Team Canada Invites Five Undrafted Players to Selection Camp

By Matt Clouden
The Star-Ledger – US PRESSWIRE

Canada released its roster for its World Junior Championship Selection Camp yesterday and it includes the name of 37 players. Of the 37 invited, five will be eligible for the 2013 NHL Entry Draft: Nathan MacKinnon, Jonathan Drouin, Sean Monahan, Hunter Shinkaruk and J.C. Lipon.

Team Canada also invited five draft eligible players to the Selection Camp last year: Ryan Murray, Matt Dumba, Codi Ceci, Tanner Pearson and Phil Di Giuseppe. While only Murray and Pearson ended up on the final WJC roster, four of the five ended up being selected in the first round of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft and Di Giuseppe was taken early in the second round.

There should be no difference this year.

MacKinnon is the likely favorite to go first overall in 2013, with American defenseman Seth Jones, who will unequivocally be on the United States WJC roster, being one of the only players who could potentially top him. MacKinnon has not stopped the onslaught of the QMJHL he started last season as rookie with the Halifax Mooseheads, scoring 47 points in 27 games thus far this season.

MacKinnon is even more of an all-around talent than last year’s first overall selection Nail Yakupov, who is more of an offensive specialist. MacKinnon is an excellent skater, has soft hands and elite vision, three things that have allowed him to dominate the QMJHL.

The only thing from making him the slam dunk number one pick is Jones’ talent and the chance that a defense-starved team receives the top spot. He does not have prototypical size either, but many as talented as MacKinnon have found ways around that, including 2011 top pick Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who arguably would have won the Calder Trophy if he did not miss 20 games with a shoulder injury.

MacKinnon currently sits atop the International Scouting Service’s November skater rankings and is the top-rated QMJHL skater in the NHL Central Scouting preliminary rankings.

Drouin has been in the shadow of MacKinnon for the past few years, but is starting to carve out a following of his own.

Selected second overall in the 2011 QMJHL Entry Draft, the same draft that MacKinnon went number one, Drouin is a special talent in his own right. A smooth skater who is able to find the open ice as well as anyone, Drouin has been an excellent linemate for MacKinnon on the Halifax Mooseheads. Drouin also possesses amazing hands and a deft scoring touch, and if his production continues this season – 42 points in 21 games – he could challenge MacKinnon and Jones in the race for the top spot in June.

One knock on Drouin is his size. At 5’11, 180 lbs., the winger is not small, but is not able to stand toe-to-toe with a lot of the wingers in the NHL. Coupled with his bumps and bruises this season – he missed a few games with a shoulder injury earlier in November – NHL teams may be worried about the pounding he’ll take as a winger in the league. But that will not be enough to keep Drouin out of the top ten, and possibly the top three, in June.

Drouin was ranked fourth in the ISS’s November rankings, improving from 10th in October, and was rated the second-best QMJHL skater by NHL Central Scouting in their preliminary rankings.

Monahan has been the beneficiary of a late birthday, which kept him ineligible for last year’s draft but allowed him to hone his skills a bit longer than other prospects.

Playing in his third OHL season with the Ottawa 67’s, Monahan has showed he has the size and skill to be a dominant force in the NHL some day. At  6’2”, 190 lbs., Monahan has the body type, and the grit, to be an offensive and defensive force at the next level.

So far through 24 games with Ottawa this season, Monahan has scored 36 points, including 13 goals. He, like MacKinnon, has excellent vision and is even more likely to head to the dirtier areas of the ice to win a battle.

Monahan will miss most of the month of December, however, as he was suspended 10 games last week for a check to the head in a November game.

Monahan is currently fifth on the ISS’s November skater rankings and NHL Central Scouting has him as the number one OHL prospect in their preliminary rankings.

Shinkaruk, a center for the Medicine Hat Tigers of the WHL, is similar to MacKinnon and Drouin in that he’s excellent with the puck, has great vision and can set his teammates up from anywhere.

In his third season with the Tigers, Shinkaruk has contributed 39 points in 27 games. Last season he scored 49 goals as a 16-year old, good for fifth in the WHL.

Like Drouin, Shinkaruk’s knock is his size. He’s listed at 5’10, 160 lbs., so he definitely will need to spend more time with the NHL strength coaches than some other prospects. Yet his combination of hockey IQ and skill should be more than enough to ensure him a top ten spot in June.

Shinkaruk came in at number seven in the ISS’s November rankings and is the top-rated WHL skater by NHL Central Scouting in their preliminary ratings.

The last undrafted invitee to the Canadian Selection Camp is Lipon, who may be the most surprising of the bunch. The surprise is not necessarily the fact that Lipon has been invited–it’s more of a nod to how much Lipon has improved in his WHL career.

Lipon currently shares the WHL scoring lead with his fellow Kamloops Blazer Colin Smith, both having posted 55 points in 31 games. It’s safe to say that his scoring explosion was not expected with Lipon having shown more of a two-way mentality, scoring 65 points in 69 games last year while racking up 111 penalty minutes.

Lipon is not an imposing player, coming in at 6’0, 180 lbs., but he is fearless and will stick his nose in places it may not belong on the ice. He also possesses great speed and his production this season has shown that his offensive game can match his motor.

Lipon has actually been eligible for the past two NHL drafts, but was not selected in either. He was offered a tryout with the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche this season, but the lockout ended that, so he returned to Kamloops to take another shot. There’s no doubt he will get drafted this season, it’s just a matter of where. The rugged style of play, coupled with the scoring will undoubtedly get him noticed this year.

Lipon has not made an appearance in the ISS’s Top 30 rankings yet this season and was the 13th-rated skater in the WHL in NHL Central Scouting’s preliminary rankings. One would imagine both ratings will soon change.

So, of the five invited, four will likely be taken within the first 10 picks of June’s draft, with there being a distinct likelihood that MacKinnon, Drouin, Monahan and Shinkaruk all go in the top five. Lipon is the wild card, but his inclusion on the preliminary roster, as well as his production on the ice for Kamloops could see him receive a first round bump.

One thing is for certain: There is a lot of high-level talent in this draft. Whoever ends up with the first pick – and if the lockout causes the season not to be played, all 30 teams will have a shot at it – will have a wealth of talent to choose from.

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