 16, 2014. (Bob Tymczyszyn/St. Catharines Standard/QMI Agency)

OTTAWA - The depth among Canada’s forwards was hammered home when lines for the exhibition game on Sunday night were revealed.

As expected, Connor McDavid will centre a line with Curtis Lazar on the right side, with Nick Ritchie playing the left wing when Canada plays Sweden in an exhibition game at the Canadian Tire Centre.

The trio was second on the depth chart, following the Max Domi-Sam Reinhart-Anthony Duclair grouping that was sharp against Russia on Friday night.

Third line? Nic Petan, coming off back-to-back 100-point seasons with Portland of the Western Hockey League, and Robby Fabbri, a goal machine with the Ontario Hockey League’s Guelph Storm, will flank centre Nick Paul.

Canada head coach Benoit Groulx never had it so good, and probably won’t again once the 2015 world junior ends.

“For me, it is all about options,” Groulx said following the morning skate.

“With Reinhart, Domi and Duclair, I thought they had a decent game in Toronto, but they were not able to get inside and make a difference so we want to give them another try, see how they play together.

“We want to give (McDavid and Lazar) a chance to see if they have chemistry, if they find each other at the right time and how they play. We look to have offence from each and every line.”

McDavid will play for the first time since suffering a broken bone in his right hand on Nov. 11 in a game with the Erie Otters. Ritchie, among the more effective power forwards in the OHL with the Peterborough Petes, will be the guy who does the dirty work.

“Ritchie is going to get in on the forecheck and bang some bodies and create some room for Davey,” Lazar said. “I’m just going to try to get open and see if he can find me a little bit and I’m just going to shoot the puck.

“Everyone is skilled on this team and everyone offers something that is going to lead to team success. I know for Connor it has been while since he has played, so we will ease him in there and go with it and see what happens. He is antsy and excited to get going.”

Canada’s fourth line remains intact from the 2-1 overtime loss against the Russians, with Frederik Gauthier between Lawson Crouse and Jake Virtanen. Brayden Point will be worked in as the 13th forward.

On the blue line, the pairs are: Darnell Nurse and Shea Theodore; Josh Morrissey and Madison Bowey; and Samuel Morin and Joe Hicketts. Dillon Heatherington is the seventh defenceman.

Morin and Hicketts are an interesting pair. Morin, at 6-foot-7 and 224 pounds, dwarfs the 5-foot-8, 186-pound Hicketts.

Eric Comrie will start in goal for Canada.

The Canadians wrap up their exhibition schedule on Tuesday in Montreal when they face Switzerland at the Bell Centre.

On Friday in Montreal, Canada, in search of its first gold medal at the world junior since 2009, will play Slovakia in its first game of the tournament with an 8 p.m. ET start.

twitter.com: @koshtorontosun

terry.koshan@sunmedia.ca

 


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