Brandon Hickey, Mason McDonald invited to Team Canada’s 2016 World Juniors selection camp

Happy December! The final month of the year means two things: it’s Christmas time, as the holiday season and commercialism really ramps up; and, more importantly, it’s World Juniors time.

That’s right! From Dec. 26, 2015 to Jan. 5, 2016, 10 of the best hockey nations in the world will converge on Helsinki, Finland to find out whose children are the best of them all. Canada will, of course, be one of those nations.

But first, they’ve got to build a team. And two Flames prospects have the opportunity to be a part of it. Brandon Hickey and Mason McDonald have been invited to Team Canada’s selection camp, which runs from Dec. 10-13.

G Mason McDonald

Selected just 30 picks after Sam Bennett in 2014, Mason McDonald is one of two Flames goalie prospects still playing in juniors. The 19-year-old plays for the Charlottetown Islands out of the QMJHL, a league notorious for not being particularly friendly to things like defence or goaltending. 

McDonald currently spots a .893 save percentage over 17 games: an ugly number in normal circumstances, and even in the Q, he’s 11th overall. Yet McDonald has caught Team Canada’s eye. When you look outside of the Quebec league, it’s easy to see why: he posted a .941 save percentage over two games at Team Canada’s summer showcase.

On the other hand, during the CHL Canada Russia Series, McDonald was last in save percentage, with a .871 in the one game he faced off against the Russian juniors (and won).

Over a limited sample size, it looks like McDonald has potential, as long as he’s playing behind a defence better than one of QMJHL caliber. Which Team Canada should have, of course.

D Brandon Hickey

Selected 64th overall in 2014, Brandon Hickey has fast risen up the Flames’ defensive prospect depth charts. The 19-year-old was drafted out of the AJHL, and is now in his sophomore year for the Boston University Terriers. In his rookie season, he was part of a squad that just fell short of the national championship, playing on a Jack Eichel-boosted team; in his sophomore season, he has four goals and six points over 14 games thus far.

Hickey was invited to Team Canada’s summer showcase in which he played two games, and scored one goal. He’s a smart defenceman who’s an excellent skater, and shoots the puck a lot, leading all BU defencemen in shots so far this season. The Flames are one team definitely excited about him; hopefully, Team Canada is as well.

Who makes it?

Considering how the only other goalie invited to the camp is the Barrie Colts’ Mackenzie Blackwood, McDonald is a lock. Blackwood has a .930 save percentage on the season, and at Team Canada’s summer showcase, was the only goalie with better numbers than McDonald with a .975 save percentage over three games. He also had a shutout in the 2015 Canada Russia Series for Team OHL.

Blackwood is a year younger than McDonald, which means he’ll be eligible to return to Team Canada’s National U-20 team for the 2017 World Juniors. That, and his better numbers, may very well give him the inside edge on the starter’s position; however, the two will likely battle it out throughout camp and the round robin portion of the tournament before one of them is truly anointed.

As for Hickey, he’s competing with 10 other defencemen, so there will definitely be cuts in that department; Hickey, however, has a good shot of making it, having already showcased himself to Team Canada and performing rather well. He’s also one of the bigger defencemen invited. That, combined with the fact that he can actually play, should see good things for him.

Hickey will be competing with Thomas Chabot, draft-eligible Jakob Chychrun, Travis Dermott, Vince Dunn, Haydn Fleury, Joe Hicketts, Noah Juulsen, Roland McKeown, Travis Sanheim, and Jake Walman for a spot.

  • JMK

    Any news on the prospects from other countries?? Hopefully have 2 for Sweden, maybe 1 for Czech? Wonder could we have 3 from Sweden with Mattsson. A shame too Mangiapane didn’t get a look.

    • SmellOfVictory

      Apparently Karnaukhov has the Russians and Belarusians fighting over him. Which is weird, because I didn’t think he was good enough for the Russian team, but I guess that speaks well for him.

