Marc Staal fighting for spot on roster

Marc Staal talks to the media at the World Junior hockey camp at Father David Bauer in Calgary...

Marc Staal talks to the media at the World Junior hockey camp at Father David Bauer in Calgary Monday, December 11, 2006. (SUN/Kevin Udahl)

MIKE BELL -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:38 AM ET

Marc Staal doesn't hesitate, not for a second.

When push comes to shove comes to blows, the 19-year-old defenceman -- attending Team Canada's world junior selection camp this week at Father David Bauer -- is positive he'd come out the winner in a Staal family battle royale.

"I'm the only guy in the family who's actually fought," said Staal, the second eldest of the Thunder Bay hockey clan, which has already produced NHLers Eric, 22, of the Carolina Hurricanes and Pittsburgh Penguin rookie Jordan, 18, as well as Jared, 16, who plays with Marc on the OHL's Sudbury Wolves.

"Oh, no, Jordan's got one fight but that was more like a wrestling match."

Soon enough, all four brothers will likely get the opportunity to face off against one another on the biggest professional hockey stage in the world, with Marc having been drafted 12th overall by the New York Rangers in the 2005 Entry Draft and Jared likely to make it to the bigs when he's eligible in two years.

It's no surprise, really, the quartet, who honed their skills on an old-school backyard rink on the family sod farm, have drawn comparisons to the most notable NHL genetic factory, the Sutter clan of Viking, Alta.

It's also no surprise with the Staal name comes certain expectations, especially with Eric setting the bar so high. The second overall draft pick in 2003 notched 100 points and hoisted the Stanley Cup in his sophomore year with the 'Canes.

"When Eric had his breakout year last year or even his first year in the NHL, they were already talking about me and Jordan, so right there there was pressure on us to keep it up and keep getting better to make the NHL," Marc said.

"But the last little while, it's been more fun than pressure with all of the media and all of the stuff we get to do. It's fun."

A year ago, as a member of the 2006 world junior team, Marc did his best to step out of his brother's considerable shadow. He and blueline partner Ryan Parent were called upon by coach Brent Sutter -- yes, one of those Sutters -- to shut down the top lines of the other tournament teams.

The result? A gold medal for the Canuck juniors and the naming of Staal as the tourney's best defenceman.

"The whole month, the whole team was playing well," said the 6-ft. 4-in., 205-pounder.

"And me and Parent were matched up against high-profile guys like (American Phil) Kessel and (Russia's Evgeni) Malkin and it just shone more light on us.

"We kept doing the same things we've always done, it's just more people notice because it's a big event."

Staal will get the attention again this year. Most people consider his spot already secured on the final roster, which will head to Sweden later this month.

For his part, the stay-at-home rearguard isn't taking anything for granted but does feel more relaxed attending his second camp.

"Just coming into the rink and knowing more players and knowing the staff, it's a little comfortable and a little less nerve-racking when you're out on the ice," he said, noting new Team Canada bench boss Craig Hartsburg has insinuated he's going to utilize his veterans in a leadership role.

This past off-season, Staal attended his second Rangers training camp, logging time in three exhibition games before being sent back to Sudbury to captain the team and finish his junior career.

While with the Rangers, he was sharing the ice with Jaromir Jagr and Brendan Shanahan and learning from two of the game's best.

"It was pretty amazing," Staal said. "In practice I was taking shots and it hit Shanahan a couple of times in the ankle. He wasn't too happy with me."

Well, if Staal wants to ensure his physical dominance over his brothers when they all face each other the NHL, we're certain Shanahan has a few lessons of his own he could impart.


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