Which Flames prospects could we see at the World Juniors?

Here’s a picture of Adam Fox playing international hockey. Yes, it counts.

The year 2016 is moving by ridiculously quickly (thank God for that, some would say). Today’s date is Nov. 23. That means we’re just a shade over a month away from World Juniors, and just a few weeks from camp rosters being announced. It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

With a young and good prospect system, the Flames could see a handful of their own representing their countries. We’re going to quickly break down some of the eligible players and their chances of making the tournament based on position battles and league performances.

The locks

lock of the week

These guys have a very good chance at making the tournament, mostly because they appeared on their respective countries’ WJC evaluation camps. There’s still some battling to be done, but they at least have a foot in the door. 

Dillon Dube

The Kelowna Rockets centre has had his fair share of looks from top Canadian hockey brass. He was a feature at last year’s Hlinka Memorial tournament, tied for third in points on Team Canada with four other players (1g-2a-3p). In spite of the fact that he sustained a lower body injury before the season started, he was named to the WHL All-Stars team for the super series against Russia.

A quick glance at Team Canada’s WJC evaluation roster shows that Dube has some tough yet manageable competition for a spot. The only absolute locks I have are Matt Barzal, Pierre-Luc Dubois, Michael McLeod, Nick Merkley, Nolan Patrick (depending on his injury status) and Dylan Strome. You can include Lawson Crouse, Mitch Marner, Travis Konecny, and Anthony Beauvillier based on what their NHL teams do (I imagine Konecny and Marner stay), so we could have about four or five spots remaining.

Of those four/five spots, the competition is varying shades of alright. Dube stands a very good chance of being one of the survivors, but he’s going to have to make the most of his WHL time in the weeks leading up to the tournament and roster selection. He’s been gangbusters so far, but he needs to be a shade better. Most of the questionable guys put up at least a point per game. Dube is currently at six points in four games. Hopefully, he can keep that pace up.

Adam Fox

The Harvard man has been one of the USA’s most promising stars since he debuted with the US development program. He lead Team USA defenders in scoring at April’s IIHF U18 WJC. Last year, he lead USDP defencemen in points in both USHL and international play. He was miles ahead of his peers, scoring nine more points in six fewer games than David Farrance, the next leading USHL USDP player, and 30 more points than Chad Krys in international play.

Fox will compete with many of his friends for spots on Team USA’s roster. Based on their evaluation camp roster, there’s a very good chance Fox slots in. He’s one of eight players there with major USDP/USNT experience. Of those eight, Fox is one of the three scoring over a point per game in his league. What he lacks in size, he makes up for in offence, and it’s very likely the USA calls upon him for the WJC.

Tyler Parsons

Unlike the other two, Tyler Parsons’ chances of making the US roster are very very good. It helps when there were only four goalies at USA evaluation camp and WJC teams usually carry three.

His competition is tough, though. Joseph Woll and Jake Oettinger, who also previously represented the USA at the U18 WJC (although Parsons was busy with the OHL), are currently playing lights out in the NCAA, and Evan Sarthou is one of the WHL’s best so far. Tyler Parsons’ stats have been sunk by a bad start and an injury, but previous performances indicate that he’s on the level of his peers. Like Dube above, he is going to have to make up for lost time. If he keeps up his stellar post-injury play, he should be fine.

The dark horses

Eetu Tuulola

Our very own babyfaced assassin has been proven success for Finland, finishing third in scoring at the Hlinka tournament for his home country. He’s been called on for the international junior teams before, scoring just under a point per game.

He will compete with a very North America-heavy roster. By rough measurements, it’s a very meh roster that Eetu could easily make. His case would easily be solidified if he stepped up his game at Everett back to around a point-per-game mark. Other North American-based players competing for Finland spots are around that number, so his odds are likely better if he gets to that mark in the next few weeks. 

Also, who doesn’t want to see more of this?

Pavel Karnaukhov

Those enigmatic Russians didn’t hold an evaluation camp, or if they did, didn’t release roster information. We’re going to speculate a little for the 2015 fifth rounder. 

Karnaukhov probably has a good chance of making the Russian roster. He’s appeared in the Hlinka tournament before and is currently with the Russian Super Series team playing the CHL All-Stars. He’s well regarded in the Russian system, being the KHL’s eighth overall pick in 2015. He’s second in scoring for his VHL team, despite having played nearly half of the games of the next closest player. It’s all guesswork right now, but he has a very good chance.

Linus Lindstrom

Lindstrom isn’t turning heads in the SHL, but there are two important things here. First, the fact that he’s in the SHL is pretty important. Sweden’s most recent roster indicates that there are 11 spots occupied by SHL players, with the final few spots being contested by Allsvenskan (second division) players. Lindstrom should have an advantage just on that basis.

The second big thing is that he is competing against a lot of players who have produced similar results, both in the SHL and in the international realm. I don’t know why he wasn’t in the evaluation camp despite being very similar to his peers, but I feel he is in consideration leading up to selection camp.

Nick Schneider

The undrafted goaltender this year has been turning heads with an impressive 15-2-1 record thus far in the WHL. He’s been a surprise this year, leading his Medicine Hat Tigers to the top of the WHL’s Central division.

The only problem are his numbers. He does win a lot, but he does get a lot of run support. His SV% is currently .907, a not good number when you compare it to Zach Sawchenko (.918), Carter Hart (.928), or Connor Ingram (.932). They’re all in contention for the job, and they’re probably going to get it. Schneider needs to bring something extra to the table if he wants to beat out one of the three.

Could, but won’t

Of course, there are a few players in the pros that are eligible for the WJC but won’t be going. They are Matthew Tkachuk, Rasmus Andersson, and Oliver Kylington. The explanation for Tkachuk not going is obvious, but how about the two Swedes?

Sweden’s blueline at evaluation camp was pretty thin. They have some talent, but not the talents Calgary currently has stashed away in the AHL. They’re both offensively talented, scoring at the rates most middle-six forwards do, with the addition of sturdy defence. They’re very good players, and they probably won’t be going.

The WJC is probably a cool experience for the kids, but developmentally speaking, it’s not much more than a few extra games. Kylington and Andersson are not going to learn anything or get better by going. They’re already in the pros and they’re already really good in the pros. Why bother?

If either of them do get the call, it’s going to be Andersson. There’s no way the Flames release Kylington (and he has another year of eligibility left), and if Sweden wants him, there’s a decent chance they get him. 

An excellent choice that Team Canada will pass up for stupid reasons

Let’s talk about Matt Phillips,

He is, by all accounts, an excellent player. I say it every week in the prospect update, and I figure I might be saying it all the way through until early 2017 (knock on wood(UPDATE: nope)), but he has yet to score a point that is not primary. Phillips is the main cog in Victoria’s offence, and arguably one of the best play drivers in the whole WHL.

He is pretty much on the same level as Dube above. The two posted similar stat lines and both had very good underlyings with regards to primary points and even strength points in their draft years. One was picked by scouts to be a second or third rounder, while the other had a good chance of just not being selected.

Of course the one difference is that Dube is around “average” size for a hockey player, coming in at 5’11” and 185 pounds. Phillips is 5’7″ and 140. 

These are the numbers Hockey Canada will likely be looking at come selection camp. The same thing that magically turned Phillips from a second or third rounder into a sixth is going to be the difference between Victoria and Montreal/Toronto. He is a very good player, and he should be getting consideration. If Hockey Canada is seriously willing to consider Keegan Kolesar and Zach Senyshyn over Phillips (fun fact: Phillips has played one less season than either of those guys, but is nearly even in point totals), then they’ve truly earned another fifth placed finish.