        • McRib

          Karnaukhov played his first game back last weekend and looked great!! He had an assist (also had a couple prime scoring chances) and the Hitmen were playing him on the third line, not rushing him back into the lineup. He obviously was playing injured in his first few games at the start of this season, expect big things going forward. He is such an opportunistic player who always finds open ice in scoring areas, really like his game. He is also using a shorter stick this season, which has helped stickhandling in scoring areas. He could end up being a really under rated pick from last years draft. Plays such a smooth game it’s hard to imagine at times he is 6’3″. Last year was obviously his first year on smaller ice and he struggled with consistency, but when he was on looked easily like a Top. 60 pick. When the Flames drafted him knowing his talents more closely than other teams because of relationship with Hitmen, I knew I would end up liking that pick.

  • McRib

    Remember when the Flames drafted Mason McDonald, Hunter Smith, Brandon Hickey (less regrettable) over Brayden Point… *shutters*. Our drafting has improved greatly since the Sutter days, but taking “truculence” in the first three rounds (Smith, Kanzig) is still unfortunate.

    • Christian Roatis

      Great kid too, so “character” box must’ve been checked off. I guess a Burke led team will have trouble stomaching a sub 5’10 draft pick in the Top 90.

          • McRib

            Most prognosticators had Point as a first rounder (or close to one) pre-draft, but he was injured in the summer U18 leading up to draft (minor injury). So Tampa Bay got a gift on draft day, this kid could easily be a future Top. 30 goal scorer in the NHL. Nice to see a local Calgary kid doing good regardless if he isn’t suiting up for us!!

  • Christian Roatis

    These games are always the best. The players are playing for pride and their country, and the stakes are quite high. Hopefully Hickey can grab a spot.

  • Christian Roatis

    Flames prospects have a had a really tough time making Team Canada in recent years, but looks like that may change this year with McDonald a virtual lock and Hickey having a good shot too.

  • piscera.infada

    As much as I want Hickey to make the team, I doubt very much he does. Hockey Canada has a fairly long history to favouring not only CHL players, but also players drafted in the first or second round. Hockey Canada is basically a hype-machine, they usually leave a few very deserving players off the roster.

  • SmellOfVictory

    Here’s the unofficial lineup for tonight’s tilt with Dallas

    Gaudreau Monohan Jones

    Bennett Granlund Hudler

    Raymond Backlund Frolik

    Colborne Stajan Ferland

    Gio TJB

    Russell Hamilton

    Engelland Wideman

    Ramo

    Any comments on the “unofficial” lineup?

    • piscera.infada

      I still fail to see why Granlund at centre over Bennett works. I also don’t understand Raymond. I’d still rather the top-6 be something like:

      Gaudreau-Bennett-Frolik

      Granlund-Monahan-Hudler

      • SmellOfVictory

        It’s called asset management. If you want any kind of chance in moving Raymond (in some kind of package) then you need to play him. For the time being Bennett is fine at wing that will allow a talented player like Granlund to play top 6.

        Once the underperforming Backlund is moved look for Bennett to play Centre for the long term….

        • piscera.infada

          No one is trading for Raymond’s contract unless they’re specifically targeting him (for some very strange reason). When Raymond plays, he does absolutely nothing to increase his stock. At this point, if you include him in a package, it’s: 1) because you got lucky and the opposing GM is drunk at the time of the trade, or 2) he’s being thrown in as a salary dump and lessening the return substantially.

          There is no managing Raymond as an “asset”.

          • supra steve

            As a GM you need to have an open mind and explore all options…after all that is your job….a package deal that includes the return of another underperforming player is a possibility….that particular player may very well fit into your system and a change may rejuvenate him…to say “there is no managing Raymond as an asset” is giving up…..

          • piscera.infada

            I’m saying you probably have greater priorities than trying to get Raymond going. Those include (but are not limited to): maximizing the asset value of other veterans who are UFAs (Hudler, Jones, Russell), developing your younger players (this includes a player like Jooris who frequently sits as a function of playing Raymond), and icing your best 12 forwards (of which Raymond clearly isn’t).

          • supra steve

            At some point in the next 6 months, the Flames will likely have a new coach, perhaps that coach gets the maximum out of Raymond. Perhaps that same coach gets next to nothing out of this “underperforming player” you plan to get in return for Raymond.

