Colliton right man for the job

KEN WIEBE -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 4:32 PM ET

GIMLI -- Jeremy Colliton realizes he's hit the jackpot and understands why his number was called. Colliton, the captain of the Prince Albert Raiders and second-year Team Canada winger, was patrolling the right side with Providence Bruins centre Patrice Bergeron and Rimouski Oceanic sniper Sidney Crosby during both practices held yesterday in Gimli.

"Those are extremely talented guys, but I'm not going to change my game," said Colliton, who has 14 goals and 36 points in 34 games with the Raiders this season. "They're not putting me there to be Sidney Crosby, you know. I'm going to play as hard as I can, create loose pucks and finish checks. I feel like I'm a good playmaker and I can create chances too, so I'm excited for the opportunity."

During the early days of camp, Crosby and Bergeron failed to click with a pair of high-scoring wingers, Eric Fehr of the Brandon Wheat Kings, who was released, and Corey Perry of the London Knights, who made the team as the 13th forward.

But Sutter says Colliton has the right combination of skill and grit to have success with the dynamic duo.

"He's got a great sense for the game," said Sutter. "He's very, very good in all three zones. A very, very good all-around player. He's responsible without the puck and with the puck."

"He's someone who could play with anybody, he's that type of player."

ENERGY LINE

A year ago, Colliton played a little bit with Crosby but spent more time on the energy line with fellow returnee Stephen Dixon.

He finished the tournament with no points in six games, but took plenty from the experience of coming away with a silver medal after the heartbreaking loss to the United States.

"The biggest thing I've tried to take from that this year is just to play, relax and be yourself," said Colliton, a second-round draft pick of the New York Islanders in the 2003 NHL entry draft. "If you play the way that got you here, good things will happen. It doesn't serve any (purpose) to be nervous and scared. You've got to take the opportunities that you have and do everything you can to help the team win."

Going into the evaluation camp, there were some people who believed Sutter might try and send a message by releasing one of the 12 returnees if they weren't playing well.

The threat of that possibility eliminated complacency during the camp and right now, a strong leadership core is beginning to emerge, since 20 of the 23 players are either captains (11) or alternates (9) on their respective junior teams.

"We have a lot of leadership on this team, but sometimes you need certain guys to step up and take on more of a role," said Colliton. "At the same time, you don't want to change who you are. You lead through your actions and how you conduct yourself on and off the ice."


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