Who is World Jr. favourite?

TERRY KOSHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:37 AM ET

Scott Sandelin is a few weeks away from guiding the U.S. junior team into the 2005 world junior championship, but the coach already has shown he knows a thing or two about diplomacy.

The Americans are defending their first world-junior gold medal, and will do so on home turf with eight returnees from last winter, but are they the favourites? Heavens no, Sandelin thinks.

"I think Canada is based on their past history," said Sandelin, ignoring Canada's failure to win gold at the world junior since 1997. "I do think we are going in as one of the favourites. We're going there to win the tournament."

The U.S. named 12 players to its 22-man roster last month and yesterday added the final 10, including London Knights star Rob Schremp, who was left off the roster last year.

"I would have loved to have been a part of that," Schremp said. "But now this is one of the biggest challenges of my career. It's a huge step for me."

The other intriguing addition to the U.S. roster is forward Chris Bourque, a 5-foot-9, 178-pound son of Hall of Famer Ray Bourque. The younger Bourque is a Washington Capitals prospect who plays at Boston University.

U.S. returnees Patrick O'Sullivan of the Mississauga IceDogs and Ryan Suter, a Nashville Predators prospect playing for Milwaukee of the AHL, both will play in the world junior for the third time. Canada has no returning goalie, but among the other six players back for the U.S. is netminder Al Montoya. That kind of experience is invaluable.

"It certainly nice to start with a guy who won last year," Sandelin said. "He has been there and he knows what it is all about. Your team goes as your goaltending goes."


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