CALGARY, AB -- Vincent Lecavalier, the first overall selection in the National Hockey League Entry Draft in June, will not be attending the National Junior Team's summer evaluation camp, which runs from Aug. 9-17 in Winnipeg, MB, the Canadian Hockey Association announced Thursday.
Forward Jeremy Reich of the Swift Current Broncos of the Western Hockey League has been added to the evaluation camp roster to fill the spot vacated by Lecavalier, who has chosen to devote his summer to preparing for the training camp of the Tampa Bay Lightning, the NHL team that drafted him.
Lecavalier, of the Rimouski Océanic of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, was a member of Canada's National Junior Team at the 1998 World Junior Hockey Championship in Helsinki, Finland and remains a candidate to play for the 1999 team, which will compete for Canada at the World Junior Hockey Championship in Winnipeg and surrounding cities from Dec. 26 - Jan. 5.
Head coach George Burnett, who led the Guelph Storm of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) to the Memorial Cup final in May, will put the 41 invitees to the summer camp through practice sessions and Red and White intra-squad games from Aug. 11-16 to evaluate the aspirants for the National Junior Team.
The roster list, prepared by the CHA's head scout Barry Trapp, includes eight returning players from the 1998 National Junior Team and 10 who played for Canada's National Under-18 that won a tri- nation tournament against the Czech Republic and Slovakia in August 1997. Another nine athletes played on the 1996 Under-18 team, which won an international tournament in Nelson, BC.
"This is a veteran group, with 26 19-year-old players and 16 players who are 18," said Burnett. "This is a special tournament for Canadians, and with the competition returning to our country for the first time since it was held in Red Deer, AB in 1995, it will attract tremendous interest from around the country.
"It certainly helps that the pool of candidates for the team includes so many players with international experience."
In all, 38 of the invitees play on teams in the Canadian Hockey League, the umbrella organization that includes the OHL, the Western Hockey League (WHL) and the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. Eighteen of the invitees are OHL players, 13 come from the WHL and seven from the QMJHL. Two candidates play for U.S.-based university teams, while one player is a product of the Canadian Junior A Hockey League.
Burnett will work with assistants Claude Julien, who led the Hull Olympiques of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League to the Memorial Cup championship in 1997, and Brent Peterson, head coach of the 1998 Memorial Cup champion Portland Winter Hawks.
Trapp will continue to evaluate the play of these and other candidates for the team during the 1998-99 hockey season and invite 30 players to the National Junior Team selection camp, which will also be held in Manitoba from Dec 13-18. Out of that group, 22 players will be chosen to play for Canada at the World Junior Hockey Championship. Canada plays its first tournament game on Dec. 27 against Slovakia in Brandon, one of five cities surrounding Winnipeg that will also play host to games.
Canada has won the World Junior Championship a record 10 times, including seven of the last nine gold medals. Team Canada won an unprecedented five straight World Junior titles from 1993-97 before finishing a disappointing eighth last year in Helsinki, Finland.