Hockey Canada snub may be good for the Raiders
By Drew Wilson
I don't understand Hockey Canada's decision to leave Raider captain Mark McNeill off the National Junior roster for this summer's challenge series against the Russians.
He has the strength of a pro and can make life extremely hard for any junior defenseman regardless of their nationality. Let's not forget the fact he has been a 30-plus goal scorer in the WHL the past two seasons, so McNeill offers skill and sandpaper.
Mark would be the first to admit he didn't live up to his own expectations last season but still put up 31 goals and 71 points and was one of the best players on the ice in his Subway Super series game against the Russians.
However, aside from a spot on the under-18 team in the spring of 2011, Hockey Canada has passed on McNeill at every opportunity.
Observers feel Mark should have made the 2011 Ivan Hlinka summer team, but was one of the last players cut. In fact, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was the lone WHL player on that team. (Nugent-Hopkins scored the lone goal in Canada's 1-0 win over USA in the championship game)
Meanwhile at least one media member who watched last December's world junior selection camp called McNeill one of the best forwards on the ice, yet he was in the first round of cuts.
I realize Hockey Canada has a difficult job when it comes to choosing a final roster for any one of its national teams because this country produces so many outstanding players.
My lack of understanding on why Mark McNeill doesn't appear to be high on Hockey Canada's priority list is not an indictment on any of the players they have selected.
This does not mean McNeill is out of the running for the Canadian National Junior team for the 2013 World championships. However, he will need a great start to the 2012-13 season to get back on the radar screen.
The Prince Albert Raiders may be the biggest benefactors in this scenario, because a highly motivated and "ticked-off" Mark McNeill may be just what the hockey doctor ordered for a team that needs a strong response to a last place finish last season.
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