Cut to the quick

MIKE BELL -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:44 AM ET

Craig Hartsburg has enjoyed the role of dream-maker at this year's world junior selection camp.

Dream killer?

Not so much.

"To tell you the truth, it's the toughest thing I've ever had to do ... as a coach," the Canadian bench boss said of the first round of player cuts yesterday.

Sixteen-year-old Oshawa Generals phenom John Tavares and 17-year-old Quebec Remparts standout Angelo Esposito, both forwards, were among the 11 players Hartsburg and his staff sent packing from the group of 39.

Also sent home early were Calgary defenceman Drew Doughty and Taber, Alta., forward Devin Setoguchi.

The cuts leave nine defencemen and 15 forwards in camp with another six players to be whittled from the list today.

Despite their young ages, Tavares and Esposito were the two players who came in with perhaps the greatest expectations, making their departure that much more difficult.

"The two of them, they're two great young players and their time will come in this tournament," Hartsburg said.

"They'll not only play in it, I think they'll both star in it at some point. This year we felt they're not quite ready but they're great players and two great kids."

That was, apparently, little consolation to Tavares and Esposito, whom Hartsburg said probably took the news the hardest of the 11.

"I've never been cut from a team before," Tavares said before departing the squad's hotel.

"It's something new to me and it's the worst feeling."

Also sent packing was goalie Trevor Cann, a last-minute addition to the camp due to an injury to Steve Mason, which has kept Mason out of action until last night's game against the CIS All-Stars.

Cann's departure of Cann leaves four goalies at camp, including Flames prospect Leland Irving who, for 24 hours at least, was enjoying his reprieve but certainly not taking for granted one of the two spots was his.

"Each and every goaltender here is top-notch," Irving said of Mason, Jonathan Bernier and Carey Price.

"You're going to have to scratch and claw for every inch.

"It's going to be a tough decision for the coaches but I've got to do what I can and worry about the things I can control.

"The things away from the ice, you've got to accept them and let them take care of themselves."

As for the final six cuts, Hartsburg was looking even less forward to those decisions, let alone the actual act of telling the players they wouldn't be heading to Sweden later today.

"There's no easy way," he said, noting he'd had little sleep as a result of the first cuts.

"What makes it hard is ... last Sunday when you saw the looks on these kids faces they were so excited to be here and it was a dream to try to make this hockey team.

"Then this morning the looks on their faces was pretty sad.

"At the same point they should all be proud of the accomplishment of being at this camp.

"We try to give them something, a little bit of reason and then some hope that, especially for the younger ones, their time will come."


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