Should be a 'solid squad'

KIRK PENTON -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 8:24 AM ET

Cam Barker is a lock.

Dustin Boyd is a solid bet.

Jonathan Toews? Well, the former No. 1 WHL draft pick is going to do everything he possibly can to crack Canada's junior hockey team at the tender age of 17.

Barker, Boyd and Toews were the Manitobans named yesterday to the team's selection camp, which begins Sunday in Vancouver.

The Winnipeg natives will be among 34 players battling for 22 spots on Brent Sutter's defending world championship squad, which will be named next Friday, Dec. 16.

Toews, who didn't attend the summer development sessions, will be the second-youngest player at the camp (Angelo Esposito is 16, see complete roster on p.51), but the University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux forward isn't about to let that stop him.

"It's exciting, but I need to come back down to Earth and realize I still got a job to do," Toews said last night from Grand Forks, N.D. "It would mean so much more to me to make that team.

"... I'll do anything to play on that team. If it means compromising my style of play for what the coach needs ... I think I'm a decent two-way player, and whatever the coach wants me to do I'll go out there and play his style."

Toews has seven goals and three assists in 16 games this season for the Fighting Sioux.

Only returnee

Barker, a 19-year-old defenceman with the WHL's Medicine Hat Tigers, is the only returnee from last year's team, although he wasn't able to finish the tournament in North Dakota because he contracted mononucleosis.

Barker is sure to anchor the blue-line, and there's a good chance the Chicago Blackhawks draft pick will be named captain. He will therefore be the face of a team that isn't expected to repeat.

"We might not have some of the big names that we did last year, but I know there's a lot of talent that's going to be on this roster," Barker said yesterday from Medicine Hat. "And I'm sure the guys are really going to play their hearts out and go hard."

Boyd, a 19-year-old forward with the WHL's Moose Jaw Warriors, was invited to last year's selection camp in Winnipeg, but he didn't make the squad.

Last year's experience, however bitter it might have been, should give Boyd a leg up this time around. The fact that he is tied for the WHL lead with 26 goals probably won't hurt his cause, either.

"It feels pretty good getting another kick at the can here," Boyd said yesterday from Moose Jaw. "Hopefully there's a better outcome.

"I've got a lot of confidence going into the camp, so it's an added bonus."

Boyd is one of three players who were cut from last year's camp and got invited back, which means there are 30 players who will be selection camp rookies -- and he isn't one of them.

"There are no guarantees," Boyd said.

Boyd also bristled at the notion that the U.S. and Russia are being pegged as the teams to beat at the world championship, which begins Dec. 26 in Vancouver, Kelowna and Kamloops.

'Team was unreal'

"The team last year was unreal, but this year there's a lot of first-round NHL draft picks there, and quite a few of the guys are all drafted, so it seems to be a pretty solid squad and hopefully looking to repeat," he said.

"Hopefully I can make the team this time."


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