Status of NHL players for Canadian junior team unclear for all except Brule

Columbus Blue Jackets forward Gilbert Brule will not be that player, however.

Brule declined an invitation to the Canadian team’s summer camp. Blue Jackets general manager Doug MacLean said at the time Brule was instead focusing on his upcoming NHL season.

Hockey Canada’s policy is that if you don’t attend summer camp, you’re not eligible to play in the world junior hockey championship.

“I think that’s fair to the kids who do really want to be there, who do prepare themselves to be there and make the commitment to show up,” Hockey Canada’s head scout Jim Hammett said. “I’m in 100 per cent agreement on it.”

While Hockey Canada has inquired about the availability of Montreal Canadiens forward Guillaume Latendresse, Pittsburgh Penguins centre Jordan Staal and San Jose Sharks defenceman Marc-Edouard Vlasic, the Blue Jackets were not asked for 19-year-old Brule.

The policy has been in place since 2001, when Stephen Weiss did not attend the summer camp citing injury and burnout as his reasons, yet pled his case to be considered for the Canadian team.

Weiss did play for Canada in the 2002 world junior championship, but Hockey Canada at that point made attendance at summer camp mandatory, even if the invited player was injured.

The Canadian team’s selection camp roster will be announced Monday and will include four goaltenders, 12 defencemen and a yet-to-be determined number of forwards.

The camp starts Dec. 10 in Calgary and the 22-player roster for the 2007 world junior hockey championship will be named five days later.

Two goaltenders, seven defencemen and 13 forwards will be chosen to represent Canada, which opens defence of the gold medal Dec. 26 in Leksand, Sweden, against the host country.

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Hammett hasn’t received definitive answers about 19-year-olds Latendresse and Vlasic or 18-year-old Staal from their respective NHL clubs.

“They haven’t ruled anything out, but they haven’t committed to anything,” Hammett said. “It’s still a little bit early as far as that goes.

“We’d love to have them, but we’re preparing as though we’re not going to get them.”

NHL teams have loaned their teenagers to Canada if they weren’t getting enough ice time and often the Canadian squad is a prelude to a return to the player’s major junior club.

Vlasic, who was cut from last year’s Canadian team, is averaging almost 21 minutes a game for San Jose, Staal about 14 minutes for the Penguins and Latendresse almost 12, although his ice time has increased recently with an injury to teammate Chris Higgins.

“Not only have they made the teams, but they play pretty important roles on the teams,” Hammett said. “Whether those teams are willing to give that kind of player up, who knows?”

Hammett says an NHL player can be added to the selection camp roster after it is announced, but it has to be before camp opens Dec. 10.

The Canadian team will be a contender for gold again even without any NHL players.

Canada will have 11 veterans – five defencemen and six forwards – from the team that won gold in Vancouver, unless a returning player loses his spot to a newcomer at selection camp.

Notes – USA Hockey will name its junior team Tuesday . . . The ADT Canada-Russia Challenge series concludes Thursday in Kamloops, B.C. The Canadian Hockey League had already won the six-game series with a 4-0 record against the Russian selects heading into Wednesday’s game in Chilliwack, B.C.