Alright, so during the World Juniors I was able to keep my hoser pride out of my blogs, but I’m having a lot of difficulty this time around. I wanted to cover all the countries, I really did… no that’s a lie, but I’m completely biased and I just can’t help it. It’s the Olympics! So apologies in advance, because I’m sitting here in one of my Team Canada jerseys as I write this, and I’ve got Sunday the 23rd booked off of work.
Although there is a huge portion of this year’s team that played in the CHL, I tried to narrow it down a little bit to those with exceptionally lucrative junior careers. So, with representatives from all three leagues, here are your Top 5 CHL Grads to watch on Team Canada going into the medal round!
5. Shea Weber (Kelowna Rockets)
Shea Weber’s junior hockey career started out much more slowly than many of his Olympic teammates, getting passed over in the WHL Draft and playing B in his first junior season. Finally getting the chance with the Kelowna Rockets, he played three seasons with them, picking up 91 points and 388 penalty minutes. In his rookie season alone, he had 167 penalty minutes, a personal record that fortunately for Weber has not been repeated since. While Weber was in Kelowna, the Rockets went to three straight Memorial Cup tournaments, losing twice but winning in the second year when they were hosts. He also has a World Juniors Gold, a World Championships Gold, and of course his Gold from 2010. In his ninth season with the Nashville Predators, Weber already has 38 points this season and will be able to chip in from the point for Team Canada while shutting down top lines.
Team Canada Head Coach Mike Babcock has said that when the Red Wings play Nashville, he won’t let his best players kill penalties against Weber. Gee, I wonder why….
4. Drew Doughty (Guelph Storm)
Drew Doughty is only 24 years old, but by 22 he already had a Stanley Cup and Olympic Gold. Making the Vancouver team at only age 20, Doughty has gotten even stronger and smarter since 2010, earning his time playing in big games through the playoffs with the Los Angeles Kings. He also has a World Juniors gold, and played three seasons with the Guelph Storm, ripping up the city (or so I hear) and the OHL as he went, amassing an impressive 150 points as a defenseman. Look for Doughty to be strong on the blue line again this year, protecting Team Canada’s ever-confusing goaltending carousel.
He’s got a bit of offensive upside too… can’t say I mind!
3. Corey Perry (London Knights)
In his four years with the London Knights, Corey Perry amassed 380 points, including two seasons of 113 and 130 points. He was a vital part of the 2004-05 Knights team that went 31 games without a loss, went 59-7-2 on the season, and ultimately took down the Rimouski Oceanic to win the Memorial Cup on home ice (keeping a certain Crosby kid from hoisting the hardest hockey trophy to win). During that post-season run, in which the Knights only lost two games, Perry had a huge 38 points. He also holds World Juniors Gold, a Stanley Cup, and Olympic Gold from 2010. If I were a superhero, Perry would be my arch nemesis, but he already has 30 goals and 30 assists this season with the Anaheim Ducks, so if he keeps that up during this tournament, I might just put my disdain aside for a while.
The Knights even retired Perry’s jersey in a ceremony that made him cry. Awwwww.
2. John Tavares (Oshawa Generals, London Knights)
John Tavares quite literally changed the history of the CHL. As the youngest player to ever be drafted into the OHL at age 14, Tavares sparked the “exceptional player” clause that allows players to be drafted into the CHL one year early. Since Tavares, only 3 others have been granted exceptional player status. Three days after he turned 15, he played in his first OHL game and scored his first OHL goal. No big deal. Tavares played five seasons in the OHL with the Generals and Knights, getting traded to London along with Michael Del Zotto for the end of the 2008-09 season. In addition, despite being left off the 2007 squad, he has two gold medals from the World Juniors. Now, as the New York Islanders build their franchise around their #1 overall pick in the 2009 Draft, Tavares continues to excel, picking up 66 points so far this season heading into the Olympic Games.
Plus, I really needed to share this hilariously monotone video. Game face!
P.S. Did you know that you can enter to win a John Tavares autographed jersey? Check it out here!
1. Sidney Crosby (Rimouski Oceanic)
All hockey fans know the history of the talented kid from Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia who attended Shattuck St. Mary’s and went on to become the biggest household name since Wayne Gretzky. After Shattuck’s, Crosby played 2 seasons in the QMJHL for the Rimouski Oceanic in a junior career that was cut short by, oh I don’t know, racking up 102 points in the NHL at age 18. However, in those two seasons with the Oceanic, he scored 135 and 168 points, went to the Memorial Cup final, and won gold at the World Juniors.
I could go on and on about the amazing things that Crosby has done in his career so far, but that would take forever, and it’s not what matters right now. What matters is that in Vancouver in 2010, he scored the most important goal of the tournament. What matters is that this time around, he is four years older, four years more experienced, and four years more mature. What matters is that he is the captain of Team Canada. Crosby has a supporting cast around him that will make his job easier, but that doesn’t mean that he will shy away from putting the team on his shoulders and carrying it through to the finals. So far this season, he has 28 goals and 50 assists; in 43 international games, he has 37 points and scored at a point-per-game pace at the 2010 Games. One word: “IGGY!!!”