The calendar has flipped over into December and the annual World Junior Championships are rapidly approaching. Selection camp rosters for a majority of the teams in that tournament have been announced and five Calgary Flames prospects are officially headed to try out for their national teams.
Dillon Dube (Canada), Adam Fox (United States), Juuso Valimaki (Finland), Eetu Tuulola (Finland) and Linus Lindstrom (Sweden) will head to camps next week to battle for roster spots. In addition, the expectation is that Adam Ruzicka will be part of the North American component of Slovakia’s selection camp.
Dube was a second round selection of the Flames in the 2016 NHL Draft, taken with the pick that Calgary acquired from Dallas for Kris Russell. Dube was originally thought to be a pretty good offensively-minded WHLer, but he really opened some eyes at last year’s World Juniors.
Playing exclusively in a bottom six, energy-focused role, Dube was tremendous and arguably the most consistent player in the tournament – opening up some eyes and potentially multiple avenues to NHL success. He captured a silver medal and is widely considered a lock for a roster spot.
Fox was a third round selection in the 2016 Draft. An offensive-minded blueliner, Fox set the single-season defensive scoring record for the U.S. National Development Team program.
He then waltzed into the NCAA with the Harvard Crimson and was one of the best offensive defensemen in the United States. He was a first-team All-American and won a laundry list of Rookie of the Year honours. He won a gold medal with Team USA in last year’s World Juniors and is widely considered a lock for a roster spot.
Valimaki was the Flames’ first round pick in this past June’s draft. An offensively-minded defender, Valimaki has put up strong offensive stats with the WHL’s Tri-City Americans since coming over to North America prior to the 2015-16 season. He’s already been named team captain for Finland and he’s considered a lock for a roster spot after playing in last year’s World Juniors.
Tuulola was a sixth round pick in the 2016 Draft. He came over last season to play with the WHL’s Everett Silvertips and had a decent season, but didn’t make last year’s World Junior team. He was called back to Finland by his parent club, HPK, and ended up making this year’s selection camp roster. He’s not necessarily a lock for the team, but he’s definitely in the mix.
Lindstrom was a fourth round pick in the 2016 Draft. He split last season with Skelleftea’s pro and junior team, but he’s settled in nicely as a third line center for their pro team this season. As a teenager playing key minutes in a pro league, he’s in good shape for a roster spot with Tre Kronor. He’s not a lock, but he’s got a good shot.
Ruzicka was a fourth round pick in the most recent NHL Draft. One of the leading scorers in the OHL this year, he represented Slovakia at last year’s World Juniors and will probably do so again this year.
Slovakia has an initial camp in Europe with the junior-aged players that are based in that continent, and then they cut some bodies and come to North America for the rest of their World Junior prep. Their North American camp roster won’t be announced until next week, but it’d be extremely surprising if Ruzicka wasn’t part of that roster based on his performance and history.
Matthew Phillips is arguably the only big omission from camp rosters in terms of Flames prospects who are eligible to play in the World Juniors. That said, Hockey Canada could only invite 32 players and the list of forwards they invited made it really tough to include Phillips – even if he is one of the top scorers in the WHL.