Nashville Predators defencemen Shea Weber and Dan Hamhuis have both accepted invitations to join the Canadian team in Moscow. Canada’s first game is on Saturday against Germany.
Four of the five defencemen on the roster have worn the Maple Leaf before. Weber (2005), Hamhuis (2001, 2002), Barret Jackman (2000, 2001) and Eric Brewer (1998) all previously played for Canada in the world junior tournament. Brewer also won gold at the 2002 Olympics and 2003 and 2004 world championships.
Only Mike Commodore will be making his international debut. The 27-year-old won a Stanley Cup with Carolina last spring and got to Game 7 of the final while playing with Calgary in 2004.
Hamhuis, a 24-year-old from Smithers, B.C., also played for the Canadian team that finished fourth a year ago at the world championship in Latvia. He had six goals and 20 points in 81 games for Nashville this year.
His teammate Weber established himself as one of Nashville’s best young players in his first full NHL season. The 21-year-old from Sicamous, B.C., scored 17 goals and had 40 points while playing in 79 games this year.
The Predators were eliminated from the playoffs by San Jose on Friday night.
General manager Steve Yzerman and coach Andy Murray have been keen observers during the opening round of the post-season. They, along with a staff of advisers, have identified players from every team to invite once they’ve been eliminated.
Canada currently has nine forwards, including 18-year-old Jordan Staal of the Pittsburgh Penguins who was added to the roster on Saturday. The team will likely carry 13 players up front and is considering several options to fill out the remaining four spots.
After the additions of Hamhuis and Weber, two vacant spots remain on the blue-line. A third goalie will also be added to join Cam Ward of the Hurricanes and Dwayne Roloson of the Edmonton Oilers.
The first group of Canadian players departed for Finland on Sunday. They’ll participate in a training camp that includes junior player Jonathan Toews of Winnipeg and six European-based professionals. Canada will play an exhibition game with the Finns on Tuesday night in Tampere.
The team arrives in Moscow on Thursday and will have two more days to prepare for its opening game against Germany. Canada will also play Norway and Slovakia in the first round.
This is an important event for Hockey Canada, which is already looking ahead to the Olympics in 2010.
Not only can it evaluate the performance of young players like Weber and first-time executives like Yzerman on the international stage, it can earn valuable world ranking points if the team has a good showing.
Canada has slipped to fourth in the rankings and faces tougher preliminary round competition at these tournaments as a result. It was rated No. 1 in the world heading into last year’s Turin Olympics before finishing a disappointing seventh.