Jake Paterson is headed to the IIHF world junior championship for the second straight year — only this time around, he won’t be relegated to the press box.
The 19-year-old Saginaw Spirit goaltender — who went to the WJC as Canada’s third-stringer last season and didn’t play a minute — was one of two goaltenders named to his country’s world junior selection camp roster on Monday.
But since only two goaltenders were invited — Paterson and Halifax Mooseheads goalie Zach Fucale — there’s no selection involved when it comes to Canada’s crease for the annual Dec. 26-Jan. 5 tournament.
“Patty’s really excited — this is probably the most positive news he could have received,” Red Wings director of player development Jiri Fischer told RedWingsCentral.com after the announcement. “It says a lot about how much Team Canada believes in him. I know how dedicated he is, how much he wanted to be great this year, and for all young Canadians, it’s the ultimate honour to make the Canadian world junior team.”
The 6-foot-2 183-pounder was a third-round pick (80th overall) of the Red Wings and has spent the past two seasons on a generally mid-pack Spirit squad. He’s 10-8-1 this season, while his goals-against average (3.53) ranks just 14th in the OHL and his save percentage (.903) is just 15th.
But numbers don’t usually tell the whole story when it comes to junior goaltenders — if they did, Fucale and his sub-.900 save percentage wouldn’t be on the team either — and Fischer said Paterson “is very athletic and a leader” who is at his best when the lights are brightest.
“He’s super competitive and he wants to be in high-pressure situations where a lot is at stake,” Fischer said. “Those are two traits every elite goaltender has to have and we’ll see how he does with them on the international stage.”
Goaltending hasn’t exactly been Canada’s strong suit at the WJC and has in part led to a four-year gold-medal drought, but management feels the Fucale-Paterson combo gives them what they need in the crease to their urgent bid to snap the drought.
“What it comes down to is having that big game at the right time, and I’m confident this year we have the guys who can do that,” said ex-NHL goaltender Sean Burke, part of Canada’s management team, told Sun Media. Burke added, to NHL.com: “These are both very capable goaltenders and we feel either one of them can win a gold medal.”
While Fucale looks like the best bet for the starter’s job with a QMJHL title, Memorial Cup and Ivan Hlinka under-18 gold medal under his belt, Paterson will see time in the pre-tournament games and in the round robin and shouldn’t be ruled out for the No. 1 job.
Ex-NHL goalie and TSN analyst Jamie McLellan said “you can give (Fucale) the inside track over Jake Paterson, but his TSN colleague, Bob McKenzie, noted the pre-tournament games overseas will “contribute to the decision” on who is named the starter.
Twenty-five players were invited in total, meaning three cuts will be made. The list also includes Red Wings first-rounder Anthony Mantha, who should be able to clinch a top-line, power-play role when you consider he has a QMJHL-leading 30 goals and 62 points in just 28 games.
Right-winger Zach Nastasiuk (Owen Sound, OHL) didn’t make the cut after participating in the CHL-Russia Super Series but he will be eligible for the tournament again next year. No other Red Wings are expected to participate at the WJC.
NOTES: Right-winger Tomas Jurco (Grand Rapids, AHL) is in the top 10 in league scoring with 23 points in 21 games … Defenseman Alexey Marchenko (Grand Rapids, AHL) only has 16 shots in 21 games, but he’s made a smooth transition to North America out of Russia with 13 points and a plus-13 rating … Is there hope for Thomas McCollum? The Red Wings retained his rights as a restricted free agent but had him sign a minor-league deal with Grand Rapids. He’s suddenly 7-2 with a 2.28 goals-against average and a .922 save percentage. Goalies take time to develop — Jimmy Howard didn’t break in with Detroit until he was 25 — so there may be chance for the 23-year-old. He’s at least worth monitoring … Defenseman Nick Jensen was recalled by Grand Rapids from Toledo (ECHL) after three games as he mounts his comeback from a four-month injury absense (shoulder) … The Griffins are rolling — winners of five straight and six straight at home …Things are going swimmingly in Grand Rapids, but in Toledo, the ECHL club has been shutout in three straight games (7-0, 4-0 and 3-0) and has lost six of its past seven … Defenseman Mitchell Wheaton (Kelowna, AHL) had his injury status updated this week. He has a broken nose … Center Hampus Melen (Tingsryds, Swedish J-20 SuperElit) is out with an undisclosed medical issue, while forward Rasmus Bodin (Linkoping, Swedish J-20 SuperElit) has been sidelined with a number of injuries.
Sarah Lindenau contributed to this report.
SKATERS: REGULAR-SEASON REPORT
|Almquist, Adam||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||18||0||13||13||16||+5||36|
|Callahan, Mitchell||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||21||9||4||13||27||+12||47|
|Jurco, Tomas||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||21||10||13||23||8||+11||62|
|Marchenko, Alexey||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||21||2||11||13||4||+13||16|
|Sheahan, Riley||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||18||4||6||10||8||+4||27|
|Sproul, Ryan||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||21||5||10||15||8||+12||47|
|Glendening, Luke||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||14||3||5||8||13||+7||19|
|Jarnkrok, Calle||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||21||7||5||12||8||+12||36|
|Pulkkinen, Teemu||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||21||8||8||16||12||+11||45|
|Frk, Martin||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||6||0||0||0||6||-3||3|
|Tvrdon, Marek||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||1||0||0||0||0||0||3|
|Ferraro, Landon||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||18||3||5||8||8||+2||50|
|Aubry, Louis-Marc||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||1||0||0||0||5||0||1|
|Fournier, Gleason||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||7||0||0||0||0||+3||4|
|Nestrasil, Andrej||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||17||2||3||5||10||+4||17|
|Ouellet, Xavier||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||19||1||5||6||4||+10||24|
|Nedomlel, Richard||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||3||0||0||0||2||-2||1|
|Nastasiuk, Zach||Owen Sound||OHL||CHL||28||11||14||25||14||-5||–|
|McNulty, Marc||Prince George||WHL||CHL||26||6||8||14||46||+2||–|
|De Haas, James||Clarkson||ECAC||NCAA||14||2||3||5||10||-2||20|
|McKee, Mike||W. Michigan||BIG-10||NCAA||10||0||0||0||46||0||1|
|Pope, David||W. Kelowna||USHL/JR-A||JR-A||15||7||5||12||2||–||–|
GOALIES: REGULAR SEASON REPORT
|Coreau, Jared||Grand Rapids||AHL||1||0||1||0||0||3.82||.846|
|Mrazek, Petr||Grand Rapids||AHL||11||8||2||1||1||2.29||.918|
|McCollum, Thomas||Grand Rapids||AHL||11||7||2||0||0||2.28||.922|