Jacob Bernard-Docker has been highly spoken of since being drafted to Ottawa and since his selection, his progress has increased while playing for the University of North Dakota. Currently in his second season with the Fighting Hawks of the NCAA, the 19-year-old defensemen has scored three goals and 11 assists in 17 games played.
Last season, he scored five goals and 12 assists in 36 games played. It made for 17 total points while he’s recorded 14 points this season. While these numbers don’t quite compare to what he has put up with the Okotoks Oilers, it was enough to receive an invite to World Juniors selection camp in Oakville, Ontario.
During the four-day process, Bernard-Docker was run through a series of battles, the most important being with Kevin Bahl who has been playing alongside him on defence. Bahl, who currently weighs in at 6’7, 240lbs, was tossed alongside the Senators prospect while being referred to as the ‘shutdown pair.’
Leaving Sixteen Mile Arena, Dale Hunter well established his team while also forming Team Canada’s defence led by Jamie Drysdale of the Erie Otters. Also on Canada’s defensive pairings is Bowen Byram and Calen Addison while just above them is Canadian Ty Smith who has been playing with Jared McIsaac. Speaking of which, Bernard-Docker was put on a line with the Red Wings draftee, this occurring after arriving in Vienna, forming one of Team Canada’s PK units.
After pre-tournament in Brno which saw games played against Finland and Germany, Bernard-Docker made the team’s final cut as the team gets ready for Ostrava and Trinec. Further to that regard, Team Canada opens on December 26th when they battle it out against USA Hockey at Ostravar Arena to kick off the tournament.
As well, it was announced on Monday that Dale Hunter had made the team’s last cut, letting go of centreman Benoit-Olivier Groulx which brings Team Canada’s roster down to 23. Going into Oakville selection camp, the club consisted of 31 members while Monday’s announcement also made things interesting with Bernard-Docker Canada’s only college player on the roster.
Speaking of Bernard-Docker and Hockey Canada, it wasn’t that easy at this time last year as the 6’1 defensemen didn’t make it to the tournament after having been cut from the roster at selection camp. Despite having home ice advantage, Team Canada struggled from start to finish as they would wrap things up while seated in sixth while Finland topped them in first place for the victory.
After a 4-2 win for Team Canada to wrap up pre-tournament play on Monday, it’s rather obvious that Bernard-Docker is clicking alongside Kevin Bahl, now of the Coyotes. Bahl scored one of four goals that saw Team Canada route the opposing Finnish while also restoring the two-goal lead late in the game for an exciting triumph.
After the game, Dale Hunter said, “The Finns are a strong team. We made some mistakes and the puck ended up in the back of our net. We had some good looks tonight by every line, and the [defence] was moving the puck quickly. We need to be sharp in this tournament and we’re moving in that direction.”
After his strong play with Bernard-Docker that played a large role in the 4-2 win, Kevin Bahl also spoke about the efforts that Team Canada provided amidst a comeback from Team Finland. “I thought we responded really well when the Finns came out hard in the third. You could sense some urgency from the guys and we held them off to get the win.”
While Canada led the way on offence, the defence was existent on the ice on Monday as Nico Daws returned after an injury and played a scoreless game until being removed. This then led the way for Joel Hofer who took his place and allowed two goals. When speaking after the game about his own play in addition to Team Finland, he said, “They have a very good team over there; they move the puck well and our guys did a great job playing our style. I feel good about where my game is and I’m ready to go.”
For Daws, it was nothing new after silencing the Swiss when they played on Thursday, this game resulting in his second straight shutout, a good sign for Hunter ahead of the tournament. For Daws, it was his first ever start after being selected from the OHL’s Guelph Storm.
For Bernard-Docker, it has been the same way since making the cut to play more overseas and with the 23 men now in place, he and his talented team get ready to play. As reported by TSN’s Mark Masters, there is no leadership on the team as of now, however, the roster includes five returning players, the list including Ty Smith and Barrett Hayton.
The 2020 World Juniors Championship gets underway in just two days time when action kicks off from Ostravar Arena with Gord Miller and Ray Ferraro on TSN. All the action gets going across TSN starting Thursday morning with all games available to take in on cable while found online using TSN GO.