Gone out to 'tender

SHANE ROSS -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:13 AM ET

Coach Benoit Groulx says no spots on the national junior hockey team are guaranteed, but come on, as long as they're healthy and not playing in the NHL, there are a few no-brainers.

At forward, phenom John Tavares would have to be in a cast not to be in Ottawa for the world championship on Dec. 26, and it's probably no coincidence Groulx's been using the Oshawa Generals superstar on a line with fellow incumbent Kyle Turris, the No. 3 overall pick of the Coyotes in 2007.

On defence, the second overall pick of the Kings in 2008, Drew Doughty, and two others on last year's gold-medal-winning team, Luke Schenn (Leafs, fifth overall in '08) and P.K. Subban (Canadiens, 43rd overall in '07) would have to be considered shoo-ins.

One position where there are truly no guarantees is goal.

"Our goalkeeping position this year is probably the most wide open it's ever been," said head scout Al Murray.

The goalies who fill that position might not even be Jake Allen, Chet Pickard, Tyson Sexsmith and Dustin Tokarski, the four in camp vying for the jobs left vacant by Steve Mason and Jonathan Bernier.

"The door is always swinging open, so if some of these guys falter at the start of the season and somebody else is hot, you'll see a different goalie come into the December camp," Murray said. "It's who's hot at the time we're putting the team together."

All bring lots to the table.

Two have Memorial Cup experience: Tokarski with the champion Spokane Chiefs last season and Sexsmith with the Vancouver Giants in 2007.

Allen, at 17 the youngest of the foursome, was named tournament MVP while leading Canada to gold at the U18 championship in April.

Pickard was the first goalie taken at this year's NHL draft, going 18th overall to Nashville. If Pickard makes the national team, the Predators could wind up with goalies on both the Canada and U.S. junior teams; Jeremy Smith of the Plymouth Whalers, a second-rounder in 2007, is a favourite for the U.S. job.

Pickard was also the backup to Carey Price on the Tri-City Americans when Price helped Canada win gold in 2007, another reason it would be fitting if he made the squad.

"A lot of people compare me to Price (who's now with the Canadiens), which is obviously pretty nice," Pickard said.

"We're both big goalies, pretty patient. You can't really drop to your knees too quickly any more with how good the shooters are getting."

With Groulx's up-tempo practices and nightly intra-squad games, they're getting plenty of those shots.

So, just who does have the best shot in camp?

"Probably Tavares or Turris, they can find the holes," Sexsmith said. "But if you're scared of somebody, then they're going to score on you. You have to be confident, know that you can stop it."


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