By Terry Koshan – Toronto Sun
As much as he would like to forget, Dylan Strome can’t simply let go.
One of five players at Canada’s selection camp who experienced the sixth-place world junior finish last winter in Finland, Strome has found the bad memories are fresh.
“It’s pretty easy to remember,” Strome said on Sunday. “I wish I could forget it. It’s not a good feeling. So many people in your country and your family and friends watch the games.
“I’m still not over it. Hopefully, I will be over it after January 6th (once the tournament ends on Jan. 5).”
Strome witnessed what didn’t work last year, when the Canadians couldn’t find cohesion. There’s crucial work to be done at the selection camp this week at the Centre d’Excellence Sports Rousseau.
“It starts here,” Strome said. “Teams win tournaments by the stuff (they accomplish) before the tournament.”
Already, the five returnees are sharing their recollections of the 2016 tournament. That’s what head coach Dominique Ducharme and his staff hoped would happen right away.
“It comes up in the dressing room,” said forward Tyson Jost, who is likely to get a long look as one of Strome’s wingers.
“We don’t want what happened last year at all. It’s in Canada this year (in Toronto and Montreal as it was in 2015) we know what happened last time it was in Canada (a gold medal won in front of raucous fans at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto).”
As for what’s occurring on the ice, expect the pace to be intensive in exhibition games against the U Sports all-stars on Monday and Tuesday and against the Czech Republic on Wednesday.
“Our guys are playing CHL hockey in early December and within two weeks we’re going to need to be playing playoff hockey, probably at the AHL level,” Ducharme said. “It’s quite a step, it’s quite an adjustment and we want to get into that right away.”
Ducharme knows exactly what kind of team he wants in place when Canada opens the world junior tournament on Dec. 26 at the ACC against Russia. “When we don’t have the puck we want to be getting the puck back as quick as possible,” Ducharme said. “We want to pressure the puck, taking time and space away from the other team and when we have it we want to be responsible, we want to be using our skills. Sounds pretty simple, but it (starts) with the guys playing their best game.” … Ducharme indicated he was not entirely sure when the nine cuts required by Canada will be made this week … Forward Blake Speers, recovering from a wrist injury, was on the ice for the second practice on Sunday after missing the first one in the morning … If you’re a fan of the Tampa Bay Lightning, you have to be thrilled by the fact the club has no fewer than six prospects in Canada’s camp. “I guess we like the same kind of player,” Hockey Canada director of player personnel Ryan Jankowski said. “It’s more of a coincidence (than anything else).” … An advantage for Ducharme, similar to the five returning players, was experiencing the failures last year as an assistant on the coaching staff. What lesson did Ducharme learn? “The first thing is how quick you need to adjust and how quick you need to raise your game,” Ducharme said. “It’s about the little things and little things make a big difference.”
FROM THE HASH MARKS
Six players in the National Hockey League — forwards Connor McDavid, Mitch Marner, Travis Konecny, Lawson Crouse, Anthony Beauvillier and defenceman Jakob Chychrun — are eligible to play for Canada. “Well, I would take Connor back …,” Ducharme said with a smile. “We’re really happy with the guys we have here. We feel we are going to be a strong team and we are concentrating on that.” Calls from Hockey Canada officials will continue to be made to check on the availability of Crouse (Arizona Coyotes) and Beauvillier (New York Islanders) but no one is holding their breath … Pierre-Luc Dubois, considered a lock for a spot at forward, has been traded in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. Dubois, a Columbus Blue Jackets prospect who was the third pick overall in the NHL draft this past June, was acquired by the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada from the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles on Sunday … Buffalo Sabres prospect Brendan Guhle, meanwhile, also is eligible but is not at camp. The Prince George Cougars defenceman recently was returned to junior by the Sabres, who had been forced to summon the 19-year-old on an emergency basis. Though Guhle, who played in three games for Buffalo, is eligible for the world junior, he has not been on the radar of Hockey Canada, which couldn’t think of enough good reasons to invite him to try out … Once the team is selected later this week, the group will head to Mont Tremblant on Thursday for several days of practice and off-ice activities. The Canadians will then play three exhibition games next week — versus Finland at the Bell Centre in Montreal on Monday; versus the Czech Republic at the Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa on Wednesday; and versus Switzerland at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto on Friday.