Spend five minutes anywhere in a typical Canadian small town, and quickly you realize just how much junior hockey players are worshiped. And I’m not even necessarily talking about the young kids we’re about to see take the ice for Canada when the 2011 World Junior hockey Championship begins on Boxing Day.
Go even lower than the CHL level, and you find a layer of hockey that’s more than just a game: it’s a community event. Growing up near the Wellington Dukes‘ home rink–the Junior “A” club playing in Prince Edward County, Ontario–at a very young age I discovered just how much 17 and 18-year-old hockey players are admired. They signed autographs, threw the best parties, and stole all the girls in high school. No, I’m not bitter.
I doubt you need to be told just how massive junior hockey is in the Great White North, a country where it’s illegal to not know how to skate by the age of four. But for those of you who dedicate your time to following the professional game, and may only educate yourself on junior hockey around draft time, some of the names donning the red-and-white this year could seem foreign.
Not to worry, because we here at Houses of the Hockey believe in doing our good deeds as citizens of the hockey community. After scouring Youtube for a while–yes, my job is very difficult–I put together some visual stimulation showing a handful of the players who perhaps aren’t household names yet for Team Canada, but could be soon.
It’s a small slice of what you’ll be seeing over the next two weeks.
Junior team: Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL)
Draft: Selected 30th overall in 2009 by the Pittsburgh Penguins
My apologies for the awful quality of this video that was shot somewhere deep in a New Brunswick basement. But Despres’ backwards imitation of Marek Malik’s between the legs move couldn’t be left off this list.
Position: Right wing
Junior team: Prince George Cougars (WHL)
Draft: Selected sixth overall in 2010 by the Tampa Bay Lightning
Rock on! The breakaway goal at the beginning of this video is the most impressive, and showcases Connolly’s strength.
Junior team: Drummondville Voltigeurs (QMJHL)
Draft: Draft eligible in 2011
Couturier could be the first overall pick in this spring’s draft, and has more than achieved household name status. When you’re scoring goals like this, you’ll get recognized in a real hurry.
Position: Left wing
Junior team: Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL)
Draft: Selected 25h overall in the 2010 draft by the Florida Panthers
Between Connolly, Couturier, and now Howden, Team Canada evidently had a requirement of being able to make plays while either on your knees or lying on the ice for an invitation to selection camp.
Junior team: Portland Winterhawks (WHL)
Draft: Selected 4th overall in 2010 by the Columbus Blue Jackets
The 18-year-old Johansen scored 25 goals and 69 points last year for Portland in 71 games. He was rewarded by coming off the board just a few spots later than marquee names like Hall and Seguin last spring.