For Team Canada holdovers such as Nic Petan and Chris Bigras, it's a different dynamic

Canada's Nic Petan celebrates his goal during second period action against the USA at the IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships in Malmo, Sweden on Tuesday, December 31, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Frank Gunn
Canada's Nic Petan celebrates his goal during second period action against the USA at the IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships in Malmo, Sweden on Tuesday, December 31, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Frank Gunn

Team Canada's holdovers from 2014 don't have a laurel to rest on.

Typically, any potential returnee arrives at the selection camp with a job to lose, what with being 12 months older and ideally wiser from his previous go-round with the Maple Leaf. Canada has seven members of the fourth-place 2014 iteration in camp without even counting potential NHL loaners. However, the under-20 talent pool available is significant deeper than it was a year ago, so having been through it once doesn't carry as much cachet. That will make how Winnipeg Jets prospect Nic Petan and Colorado Avalanche blueline prospect Chris Bigras fit into the big scheme, in particular, a storyline to watch. The Portland Winterhawks' Petan was spotted last winter in Malmo, Sweden, while the Owen Sound Attack's Bigras wound up being the  No. 7 defenceman.

"It [being a returning player] just means you come in with a lot more importance placed on being willing to battle," said Petan, who arrived at the selection camp in time for Friday's midday practice after being snowed in overnight in Chicago. "Our mentality is to push thev pace as far as we can go. Today was a good step, as my first practice, it was a good start for the team."

"It's kind of difficult," the Delta, B.C., native said of putting last year's disappointment behind him. "You don't really think about that stuff, you don't really think about what happened in the past, really, It's a new year, it's a new tournament. We're lucky to have it in Canada. We'll have the whole crowd behind us, the whole country behind us. That's the main thing. It's a new year."

That sentiment was echoed by Bigras, who is likely not as strong a lock as the other returning rearguard Josh Morrissey, who can play right defence and is also a power-play quarterback.

"Every new year is a new year and everyone has to prove himself every day," said Bigras, a soft-spoken native of Elmvale, Ont., near Barrie. "I'm just trying to use the time I spent getting to know the atmosphere of this tournament; I'm trying to be able to take that and have a little more confidence."

'That's only helped Nic'

Petan, in the midst of a repeat 100-point season with the Winterhawks, earned a spot on a '14 team that was desperately short of skilled 19-year-old forwards. (The 1994-birth cohort was one of the weakest in memory for Canadian-born forwards, and the Calgary Flames also kept centre Sean Monahan.) His scoring rate has declined this season in Portland (33 points in 27 games). However, playing in a closer-to-the-vest system under Jamie Kompon, who became the 'Hawks head coach after Mike Johnston was hired in June by the NHL's Pittsburgh Penguins, could have a payoff for Petan.

"That's only helped Nic," Hockey Canada head scout Ryan Jankowski said on Friday. "With the old system that Portland played in [under Johnston], they were very run and gun, not much defensive awareness in their games. And that's not to take anything away from the way they played, but that was just the system that they went with and had a lot of success with it. This year they've had to adjust. There was a little bit of time for Nic where he had to adjust himself but I think it's going to help him a lot at an event like this and through these exhibition games. Now he's more aware in his own zone where before, at this a year ago, it took some time."

Last season, Bigras was included on the 25-man preliminary roster over the more heralded Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds captain Darnell Nurse, who seems like a lock for either the first or second pairing. Hockey Canada will have some tough calls as it gets from 10 defencemen in camp to seven.

Bigras, with not a lot of fanfare while playing in off-the-beaten-path Owen Sound, has helped the Attack stay competitive in a stacked Midwest Division and is also third in defenceman scoring with 28 points in as many games.

"I've had to assume more of a leadership role back in Owen Sound," Bigras said. "So far our season's been going well. I've been working on my shot a lot and I've been able to put up more points because of that. It's just more of a maturity thing."

Overall, Team Canada is trying to stress the "Olympic model" of using all four lines to dictate pace and tempo. The time-honoured bottom six/top six model that worked so well at the under-20 level has had its day.

"We want to have a more skilled, more balanced group," Jankowski said. "The last two years at this tournament, Canada scored two goals from the third and fourth lines. So we want to make sure we have balance of skill — that all of the players have some sort of skill talent so that if our top two lines do get neutralized, we have enough scoring and output from our third and fourth lines.

"That's the Olympic model that they've run with. It's a little bit different when you're dealing with junior hockey players, about adapting into a little bit of a different role. But, we want to make sure we have balanced skill throughout the lineup, without sacrificing the Canadian energy, the Canadian physicality and the size and strength requirements you need to be able to play in this tournament."

There's an understanding that nothing is given. On the whole, though, the world junior is much more of a mecca when it's in the Great White North. By no means does anyone who was part of the 2014 team treat a spot as an entitlement. But after losing thousands of kilometres from home, they have had the prospect of winning while playiing in front of a NHL-size crowd as their summit.

"It'll be extremely, extremely loud, and focused as far as media goes, in Montreal and here in Toronto," Bigras said. "It will be an even better atmosphere for the players. We can take excitement from that and use it to our advantage.

"It's pressure, but you have to view it as a good thing, Pressure's just an opportunity to succeed."

Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.