Juniors waiting on Gagner

MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:06 AM ET

The door is still open for Sam Gagner to play on Canada's world junior team.

It isn't open a lot, but the former London Knight and now Edmonton Oiler is one of two under-agers in the NHL that Hockey Canada hasn't received a firm answer on whether they'll be released for the world junior championship in the Czech Republic at Christmas.

David Perron of the St. Louis Blues is the other.

Jordan Staal, Pittsburgh; Jonathan Toews, Chicago; James Sheppard, Minnesota; and Milan Lucic, Boston; will remain with their NHL clubs.

"I've spoken to all their general managers," Hockey Canada's Brad Pascal said during a media conference call yesterday. "At this time, the only players we're still waiting to hear on (are) Sam Gagner and David Perron. The other players will remain with their National Hockey League teams."

Gagner was a member of last year's gold-medal winning team as a 17-year-old. He was also the most valuable player in the Canada/Russia Super Series. The Oilers selected the Gagner sixth overall in the draft last June.

"I've had a few conversations with Kevin Lowe," Pascal said. "Our policy overall here is anyone we might add to this camp roster that might be in the National Hockey League, we have to add them prior to the start of camp, which begins on Dec. 10. We had some good conversations with (Lowe) about Sam and his possible availability. We're going to continue those discussions later in the week and on the weekend prior to camp."

While Hockey Canada doesn't have a definite "no," it is operating as if Gagner won't be released.

"In building the roster, if you talk to Al (Hockey Canada head scout Al Murray), or any of our coaches, we had to go with the mindset that these players wouldn't be available," Pascal said. "If we do get him, with his experience and what he's done in the Super Series as MVP, he'll be a benefit to us.

"We probably won't know until just before camp."

If the Oilers release Gagner to the juniors, many believe they'll also return him to the Knights to finish the season.

Three players who played on last year's team were on the list of 37 invited to the selection camp -- Karl Alzner of the Calgary Hitmen, Leland Irving of the Everett Silvertips and Brad Marchand of the Foeurs de Val d'Or.

With or without Gagner, there will be a significant local flavor to the selection camp, that begins Monday in Calgary. But One of the surprise omissions was Ottawa 67's Logan Couture of London.

"It's tough decisions . . . All across our country there are great players who aren't a part of it," said head coach Craig Hartsburg. "You just have to make a decision at one point."

Murray said about 75 players were considered.

London Knights' Steve Mason will be one of four goaltenders at camp. He'll be competing with Irving, along with Tyson Sexsmith of the Vancouver Giants and Jonathan Bernier of the Lewiston Maineiacs.

On the blue-line, Londonder Drew Doughty of the Guelph Storm will go to his second junior camp. He's touted as one of the top three picks in next June's NHL draft.

Up front, St. Thomas native Cory Emmerton of the Kingston Frontenacs will get a crack at the team as will Sarnia Sting forward and potential No. 1 NHL pick, Steven Stamkos.

The coaches are all back from last year and have a pretty good idea of what they're looking for. The formula is pretty much the same one followed by every Canadian junior team.

"We're looking for players that want to play for the team first, can put their egos aside and will accept roles," Hartsburg said. "We want players that play at a high tempo with speed and skill. a typical Canadian team that's going to compete very, very hard, shift in and shift out. We also need a group that will play with a great deal of discipline."

Murray did say the coaches wanted a "tweaking" of the type of things the players brought to the team.

"They wanted to build on . . . above-average skating because of the big ice surface and players who are competitive shift after shift," Murray said. "They wanted solid two-way players but didn't want to lose any offensive play."

Mason is looking forward to getting a chance to compete at this year's selection camp in full health. He suffered a concussion the game before he was to leave last year for the camp and was off the ice for most of the week.

"I'm trying to forget that," he said yesterday. "There wasn't much I can do about that. I'm just looking forward to going out and playing as well as I can."

Mason is just getting over the flu. He played with the illness in Kitchener on Tuesday. He's played a ton of hockey (including 23 straight OHL starts) since returning from the Columbus Blue Jackets.

"I'm taking care of myself," he said. "The mental aspect is the hardest part. I've played a lot of hockey. But I'm really looking forward to this. Getting a chance to play with the best players in the country is something that's always a highlight."


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