Breaking down Team Canada hopefuls

© Candice Ward/Calgary Hitmen Jake Bean

Discussing Jake Bean, Brett Howden, Nick Merkley and Connor Ingram

Let’s talk hockey.

More specifically, let’s talk WHL hockey and its potential impact on the Canadian World Junior Championship roster for the upcoming Boxing Day special.

A week ago, I broke down hopefuls Carter Hart of the Everett Silvertips, Austin Wagner and Sam Steel of the Regina Pats and Brandon Wheat Kings’ Nolan Patrick, who was unable to complete his physical coming off an injury.

Today, I will discuss Jake Bean (Calgary Hitmen), Brett Howden (Moose Jaw Warriors), Nick Merkley (Kelowna Rockets) and Connor Ingram (Kamloops Blazers). Along with the players previously mentioned, these elite athletes have a viable shot of wearing Canada’s colours.

There isn’t much to say about Bean that isn’t already known. The first round, 13th overall draft pick of the Carolina Hurricanes is a pro-in-the-making. His ability at both ends of the ice has all the potential to be on full display as Canadians huddle around their television screens. He is one of the better decision makers in the WHL and can skate with the best on the international stage. Of the 32 players invited to selection camp, ten of them were defenceman — Bean being the highest taken in the NHL draft. In eight games played this year, the Calgary product has tallied 10 points and set a franchise record with 24 goals just a year ago.

Projection: 2nd line defenceman

Howden is a captain on and off the ice with a knack for finding the back of the net. The 6’3” forward, like Bean, was selected in the first round of the NHL draft last year and plays a smart offensive game. Howden was drafted 27th overall by the Tampa Bay Lightning and has Canada hockey in his blood. He was with Hockey Canada at the 2016 National Junior Team Summer Development Camp. He also played for Canada at the 2014 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge while capturing bronze in 2015 with the World Under-18s. It was a good year for Howden, who also captained the red and white to a gold medal at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup. Howden is having a career year this season with the Warriors in terms of offence, contributing 26 points in 17 games. In game two against the U Sport All-Star team, Howden scored a power play marker in a 3-0 Canada win.

Projection: 2nd line winger

The Arizona Coyotes got themselves an incredible playmaking centreman when they drafted Merkley in the first round of the 2015 draft. The year of his selection, the Calgary product drew 70 assists while adding 20 goals and can be just the man Canada is looking for to help feed their offensive monsters. At just 5’11”, Merkley brings an energy to the ice that is difficult to duplicate and isn’t afraid to take on a heavy workload in the corners. If he’s not scoring, he’s creating chances, which is what the red and white will need come Boxing Day.

Projection: 3rd line winger

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