Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Czeching In with Jesse Wallin

We will find out sometime today what Canada's team will look like for the World U-18 Hockey Championship.

Two things are certain... Mathew Dumba will be on the roster (and is a good bet to wear the "C"). Jesse Wallin will have this team working its collective arses off during each and every shift.

Wallin (along with the voice of the Rebels Cam Moon, who gets the sweet gig of doing media relations for the team) is currently in Toronto. That's where the squad will assemble before heading to the Czech Republic later this week.

Assembling a team for the U-18's is much like it is for the World Championship, you don't necessarily get to choose from the 'cream of the crop' when it comes to players. Nevertheless, Wallin is confident his assembled crew will be a competitive one.

"Our goaltending sounds like it's gonna be solid" Wallin told me when I stopped by his office on Monday. "Our defence, we should have four real solid guys and some good depth. And up front, we're gonna have a good mix of size and skill on our top couple of lines."

"A lot of players are still playing with their club teams so you're basically taking the best of what's available. But at the same time, I think we've got some depth in our country and it may not be the best team we could put together [if we had the whole crop to choose from] but yet I think we'll still put a pretty competitive team together."

As most of you know, this is Wallin's second go-round with the U-18's. He served as an Assistant Coach under Pat Quinn when Canada won gold in 2008. Wallin doesn't foresee any big differences in his role until the tournament gets underway.

"Pat was quite a presence and, of course, very experienced. We just kinda worked around him and supported him. So this time certainly having to be the guy taking that lead will be a great challenge for me, but it's definitely one I'm excited about.

Given the nature of the U-18 tournament, Wallin says having previous experience will definitely come in handy.

"I don't know of any other situation where it happens quite like this. There's no training camp whatsoever. It's just get the team together, get on the plane and go overseas. You really have to get your team to bond in a hurry."

We'll get our first look at how things are coming together when Canada takes on Denmark for its first game of the tournament next Thursday (12th) versus Denmark.


NOTES... Wallin is also looking forward to visiting with some familiar faces while in the Czech Republic (his first time in the country in what will be his fifth trip to Europe overall). Rebels goalie Patrik Bartosak has promised to drop by for at least one day to visit with his junior coach (and his teammate Dumba for that matter). Also, former Rebels sniper Andrej Kudrna, who is playing pro hockey in his native Czech Republic, is hoping to connect with Wallin and Dumba at some point during the tournament.

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