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Above the Glass

From the Dub: World Juniors or bust

Here in the junior leagues, there is big, happy news today amidst the NHL’s hirings and firings. Invitations for Canada’s National Junior Team Selection Camp were issued this morning. 16 players from the WHL were invited, many of whom are NHL prospects or draftees, including Brendan Gallagher, Max Reinhart and 2011 WHL Rookie of the Year Matt Dumba. The Portland Winterhawks lead the way, with three players invited. Two were expected to receive an invite after attending development camp this summer: Joe Morrow and Ty Rattie. But one who may not have been on everyone’s list was at the top of mine: Brad Ross.  Brad is known better for his penalty minutes than his goal scoring or playing in major tournaments. But this season, he has stayed out of the box, on the breakaway and it was my humblest of hockey opinions that Team Canada would see the light and give him a second shot. And that they did. So I guess I should probably introduce you to him.

Never judge a player by his penalty minutes: Brad currently leads the team in penalty minutes, but he’s also among the WHL’s leading scorers. He’s currently number 11 with 34 points (18 goals, 16 assists).  He’s got a ways to go to catch number two Ty Rattie, but look for Brad to narrow the gap before the season is over.  I think it might have something to do with this:

Linemates, what linemates?: For the past two seasons, Brad comprised one of the most stunning forward lines I’ve ever seen in my years of watching junior hockey here: he played with Ryan Johansen and Nino Niederreiter. Ryan and Nino have deservedly moved on to the NHL and let me say this before I proceed: they are two of the best players and people I’ve ever met. I could not be happier for them. But there’s no denying that now that he is playing on different lines, Brad is playing the best hockey of his career. For whatever reason, Brad flying sorta solo has turned his game around. As for this year’s superstar line, I believe that honor falls to Ty, Sven Bartschi and rookie to watch Nic Petan. Ty, by the way, scored four goals and assisted on another in a game vs. Swift Current on Sunday night and just this morning was named WHL player of the week.

Teddy bears all around, please: Last season, Brad’s father told me that his son is aggressive on the ice, but he’s a big teddy bear on the inside.  So it’s no surprise that last year, Brad in a “get to know” video declared that his goal for the season was to get multiple fighting majors, but that his favorite off-ice community activity was delivering all the teddy bears from the annual Teddy Bear Toss. I quite agree with his father. Nobody throws a punch like Brad, but I’m often laughed at by other fans when I tell them with a totally straight face and complete sincerity that off the ice, Brad is the nicest player on the team. Joe, Ty, Troy Rutkowski and Chase De Leo round out the top five nice guys on the team (shhhh, don’t tell the opponents). Don’t believe me, go bowling with them

The second time around is always a better ride: 2010 was good year for Brad, but it had its up and downs. He was invited to the CHL Top Prospects Game, but only after another player got injured and couldn’t attend. He was invited to selection camp for the 2011 World Juniors and was among the cuts made en route to the final roster. He was not invited to Team Canada’s development camp this summer, a sign of things to come if you asked most people. But then came the start of the 2011- 2012 season and an invitation to play in the Subway Super Series, where he had the chance to show his stuff in front of 2012 Team Canada coach Don Hay. And just like that, he gets the second chance of a lifetime. 

He’s pretty handy with a sound bite, except for one: Brad will answer any question you care to answer and he’ll do it directly and honestly, even if he doesn’t go along with your suggested answer. Like this: I’ve asked him at least three times, but he still doesn’t agree with my suggested reply to “so, do you agree that it’s better to stay out of the box and on the breakaway?” His usual answer is “I guess so.” Although I did convince him to practice the correct answer: “Yes, Sam, it’s good to stay out of the box and on the breakaway.” Something tells me after World Juniors, he will at last come to the dark side and get fully on board with my party line.

And with that Toronto, may I just say there is hope: The Maple Leafs did some wheeling and dealing to pick up Brad 43rd overall in the 2010 Entry Draft. They must have seen what I I have always believed: Brad Ross is a little bit of a diamond in the rough, but if you polish him the right way, he will shine.

That is, if Team Canada takes back what is theirs: This year, the World Junior tournament will be played in Calgary and Edmonton. It’s Canada’s game, on Canada’s turf and it follows two years of near misses in which they lost the gold medal at the 11th hour for one reason or another. Alas, I fear that if our Canadian players who make the roster don’t bring home a shiny gold object, they may have to go into some sort of hockey player witness protection program. So, I’m all in for Team Canada (with Joe, Ty and Brad on the roster) for a Gold Medal.  Anything less simply will not do. 

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About Above the Glass

Welcome to Above the Glass, a definitive anti-expert’s guide to hockey. I started blogging in 2009 as part of an effort to learn all 87 rules in the NHL Rulebook in 107 days before the 2010 Olympics, 30 years after I discovered the sport. You can peruse the archival results here. Growing up in Arizona, I didn’t even know hockey existed until February 22, 1980, when the USA played Russia in the Olympics. And just like that, the game of the century changed my life. I still don’t quite understand the icing rule or which faceoff circle goes with what offense, but I do know that every aspect of hockey has something to teach us about life. That’s what you’ll find here, along with my unadulterated passion for the game.

I live in Portland, Oregon, home of the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks. I invite anyone who wants to know more about hockey in the Rose City to visit here, where I blog exclusively about the Winterhawks. I’ll post an occasional musing about the Hawks, the WHL and junior hockey here as well.

Follow me on Twitter: @AbovetheGlass

Email: samantha@kuklaskorner.com