            It is possible to shoot yourself in the foot in these situations, even if you are only trying to improve things.

        • piscera.infada

          For the time being Bennett is fine at wing that will allow a talented player like Granlund to play top 6.

          This reasoning doesn make sense. I’ll walk you through it.

          1. Centers are more impactful (read: important) than wingers
          2. Bennett is a better NHLer than Granlund (by a lot)
          3. Bennett is a better center than winger.

          So why is Granlund the one who gets to play his natural position?

          • supra steve

            Simple…do the math…you get to play and develop 2 prospects instead of 1…My strategy allows you to play Granlund in the top 6. I believe he is ineffective elsewhere….Bennett who is my top prospect and only 19 years old has proven he is effective as a left winger….I play and develop 2 prospects…I buy myself time enabling me to manage my veteran assets in a rebuild year….Bennett is my centre perhaps as quickly as next season….

          • supra steve

            You’re ignoring two very important things.

            Why is it Granlund gets to play his natural position? The line, both players, and the team are better off if Hartley makes one extremely simple change:

            Granlund – Bennett – Hudler.

            Bennett is NOT an effective LW. At least, he isn’t anything close to as effective as a winger as he is as a center.

          • Cfan in Vic

            I’ll add to all that, saying that Granlund has never been a good face-off guy. Bennett has been much better in his limited opportunities at center.

            I don’t see any substantial reason not to play Granlund on the wing.

      • piscera.infada

        Agreed.

        Move Jones back to the line with Stajan and Colborne; move Raymond to the right side with Backlund and Ferland to the left on that line. Let “Stones” do the heavy lifting against Seguin et al and hope that the remaining three lines can outscore their opposite number and that Sequin is held in check.

      • KiLLKiND

        I too want to see Bennett centering Gaudreau and Frolik. The 2nd line I would rather have Monahan on LW. He is a great finisher and Granlund is a great passer. Great goal scorers play on the wing so their centre can get them the puck in a wide open spot.

        Granlund drives play better and has better passing than Monahan. Monahan is better on the boards and in the corners.

        Also I would rather Jones than Hudler on the 3rd line. I think this is a temporary thing but Hudler hasn’t been playing well this year and well Jones has. Both are FA’s and we are more likely to sign Jones over Hudler we should see what he can do.

        Gaudreau-Bennett-Frolik

        Monahan-Granlund-Jones

        that is what I would have as the top 6 tonight.

    • SmellOfVictory

      Unofficial because:
      NOTE: The lines are speculative and Bob Hartley cautioned his lineup had not been confirmed for this evening’s game due to illness and minor injuries. He will meet with the medical staff this afternoon and make a final decision closer to game time.

      Is Hudler still fighting the flu?

      Jones on the top line – need some beef there, prefer Fearland, except Jones has deserved it more.

  • KiLLKiND

    As a Calgary Flames fan I like that McDonald is on team Canada for his development. As a fan of team Canada I don’t like that they only invited 2 goalies there are plenty of really good goalies this year that at least have earned a look like Carter Hart he is eligible for draft this year and is unreal. and we should try drafting him if possible I think he could be better than any of our prospects even Gilles. Also

    I think Blackwood is slightly better than McDonald as well. Blackwood was also taken a lot earlier in a much deeper draft. If McDonald falters, as I think they plan on going with him as the starter, Blackwood could steal the job from McDonald.

  • McRib

    Honestly Andrew Mangiapane would be on my World Junior team, Hockey Canada elected to go with Spencer Watson, but in league play Mangiapane has been much better. In the Summer Showcase/OHL Canada-Russia Series Watson was playing exclusively with Strome not hard to look good with that kind of opportunity.

  • Franko J

    Hickey, Kylington, and Andersson, future is bright on D.

    All three can skate and have pretty good d zone play.

    Slowly and steadily the Flames are building through the draft. As well finally being patience with development.

    • McRib

      TJ Brodie has taught the Flames a lot about what it takes to be a good NHL Defender in 2015-2016 (skating is everything)…. I think you could credit him for us taking guys like Hickey, Kylington, and Andersson. Smart model to follow.