The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League's only representatives at Canada's world junior selection camp got there through their hard work outside of Hockey Canada's development program.
Samuel Harvey, Drake Batherson and Maxime Comtois didn't attend Hockey Canada's Summer Showcase in July and August, but on Wednesday they were included in the 32 players invited to next week's selection camp where the final world junior roster will be determined.
"Those guys really showed up from the first day of the season," said Joel Bouchard, the general manager of Canada's world junior team. "All three of them weren't invited to the summer camp, so credit to the three players that are coming because they performed really well.
"It confirms that you can be part of the selection camp in the winter if you do well with your own club or during your pro camp."
Hockey Canada invited 18 forwards, 10 defencemen and four goaltenders to its selection camp roster at the Meridian Centre in St. Catharines, Ont., starting on Dec. 12.
Harvey has been a standout goaltender for the QMJHL's Rouyn-Noranda Huskies with a 15-8 record, a 2.40 goals-against average and a .921 save percentage. Batherson has 17 goals and 20 assists, fifth in the QMJHL points race, for the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles this season and Comtois has 15 goals and 10 assists with the Victoriaville Tigres.
That means that, at most, there will be two players from Quebec (Harvey and Comtois) and one from the Maritimes (Batherson is from New Minas, N.S.) at the world juniors in Buffalo, N.Y., from Dec. 26 to Jan. 5.
Bouchard, who is also co-owner and general manger of the QMJHL's Blainville-Boisbriand Armada, doesn't think the lack of representation is a reflection on the league's quality.
"We have a lot of good players around the country in all three leagues," said Bouchard. "Every year is different. Last year we had a lot of guys representing the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and this year it's three, but it's three really good players who deserve to be here."
Bouchard also noted that there were two more QMJHL players he'd like to see on Canada's junior team, but Columbus Blue Jackets centre Pierre-Luc Dubois and Colorado Avalanche Samuel Girard are among the six eligible players who have caught on with NHL clubs. Arizona defenceman Jakob Chychrun, Montreal defenceman Victor Mete, Philadelphia centre Nolan Patrick and Colorado centre Tyson Jost are the others.
NHL teams have until Dec. 19 to decide if they will loan those players to Canada for the tournament. Shawn Bullock, Hockey Canada's senior manager of hockey operations for men's national teams, said that he has spoken with the NHL clubs about allowing those six players join the national junior team.
"We don't have any dead noes yet, but we don't have any confirmed at this point either," said Bullock. "Obviously it's kind of a sit-and-wait situation and see what comes forward to us."
Last season's world junior team had seven players from the QMJHL and six from Quebec. QMJHL commissioner Gilles Courteau believes it's just a matter of timing, and that next year's world junior team will have greater representation from his league and the province of Quebec.
"I think that the core of our players born in 1998 and 1999 has not been great," said Courteau, who acknowledged that there were several other QMJHL players on the bubble of making the selection camp roster. "Look at our last NHL draft, we were not very high on the number of players being drafted. It's because we had a bad core of players from '98, '99 playing in the Q."
Canada will be anchored by seven players returning from last year's silver-medal winning team. Goaltender Carter Hart (Everett), defencemen Jake Bean (Calgary), Kale Clague (Brandon) and Dante Fabbro (Boston University) and forwards Dillon Dube (Kelowna), Michael McLeod (Mississauga) and Taylor Raddysh (Erie) are all back.
Other notable players invited to selection camp are OHL-leading scorer Jordan Kyrou (Sarnia), WHL-leading scorer Tyler Steenbergen (Swift Current), last year's WHL player of the year Sam Steel (Regina) and Memorial Cup-winning goaltender Michael DiPietro (Windsor).
Joining Harvey, Hart and DiPietro in net will be Colton Point (Colgate University). On defence, Dennis Cholowski (Prince George), Mario Ferraro (University of Massachusetts), Cal Foote (Kelowna), Josh Mahura (Regina), Cale Makar (University of Massachusetts), Logan Stanley (Kitchener) and Conor Timmins (Sault Ste. Marie) were invited.
Rounding out the forwards are: Jonathan Ang (Peterborough), Alex Formenton (London), Jonah Gadjovich (Owen Sound), Cody Glass (Portland), Brett Howden (Moose Jaw), Tanner Kaspick (Brandon), Boris Katchouk (Sault Ste. Marie), Kole Lind (Kelowna) and Nick Suzuki (Owen Sound),
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John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press