'Peggers make grade

ADAM WAZNY -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 1:40 PM ET

Jonathan Toews is the youngest player on the 2006 Canadian junior team and couldn't be more thrilled to suit up for Canada on Boxing Day against Finland.

Can you describe the feeling for us, Jonathan?

Head in the clouds, walking on air, something along those lines...

"You said it, man, it's just unreal," the exuberant 17-year-old said as the team travelled through the mountains to Chase, B.C., last night, where they'll prepare for exhibition contests next week.

Toews, forward Dustin Boyd and defenceman Cam Barker were the three Winnipeg-products named to the 22-man roster yesterday.

"I was just telling Dustin Boyd, to get to join the other two Winnipeg boys on the squad, I'm really happy about it," Toews continued. "It's something I've been working for and the fact that I made the team ...

"I'm playing for Team Canada. Unbelievable."

The University of North Dakota forward is the lone undrafted player on the team and just as he's not looking ahead to the 2006 NHL Entry Draft (where the 6-foot-2, 185-pounder is already projected to be a top-three pick), Toews is not one to simply hang his hat on the fact he made the club.

"It's my draft year and a big year for me, but I didn't really feel any pressure from anybody else -- other than the pressure I put on myself," he said. "I really wanted to make this team and be recognized as an elite hockey player. Starting last summer I put in a lot of work and I set goals for myself.

"This was one of them."

Toews has seven goals and three assists in 15 games with the Fighting Sioux and the solid, two-way player does have some international experience.

He captained the Canadian Under-18 team that won gold at the Junior World Cup this past summer and laughs at the notion that he will struggle to find his way against players a year or two older than him in the tournament.

"I've had to make the adjustment early this year, playing against much older players," he said about competing against collegiate veterans in his freshman year with UND. "So far I've done pretty well against guys who are three, four years older than me.

"I don't think age will be a factor at all."

As for the other local skaters on the Canadian team, each had a different experience at last year's selection camp in Winnipeg.

Boyd, who has 27 goals and 45 points in 31 games for the Moose Jaw Warriors this season, didn't make the '05 club but felt the disappointment gave him the edge this time around.

"Last year was definitely a solid experience to be in and it (made) it a little easier to come to this camp," he said.

Boyd, 19, bristles at suggestions this Canadian entry will be hard pressed to be a top team.

"Anytime you get the best players from across Canada there's going to be pressure, no matter what anyone thinks," he added.

"Our team is going to be really good."

The lone returning member from a year ago is Barker, and the Medicine Hat blue-liner showed his veteran moxie last night by sleeping on the bus ride, making himself unavailable for comment. The third overall pick in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft (Chicago) had his junior experience cut short last winter when he contracted mono and missed most of the tourney.

Barker, 19, is one of the alternate captains on the young '06 squad.


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