When Hockey Canada announces the roster today for the world junior team's selection camp later this month in Calgary, the expectation is it will have a strong Ontario Hockey League flavour.
Virtual locks to be named to the 36-player roster (20 forwards, 12 defencemen and four goalies) are goalie Steve Mason (London Knights), defencemen Josh Godfrey (Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds) and Drew Doughty (Guelph Storm), and forwards John Tavares (Oshawa Generals), Stefan Legein (Niagara IceDogs) and Cory Emmerton (Kingston Frontenacs), all of whom were on Canada's roster for the Super Series against Russia this past summer.
The selection camp is scheduled for Dec. 10-14 in Calgary, with the 22-player roster named on the final day.
Canada opens the 2008 world junior against the host Czech Republic on Boxing Day. Also in Group A with Canada are Sweden, Slovakia and Denmark. Included in Pool B are Russia, the United States, Finland, Switzerland and Kazakhstan.
With six eligible forwards playing in the NHL -- Sam Gagner, Jordan Staal, Jonathan Toews, James Sheppard, Milan Lucic and David Perron -- more spots up front will be open.
Among those who have a strong shot to get invitations are Steven Stamkos (Sarnia Sting), who is being touted as the first pick overall in the 2008 NHL entry draft, Brett MacLean (Oshawa), Nick Spaling and Matt Halischuk (Kitchener Rangers), Logan Couture (Ottawa 67's), Dustin Jeffrey (Sault Ste. Marie) and Shawn Matthias and P.K. Subban (Belleville Bulls).
DEPTH UP FRONT
Other OHL names being bandied about include goalie Trevor Cann (Peterborough Petes), defenceman John de Gray (Brampton Battalion) and forwards Matt Beleskey (Belleville) and Wayne Simmonds (Owen Sound Attack).
"You could look at it and say we are losing two top lines (if none of the NHLers are returned, which is probable), but that's what happens," Hockey Canada head scout Al Murray said.
"We have a good depth of solid two-way players."
Three returnees from the squad that won a third consecutive gold for Canada last winter -- goalie Leland Irving, defenceman Karl Alzner and forward Brad Marchand -- will be invited.
Two of Mason, Irving and Jonathan Bernier will be Canada's goalies.
Others who are assured of invites are forwards Kyle Turris, Claude Giroux and Brandon Sutter, and defencemen Logan Pyett, Thomas Hickey and Keaton Ellerby.