Strong Manitoba presence at camp

KEN WIEBE -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 12:30 PM ET

WILKES-BARRE, Pa -- For the second consecutive season, there could be a strong Manitoba flavour to Canada's World Junior Hockey Championship team.

Three Winnipeggers will be among the 34 hopefuls that report to Vancouver today as Canada begins its final evaluation camp in preparation for the 2006 tournament, slated for Dec. 26 to Jan. 5 in Vancouver, Kelowna and Kamloops, B.C.

A year ago, Winnipeggers Nigel Dawes, Rejean Beauchemin and Cam Barker -- along with Kenora product Mike Richards -- were members of the 2005 squad that cruised past the competition and won gold at the Ralph Engelstad Arena in Grand Forks, N.D.

"Last year going in (to camp), I was more nervous than everything," said Barker, who outlasted Kyle Quincey and several others for a final spot on the blue-line. "It's very exciting with the tournament being in Canada, the hype we've seen surrounding it. It's going to be crazy there. It's going to be great when the team gets made. We're all looking forward to the tournament getting going."

Barker, a virtual lock to make the team, is the lone returnee attending camp but he might not be the only Winnipegger to crack the final roster. Centre Dustin Boyd is having a great season with the Moose Jaw Warriors, while Jonathan Toews has made a smooth transition with the University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux.

Toews, considered one of the top prospects for the 2006 NHL entry draft, has certainly caught the attention of Hockey Canada head scout Blair Mackasey.

"He's a very impressive kid, both on and off the ice," said Mackasey, noting the impact Toews had leading Canada to a gold medal at the World Under-18 Championship this year. "Not only does he have a lot of talent, but he has the intangibles as well. He has a legitimate shot to make the team, even at 17-years-old."

Thunder Bay products Marc Staal and Tom Pyatt are in the mix to make the team, while Devan Dubnyk, who lived in Winnipeg for six months, is in a battle with Justin Pogge, Casey Price and Vancouver Canucks prospect Julien Ellis-Plante to be one of the two goalies.

Speaking of Canucks prospects, 2005 first rounder (10th overall) Luc Bourdon is battling for a spot on the blue-line, while 2004 first rounder Cory Schneider is going to be battling for the No. 1 netminder spot on the United States squad that is considered by some as the gold medal favourite.

BY THE NUMBERS

2005-06 statistics of Team Canada hopefuls from Winnipeg (as of Dec. 10)

CAM BARKER

GP G A Pts PIM

Medicine Hat (WHL) 22 5 12 17 59

Dustin Boyd

Moose Jaw (WHL) 31 27 18 45 6

Jonathan Toews

UND (NCAA) 17 7 4 11 *

(* unavailable)


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