When Team Canada takes to the ice at Montreal’s Bell Centre for the 2015 International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship Dec. 26, the squad will be heavy on talent. It also may be heavy on diversity.
Four players of color are vying for spots on Team Canada at the team’s selection camp in Toronto – New York Rangers forward Anthony Duclair, Erie Otters forward Nick Baptiste, Kelowna Rockets defenseman Madison Bowey and Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds defenseman Darnell Nurse.
Thirty players – two goaltenders, 10 defensemen, and 18 forwards – were invited to the camp for 22 spots on the Canadian team that will compete in the 10-nation tournament with games in Montreal and Toronto.
The tournament is a showcase for talented players from around the world who may find their way to a National Hockey League arena near you in the near future. The four players in Team Canada’s camp share a bond: All were chosen by teams in the 2013 NHL Draft at Newark’s Prudential Center.
The Rangers are loaning Duclair, their 2013 third-round draft pick, to Team Canada. The speedy rookie left wing has 1 goal and 6 assists for the Blue Shirts in 18 games. He scored he scored 50 goals and 49 assists in 59 games in 2013-14 for the Quebec Remparts of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
“We expect that the team will benefit greatly from the addition of Anthony for both his skill and leadership, and we believe this will be a great experience for Anthony, as he embarks on what we expect will be a long and successful professional and international playing career,” said Scott Salmond, vice president of hockey operations/national teams for Hockey Canada.
Duclair, who averages about 12 minutes a game but has been a healthy scratch in the last three Rangers games, said he was thrilled to be loaned to the Canadian team.
“Very happy, honored to be here,” Duclair told The Toronto Sun. “(Rangers Head Coach Alain Vigneault) asked me a couple days after the roster came out what my thoughts were and I told him I wanted to be part of this tournament. Being in Canada, being in my hometown of Montreal, I wanted to be part of this.”
Nurse, the Edmonton Oilers’ 2013 first-round draft pick, is on a mission to make Team Canada after being snubbed last season. Captain of the Greyhounds, Nurse has 6 goals and 13 assists in 19 games for his OHL team. He played two games for the Oilers this season without collecting a point.
Nurse told reporters in Toronto that he’s improving his game by keeping it simple.
“I’m not putting myself in those situations where I get myself in trouble on the ice and not really helping out my teammates,” he told The Edmonton Sun. “It’s just maintaining that simple-game mindset and going out there and being someone who is hard to play against…I have always had the tools. It’s just finding the way to use them.”
Bowey, a Washington Capitals 2013 second-round draft pick, arrived at the Team Canada camp with a distinct advantage – he’s the only right-handed shot among the 10 blueliners invited to Toronto. He’s also second in scoring among defensemen in the Western Hockey League with 8 goals and 25 assists in 28 games for the Rockets.
He showed off his offensive skills earlier this season when he scored two goals and six assists in three games.
If right wing Nick Baptiste makes Team Canada, it will be his third team this season. Baptiste, a Buffalo Sabres third-round pick in 2013, began the 2014-15 season with the OHL Sudbury Wolves and was traded to the Otters in November. He notched 8 goals and 8 assists in 19 games with the two teams.