'05 a special group of players

KEN WIEBE -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 9:09 AM ET

PHILADELPHIA -- Long before showing up in Winnipeg last December to put the finishing touches on a roster that would produce the country's first gold medal since 1997, Blair Mackasey knew something special was looming.

Which is why Mackasey, head scout and one of the chief architects of Canada's 2005 World Junior Hockey Championship winners, is not shocked to see so many members of that squad making their mark on the National Hockey League this season.

The numbers are staggering as 14 players from the 22-man roster (see box) have suited up in at least one NHL game this season. Several of them are playing prominent roles.

"I am a bit surprised, but I'm not," Mackasey said yesterday. "Obviously, they're tremendously talented players. The new rule changes have helped. I look at the NHL as going through a transition period."

And it's plain to see that a host of Canada's players who ran the table at the Ralph Engelstad Arena have potential for bright futures.

As Canada was posting a 6-0 record and punishing opponents to the tune of 41-7, many pundits suggested this was the best team Canada had ever sent to the world tournament.

"A lot of things fell into place for us," said Mackasey, who is looking forward to the latest crop of potential Team Canada players showing up in Vancouver on Sunday for the final selection camp. "I don't think you ever appreciate it while it's going on."

However, Mackasey kept things in perspective after Canada's third period meltdown which led to a loss against the United States with a young team at the world juniors in 2004.

"We had a good feeling coming out of Helsinki. We knew this group had a chance to be very special," said Mackasey.

It turns out his beliefs were bang-on.

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Next: We talk to Sid the Kid


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