The Sutter way

TERRY KOSHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 11:10 AM ET

They may be inexperienced, long on youth and counting on a goalie who was not even invited to the development camp in the summer, but Canada has plenty in its favour heading into the 2006 world junior championship.

And for many, it starts behind the bench, where Brent Sutter returns after coaching Canada to a gold medal, its first since 1997, at the world junior last winter.

"One huge advantage is Brent Sutter," Maple Leafs pro scout Craig Button said. "This team will have structure and discipline and will be purposeful in its play."

Sutter put his fist down firmly when camp began earlier this month, telling the players with long hair to get it cut. But this was not the move of a bull-headed tyrant, Button figured.

"All Brent was doing was letting them know they're a team first and foremost, and if you are going to represent Canada, you're going to have to check everything at the door," Button said.

When Sutter looks around the dressing room for Canada's opener against Finland on Monday, he won't see many familiar faces. In fact, with just one player back from last winter -- defenceman Cam Barker -- and 12 players eligible to return next year, it's a young club Canada will ice.

Partly because of that, there is some question about Canada's depth among the forwards.

"That will be the biggest challenge for this team," one scout said. "It's going to be interesting to see what they can get out of the nine through 13 forwards."

That depth would not have been a question had Canada had two eligible forwards, Sidney Crosby and Gilbert Brule. But Crosby is with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Brule was hurt not long before the camp began.

The talk among scouts and other observers before Canada's camp roster was picked a few weeks ago was that if a candidate was not a "Brent Sutter player" he had no chance of being considered seriously. Take that to mean this team will be scared by nothing and if it does not make it to the gold-medal game, it won't be for lack of effort.

Kyle Chipchura, who was named captain, personifies that kind of ideal. Five Canadian players are captains with their club teams and eight are alternates.

Then there are guys like Steve Downie, who director of player personnel Blair Mackasey said "could be this year's Jordin Tootoo." The latter was a whirlwind for Canada at the 2003 world championship in Halifax and often brought the home crowd to its feet.

Jonathan Toews, a top prospect for the 2006 NHL entry draft, and Andrew Cogliano have talent to spare. David Bolland of the London Knights should be an effective two-way player.

Maple Leafs prospect Justin Pogge has been given the assignment of tending goal for Canada. It would be incorrect to say he came from nowhere, given his experience with the under-18 team, but he did not get a look at the summer camp. He noted that Jeff Glass also did not in the summer of 2004, and then became Canada's starter last winter.

"I talked to Jeff about it a few times and he told me the best thing I could do was go out and play well," Pogge said. "That's what I tried to do and it worked out well."

If Pogge falters, and few think he will, the pressure will fall on the shoulders of Devan Dubnyk, an Edmonton Oilers pick.

Barker will lead what should be a formidable defence corps. Five of the seven defencemen are 6-foot-2 or taller.

"Canada has a good chance to be a good team, but they should have brought (goalie) Carey Price (to back up Pogge) because he will be there next year," one scout said. "Still, they should surprise some people and challenge for a gold."


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