Junior players available

TERRY KOSHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:55 AM ET

Hockey Canada doesn't have to deal with trying to pry prospective world junior players from NHL clubs thanks to the lockout and there is optimism all three young men who are skating in the AHL will be made available for the 2005 world junior championship.

"We've had good dialogue with the teams," Hockey Canada president Bob Nicholson said. "The hope is they will all be here. We feel good about the discussions we have had but we are not 100% on all of them yet."

The players Canada is hoping to get for the tournament in Grand Forks, N.D., starting Christmas Day are forwards Patrice Bergeron (Providence Bruins), Nathan Horton (San Antonio Rampage) and defenceman Brent Burns (Houston Aeros). Burns is being converted into a defenceman by the Aeros after being drafted as a forward by the parent Minnesota Wild in 2003.

SCOUTING

Hockey Canada head scout Blair Mackasey plans to watch Burns, who had six assists in six games as a forward with Canada at the 2004 world junior tournament in Finland, with Houston before the end of the month.

Canada is eligible to have 13 players return from last winter's squad, plus Bergeron and Horton, so there's a chance fewer players will be invited to the selection camp next month. Rather than invite 36 players to camp, the idea of bringing in 32 is being discussed by Hockey Canada officials.

The U.S. yesterday named 12 players to its club, including eight returnees from the team that captured the nation's first world junior gold medal last winter. Veterans include goalie Al Montoya, defencemen Matt Hunwick, Jeff Likens and Ryan Suter, and forwards Patrick O'Sullivan of the Mississauga IceDogs, Dan Fritsche of the Sarnia Sting and Jake Dowell and Drew Stafford. Four of the forwards --Ryan Callahan of the Guelph Storm, Mike Brown, T.J. Hensick and Adam Pineault -- are newcomers.


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