Lalonde's future bullish

DOUG GRAHAM, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:34 AM ET

Belleville Bulls general manager/coach George Burnett didn't have the inside track on which Ontario Hockey League players were going to get the call to Canada's junior team selection camp.

However, Burnett did have the scoop on Shawn Lalonde, the Bulls' star defenceman who has played all four of his junior seasons in Belleville.

So while Lalonde's selection to the camp was a surprise in some ranks, it wasn't to Burnett.

"Absolutely not. It wasn't a big surprise to me at all. I think it is well deserved and I'm sure he will challenge for a position," said Burnett, who also has seen former Bulls rearguard P.K. Subban play for Canada.

Lalonde, like Subban, is a terrific skater. Three OHL defencemen -- Lalonde, Calvin de Haan of the Oshawa Generals and Ryan Ellis of the Windsor Spitfires -- are off to the camp, which starts Saturday in Regina.

"Shawn's skill-set, his skating ability, his play in some of the events (Canada-Russia Challenge, Canada's under-18 team in 2008) certainly has put him down as one of the top defencemen in our league," Burnett said.

Burnett said it is a feather in Lalonde's cap to be going to the selection camp, considering the league talent which didn't get called, including Erik Gudbranson of the Kingston Frontenacs and Tyler Cuma of the Ottawa 67's.

"There are no free rides (when you are trying out for Canada). But those three young men have to be feeling, 'Well a lot of people do think highly of us.' "

Lalonde, who is from Orleans and was selected by the Chicago Blackhawks in the third round of last year's NHL entry draft, obviously was pumped to get the call to report to Regina after the Bulls' Friday game in Sault Ste. Marie.

The 6-foot, 195-pound Lalonde, who is Belleville's leading scorer with eight goals and 26 points in 24 games, said he is thrilled to have the opportunity to have the chance to follow Subban and play for Canada.

Subban was part of Canada's gold medal-winning entries the past two years.

"I've been like every young kid around Christmas watching the world junior championship," Lalonde said.

"I talked to (Subban) about it, his experience. He made it sound like it was a blast and was one of the best things ever to happen to him."

Lalonde, 19, said he understands the pressure that awaits him over the five days in Regina.

"I have one of two tasks completed," he said. "I am going to go there with the intent of making the team. If I don't, I know I won't be satisfied."

Burnett said Lalonde has matured steadily in his four seasons with the Bulls.

"He has paid his dues. He has learned the game and learned to play with others," Burnett said.

"It's his fourth year and he understands more than ever that when you make a mistake, you put it behind you and go back out and respond."

Lalonde does have the league label of being an offence-first defenceman. While he does have great offensive numbers, Burnett said it's a mistake to underestimate Lalonde's defensive game.

"Shawn is a gamer and he knows the game," Burnett said. "When he puts his mind to it, he can be a very difficult player to go against."

AROUND THE LEAGUE

The National Hockey League has announced a nice bonus for all the high draft prospects for the 2010 entry draft in June. For the first time in the

46-year history of the event, it will be held in California.

The Los Angeles Kings will play host to the event at the Staples Center, June 25-26 ... Taylor Hall, Adam Henrique and Greg Nemisz, are 1-2-3 in the OHL scoring race and all three are off to the Canada selection camp.

Saginaw Spirit left winger Jordan Skellett stands to gain the most if all three Spitfires make the grade. Skellett is tied with Nemisz in the OHL scoring race with 48 points, nine back of Hall, who is the overall leader ... Tough-luck forward James Marsden of the Plymouth Whalers is gone six to eight weeks after having surgery last week on a dislocated elbow. He picked up the injury in a Nov. 22 game in Kingston, where he played last season. Marsden, when he was with the Frontenacs for two seasons, missed extended time in the 2008-09 season with a knee injury.

doug.graham@sunmedia.ca


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