Canadian juniors to be blue-collar bunch
TERRY KOSHAN, QMI Agency
|Ryan Ellis of the Windsor Spitfires was among the 39 players invited to the Canadian junior team selection camp Monday. (Errol McGihon/QMI AGENCY)
The city of Buffalo is known for its workmanlike attitude, a sometimes down-and-dirty burg where elbow grease is as common as chicken wings, house fires and snowflakes.
The Canadian junior team should fit right in during the holiday season at the 2011 world junior championship.
With a raft of eligible stars unavailable because they're in the National Hockey League, Hockey Canada on Monday unveiled its 39-player roster for the national team selection camp.
"The reality of it is that guys who are in the NHL are those dynamic type of players, those home-run hitters," Canada head coach Dave Cameron said during a news conference at the MasterCard Centre, where camp opens on Dec. 12.
"The strength of our program is our depth, and we believe that we can run 13 forwards and seven defencemen, if we go that way, with good goaltending."
Taylor Hall, Tyler Seguin, Matt Duchene, Evander Kane, Jeff Skinner, Ryan O'Reilly, Kyle Clifford, Brayden Schenn -- all are having varying degrees of success in the NHL. Hockey Canada is holding out hope that the Los Angeles Kings will permit Schenn to play, and there is another player, Toronto-born Brandon Pirri of the Rockford IceHogs (the AHL affiliate of the Chicago Blackhawks) who has been given a green light by his NHL club that he can participate in camp.
"It's going to be a blue-collar team, and knowing the way Dave coaches, it's a team that is going to win on working hard and out-working teams," Hockey Canada head scout Kevin Prendergast said. "There are no Crosbys or any kind of those players on this team, but there will be players who come to the forefront.
"A lot of people throughout the country don't know a lot of these players, but I think by the end of the tournament they will know a lot about them."
Canada lost in the gold medal game to the U.S. a year ago, and if it sounds like there might cause for concern, there shouldn't be. Cameron knows what he is doing. His Mississauga St. Michael's Majors, as the calendar turns into December, are the cream of the Canadian Hockey League. The Majors, who will play host to the 2011 Memorial Cup, are 22-2-0-1. This despite not having a single player among the top 20 scorers in the Ontario Hockey League.
In other words, Cameron gets everything out of his players. It could be a challenge to get as much out of his charges in a tournament as condensed as the world junior, but the questions won't be in the groundwork.
Goaltender JP Anderson has a grasp on what junior hockey fans across the country should expect. He's the starter in Mississauga and was one of four netminders to get an invitation to the selection camp.
"Dave likes to push the pace and have guys be physical," Anderson said. "A really solid up-and-down type team. Pay attention to detail. Everyone has to be committed on the defensive end. It will be a good team for a goalie to play behind."
Canada will have in camp just three players -- defencemen Ryan Ellis, Calvin de Haan and Jared Cowen -- who were part of the team in Saskatoon that suffered an overtime loss to the U.S. in the championship game.
Another defenceman, Brandon Gormley, was invited to camp but suffered a knee injury on the weekend. Undoubtedly, he will need to be replaced.
"It does suck a little bit because we could be a better team," de Haan, of the Oshawa Generals, said of the guys who will remain in the NHL.
"But it's a great opportunity for other players to step up and become that go-to kind of player. It still bothers me a little bit that we lost (last winter). We're going to be a hard-working team. I know that for a fact."