The Canadian team heading to the Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournament will have a decidedly different feel than the national under-18 squad that finished a disappointing seventh at the world championships in April.
To start with, this group of 1993-born players will lean heavily on the defence corps. But, more importantly, this team is made up of the best of the best in the age group, not a group of players picked because their teams were eliminated from the playoffs.
"These kids have earned their way on the team," Team Canada coach George Burnett said. "There was some real talent on the spring team as well. But there was no evaluation camp, you were named to the team.
"Apart from the Olympics, this is the only time we send the best players available. It's a different makeup. These kids should be proud and relieved, as I'm sure they were after seeing some of their faces (Tuesday)."
Just seven defencemen were named to the team Tuesday following a four-day selection camp in Calgary. Burnett opted to include 13 forwards on the 22-player roster, gambling that his blueliners and goaltenders, Tyson Teichmann of the Belleville Bulls and Robin Gusse of the Chicoutimi Sagueneens, will be enough to get the job done during the five-day, eight-team tournament in Slovakia and the Czech Republic later this month.
"We talked about the 12 (forwards) and eight (defence)," Burnett said. "When we looked at it ... we really felt the depth of our blueline was going to carry us. I think (success) comes back to how we're going to play on the blueline.
"Having that 13th forward covers you off if you have an injury. And often times that guy who starts out as the 13th forward ends up playing an important role."
Ryan Murray of the Everett Silvertips, Myles Bell of the Regina Pats, Dougie Hamilton of the Niagara IceDogs, Scott Harrington of the London Knights, Xavier Ouelett of the Montreal Junior, Stuart Percy of the Mississauga St.
Michael's Majors and Duncan Siemens of the Saskatoon Blades round out the defence. Hamilton's brother Freddie, a forward with the IceDogs, played for the Canadian team in Belarus.
The group of forwards has a real Ontario Hockey League feel, with 10 hailing from OHL squads. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins of the Red Deer Rebels, already being touted as a top pick in the 2011 NHL draft, is the lone Western Hockey Leaguer among the forwards while Phillip Danault of the Victoriaville Tigres and Jonathan Huberdeau of the Saint John Sea Dogs were the only two from the Quebec Major Junior League picked.
Austen Brassard and Michael Curtis of Belleville, Boone Jenner and Lucas Lessio of the Oshawa Generals, David Broll of the Erie Otters, Daniel Catenacci of the Sault Ste, Marie Greyhounds, Garrett Meurs of the Plymouth Whalers, Matt Puempel of the Peterborough Petes, Alan Quine of the Kingston Frontenacs and Brett Ritchie of the Sarnia Sting were the other forwards named to the team.
It's not entirely out of the ordinary that so many OHL players made the team, never mind three Bulls, given Burnett's role as head coach of Belleville and familiarity with the league.
"I was surprised when somebody mentioned the number on the team," Burnett said, adding that he set aside all league and team affiliations when deciding on his roster. "You may have a little bit of inside information on your own guys. There will be a few critics. I'm not going to waste my time worrying about it."
Murray, the lone holdover from the springtime disaster in Belarus, was named team captain.
"I was fortunate to work with Ryan a little bit at the world championships in the spring," Burnett said. "It was a natural choice. He's a man of few words but he was a real easy choice for us."
Canada will play the Czechs in an exhibition game Saturday before opening the tournament against Sweden on Monday.