Chris DiDomenico Makes Canadian World Junior Team
Well, the Canadian world junior team has been announced and there are a few surprises on the roster.
Four of the top five forwards eligible for the 2009 entry draft were cut: Matt Duchene, Brayden Schenn, Nazem Kadri and Evander Kane.
No one expected all of these players to make the squad, but I think most thought at least one or two of them would. Kane is perhaps the biggest surprise after his strong camp led Pierre McGuire to say he had played his way onto the team.
Pat Quinn and his coaching staff elected to go with 12 forwards and eight defencemen this time around, a departure from past years when the team usually carried a 17-year-old or an energy player as a thirteenth forward.
Players inevitably get injured at the world juniors and the Canadians could be in trouble if they lose a forward or two.
Toronto Maple Leafs fans got the news they were looking for in Monday's announcement: Leafs draft pick Chris DiDomenico made the team.
Selected in the sixth round of the 2007 draft, the soon-to-be 20-year-old has seen his stock rise ever since. He made the Saint John Sea Dogs as a walk-on in 2006-07 and has led the team in scoring the past two years, including last season when the team went from rags to riches in making the QMJHL semi-finals.
I have had the pleasure of watching DiDomenico play twice, and he is a very smart player. He knows how to put the puck in the net and he's not afraid to take some abuse to make it happen. He plays much bigger than his 170 pounds would indicate.
DiDomenico has a knack for being in the right place at the right time, and he sees significant time on the penalty kill as well.
Most of the hockey world, including Leaf fans who knew very little about their sixth round pick, got a mild surprise this summer when DiDomenico was invited to Team Canada's summer evaluation camp.
He did well enough to earn an invite to the selection camp last week. Of course, his 34 points in 26 "Q" games this season probably helped too.
The Canadian coaching staff showed their confidence in DiDomenico early by putting him on a line with John Tavares for the first intrasquad game. He didn't look out of place. Then he ended camp with a bang by scoring a goal for Team Red in the final intrasquad game on Sunday.
Quinn and company were sufficiently impressed to name him to the team over first round pick Riley Nash and several future first rounders.
Most Leaf fans already knew that DiDomenico had made great progress since being drafted. Now other fans will witness that first-hand when the WJC kicks off on Boxing Day in Ottawa.
This could be just the boost DiDomenico needs to kick his game to the next level. His skating needs some work and he could stand to gain 15 to 20 pounds. It's unclear how big a role he will play, but it wouldn't be surprising to see him continue playing with Tavares.
DiDomenico will be the second No. 61 to play for Team Canada in recent memory.
The first? Rick Nash.
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