Cornell sophomore netminder David LeNeveu was invited to attend the Canadian junior national team’s summer development camp held in Halifax, Nova Scotia from Aug. 10-20. The ten-day camp featured 46 of the best junior players in the country and was held in preparation for the World Junior Championships which will be played in Halifax from Dec. 26 to Jan. 5.
“It was truly a great experience,” remarked LeNeveu. “When I went out there, I didn’t really know what I was getting into.
“Then I saw the other players who were attending the camp, truly some great talent — guys like Jason Spezza, Jay Bouwmeester, Rick Nash, all drafted in the top three spots in the past two NHL prospect drafts,” he continued.
The Canadian junior team has finished either second or third at the past three tournaments, and won a record five-straight gold medals from 1993 to 1997. Upon arrival at the first practice at the Halifax Metro Centre, the camp attendees were split into two squads, the Red team and the White team. LeNeveu and Olivier Michaud of the Shawinigan Cataracts were the goalies on the Red team. The two groups then played four intersquad games over the course of ten days. LeNeveu, along with Duncan Keith of Michigan State, were the only two college players attending the camp.
“I felt I might have had an advantage going and being a college player because I know the strength and conditioning program we have here at Cornell set us way above already,” said LeNeveu. “I was just glad I was recognized being a college player and got the opportunity to compete with all the other WHL, OHL, and junior league players.”
“David’s a strong kid both mentally and physically. He has a good handle on his abilities,” remarked Blair Mackasey, head scout for the Canadian junior team. “He probably wasn’t as well known as some of the other players at the camp, but he left his mark.”
On-ice practices focused on getting the players accustomed to the new systems they would be using during the games. There was also a skills competition and two scrimmages. On off days, the players were able to experience the sights of Halifax, including a ride on a navy ship, a dragonboat canoeing competition, and a lobsterfest with tournament sponsors. The four Red-White games offered the players some valuable game experience with their future teammates.
“Intersquad games were definitely not like a Cornell game. It was very fast-paced, very transitional, no defense whatsoever,” said LeNeveu. “It was just everybody trying to display their talent, and us goalies, we were doing to the best we could to keep the puck out of the net.”
The games were very high scoring, with the two teams combining for 48 goals in four contests. In his four games, LeNeveu posted excellent numbers, including an impressive performance in game two, stopping 20 of 22 shots. He had the lowest goals-against average of the four goalies at the camp and the second highest save percentage.
LeNeveu’s performance drew the praise of team officials.
“I’m quite happy with his performance,” commented Mackasey. “Having worked as a scout for the Phoenix Coyotes who drafted David, I’d already seen him play several times, and his level of play was as expected.”
The games drew a decent-sized crowds, with an average of 3598 fans in attendance at the 11,000 person Metro Centre.
“The atmosphere was nowhere near Lynah. Nothing can recreate Lynah Rink’s atmosphere. I thought it was great to see fan support in a summer development camp,” remarked LeNeveu.
The World Junior Championships have been host to many future NHL players such as Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Eric Lindros, Peter Forsberg, Brian Leetch, and John LeClair. Team USA’s highest finish came in 1997 when it finished second behind Canada. In December, some players will be invited back to the selection camp, after which the final roster will be named.
“[The tournament is] going to be very highly competitive. Obviously, Canada wants to reestablish our reputation as the number one hockey country in the world, so there’s definitely that behind us. It’s in our home country, so we should have great fan support for that as well,” commented LeNeveu. “I’m just hoping to get invited back to the December camp, and prove that I’m able to play with these guys and make the team.”
“Barring any injury, there’s a very good chance he’ll be back for selection camp in December,” said Mackasey.
Archived article by Jonathan Auerbach