VANCOUVER — On a Team Canada world junior roster filled with high-end NHL draft picks, Frank Corrado’s name almost seems like a misprint.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Morgan Rielly and Griffin Reinhart, all first-rounders, are on the invited list and you would expect nothing less. But Frank Corrado, fifth-rounder? What’s he doing here?
Corrado is an intriguing invitee mostly because he is property of the Vancouver Canucks, who selected him with the 150th pick in the 2011 entry draft. Over the years, the Canucks have had some success in the mid-to-late rounds with players like Kevin Bieksa and Jannik Hansen eventually making an impact. Perhaps Corrado will, too.
“It makes me very happy for our scouting staff that a player selected in that portion of the draft has come so far so fast,” Canucks assistant GM Laurence Gilman commented Monday after the selections were announced. “It’s really a testament to all the hard work Frank has put in since he was drafted. We realized at his first camp last year how good this kid was and signed him right away.”
Corrado, 19, is a right-side defenceman and captain of the Ontario Hockey League’s Sudbury Wolves. He has 21 points in 30 games but will be auditioning for a shutdown role with Team Canada rather than an offensive one. He was one of 12 blueliners invited to next week’s final selection camp in Calgary. Players report on Dec. 10 with practices beginning the following day. This year’s world junior tourney is in Ufa, Russia, and starts Dec. 26.
“Frank Corrado has played exceptionally well in Sudbury this year, and last year,” noted Team Canada head scout Kevin Prendergast in a conference call. “He’s a stay-at-home type of player. He’s gritty and he brings leadership to the table. We felt we had enough offensive puck-movers and he sort of fit the bill for us as a defensive type.”
Corrado might be in tough to make the team but his inclusion is at least a sign his development is moving along nicely. In addition to 2012 first-rounders Rielly and Reinhart, Matt Dumba and Derrick Pouliot were also first-round choices. Dougie Hamilton was a first-rounder in 2011. Four others were second-round picks, including Cloverdale’s Tyler Wotherspoon.
Team Canada head coach Steve Spott, who normally stands behind the bench of the Kitchener Rangers, has seen plenty of Corrado in their OHL battles and knows him well.
“When you look at Frank, he gives us an element of grit and shutdown,” he said. “It’s a competitive group back there and, if there’s one area where we have depth, it’s going to be on our back end.”
Rielly is among the biggest offensive weapons on the back end and Spott indicated he might have to rein in the roving West Vancouver native. He has already coached Rielly internationally at the 2011 Ivan Hlinka U-18 tournament where Canada won gold. Reinhart, Pouliot and Dumba were also on that team.
“Sometimes when players who have Morgan’s ability are playing junior hockey, they are able to press the envelope but I can assure you that when we meet with Morgan on Monday, his role will be clearly defined,” Spott explained. “I fully expect that he’ll play a complete game, a safe game and a risk-free game for Team Canada throughout the evaluation process.”
The greater Vancouver area will be well represented at the camp with goalie Laurent Brossoit (Cloverdale) and forward Colton Sissons (North Vancouver) joining Burnaby’s Nugent-Hopkins, Wotherspoon and the West Van duo of Rielly and Reinhart.
There was some discussion Monday about Nugent-Hopkins’ availability as he was having a sore shoulder examined in Edmonton. He’s been playing this season with the Oilers’ AHL farm team, the Oklahoma City Barons. Nugent-Hopkins has 20 points in 19 games with the Barons.
“As of today, Ryan is on our list and, barring health, we would expect him to be here on Dec. 10,” said Hockey Canada executive Scott Salmond. “I’ve had a number of conversations with Steve Tambellini (Oilers GM) and we’re going to talk again later tonight in regards to Ryan’s exam that he had in Edmonton. Right now, I don’t anticipate a change to having him here on Dec. 10.”
Brossoit, the Edmonton Oil Kings netminder, is in a four-way battle for three goalie spots with Malcolm Subban, Jordan Binnington and Jake Paterson, all of the Ontario Hockey League.
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