Etobicoke, Ont. - By their own admission, Team Canada's officials know they don't have a Jordan Eberle or a John Tavares on the World Junior Championship roster for 2011. They also don't seem to be too concerned about the lack of a superstar.
“I don't know how dynamic we'll be,” said coach Dave Cameron, “but we'll be a deep team, one that can wear other teams down.”
Cameron was speaking at the MasterCard Centre in Toronto, where Hockey Canada announced the 39-player camp roster for the 2011 world junior squad, which will have its final tryout Dec. 12-15 at the same location. Why only 39 and not a round 40? Because the team is still holding out hope the Los Angeles Kings will release center Brayden Schenn for the tournament.
“I don't think they were prepared to let him go right now,” said head scout Kevin Prendergast. “If he does come, it's like getting an early Christmas present.”
Schenn, who played on last year's silver medal squad, has played eight games for L.A. this season and is currently on the Kings’ roster after returning from a conditioning stint in the American League. One more NHL game will trigger his entry level contract and speculation has been rampant as to whether he will be returned to the Western League's Brandon Wheat Kings.
In terms of the camp roster's makeup, notable omissions up front included Tyler Toffoli of the Ottawa 67s, Scott Glennie of the Brandon Wheat Kings and Ethan Werek of the Kingston Frontenacs. All three had skated at Team Canada's summer camp.
In net, JP Anderson (Mississauga) was the lone new name from the summer. He essentially replaced Jean-Francois Berube (Montreal), who was left off this time. The other three hopefuls are Olivier Roy (Acadie-Bathurst), Mark Visentin (Niagara) and Calvin Pickard (Seattle).
While there are few guarantees on the roster, the defense will be strong. Returnees Ryan Ellis, Jared Cowen and Calvin de Haan bring the only WJC experience on the team and all three are blueliners.
Coach Cameron, whose top-ranked Mississauga St-Michael's Majors win through depth and structure rather than fireworks, singled out forwards such as Louis Leblanc (Montreal), Brandon Pirri (Rockford, AHL), Jaden Schwartz (Colorado College) and Cody Eakin (Swift Current) as players who impressed him at the summer camp. Along with goaltender Anderson, Cameron also has Majors captain Casey Cizikas on the roster, who had an inside take on what his fellow Canada hopefuls should expect from the structure-based coach.
“Structure wins games,” Cizikas said. “If you're running around, that's when you get caught out of position and that's when the other team gets chances. When you're structured, you should always be in the right place at the right time. It's definitely fun, but it takes a lot of practice.”
Prendergast echoed that sentiment.
“There's no superstar,” he said. “This is going to be a blue-collar team.”
The biggest surprise inclusion was Everett Silvertips defenseman Ryan Murray, who just turned 17 in late September and isn't draft eligible until 2012. Top 2011 prospects Sean Couturier (Drummondville), Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (Red Deer) and Ryan Murphy (Kitchener) also got camp spots.
Continuing a recent trend, the Quebec League suffered in the announcement. Just six of the 39 players hailed from that circuit and one is Brandon Gormley (Moncton), who just sustained what is believed to be a long-term knee injury.
“It's just the way it is,” Prendergast said. “We weren't looking at where they come from, just what they could do to help the team.”
The highest-scoring player on the roster right now is Medicine Hat's Linden Vey, with 47 points in 24 games.
Ryan Kennedy is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey's Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Fridays and The Hot List appears Tuesdays.
For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.