No question there was disappointment in the Sudbury Wolves camp as forward Nick Baptiste did not get an invite. Baptiste has played for Hockey Canada in the past and did suit up for Team OHL during the Sudbury stop of the Subway Super Series against the Russians.
Not only did Baptiste play one of the best games I’ve ever seen him play, but many thought he was one of best forwards, if not the best, on the ice that night. He was physical, fast and never stopped competing every time he was on the ice.
It was talked about a lot before the game, but the performance from Baptiste was very similar to what Marcus Foligno did when the Subway Super Series was in Sudbury in 2010. Foligno was a force during that game and scored what turned out to be the winning goal in the shoot-out. Up until that point, he was not on Hockey Canada's radar, but he certainly was after the game, got an invite to the selection camp and earned a spot on the team.
I don't think Baptiste was too far away from doing the same thing, but a couple of factors may have gone against him.
A team like this has to be made up of several types of players and I think it was the feeling of Brent Sutter and the rest of the Hockey Canada brass that there were already a handful of players cut from the same mold as Baptiste. Not that he’s only an offensive player, but there might have been some question about his ability to commit to more of a defensive role.
It’s never easy to assemble a team like this. Left off the roster were other stellar players like Max Domi of the London Knights and Darnell Nurse of the Sault Ste. Greyhounds.
For the first time, there were only 25 players asked to the camp. In the past, there have been 30 or more invited, which meant more players had an opportunity to play their way onto the team.
But the decision was made to make it a smaller camp this time around, meaning the majority of the team has now been picked and will have a little more time to gel prior to the start of the tournament on Boxing Day.
As for Baptiste, I am sure he is disappointed, but even before the announcement was made, he was already saying the right things: He was happy with the way he played during the Super Series and felt he left it all on the ice; he had no regrets and was OK that he did his best, knowing the final decision was out of his hands.
Right there is the sign Baptiste will use this experience to make himself a better hockey player. He did the same thing when he returned from the Buffalo Sabres camp prior to the season and so far it’s paid off big time for the Wolves.
Don’t forget, Baptiste is only 18, so this time next year it is very likely he will be right in the thick of things when Team Canada hands out jerseys for the 2015 World Junior Hockey Championship.
Stew Kernan is the radio and television voice of the Sudbury Wolves, and the News Director at KiSS 105.3 and Q92. This column appears every other week in Northern Life.