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Lucas Lessio’s Team Canada hopes dashed by surgery

Phoenix Coyotes prospect Lucas Lessio (OHL Images)It's always disappointing to see a player who seemed to be hitting his stride at the junior level have his progress stopped by an injury.

In August, 19-year-old speedster Lucas Lessio was very impactful for Team Canada during the Canada-Russia Challenge, marking himself as a candidate for the squad which will venture to Ufa, Russia, for the world junior championship.

Lessio appeared to be a favourite of Team Canada coach Steve Spott. However, as TSN's Bob McKenzie reported Thursday, the Oshawa Generals left wing's chances of wearing the Maple Leaf overseas for reals have been dashed by a freak injury.

At the time, Lessio was a surprise inclusion on the 28-player roster Canada named for the August series. The Phoenix Coyotes late second-round pick put up good but not great numbers (34 goals, 59 points in 66 games) in his post-draft season while the Generals struggled to an eighth-place finish in the OHL's Eastern Conference despite having the talent to finish much higher.

He seemed to be playing a more composed game early on this season under the new regime in Oshawa of coach D.J. Smith and general manager Jeff Twohey (who was scouting for Phoenix when Lessio was drafted in 2011). Lessio was by no means a lock for Team Canada, but his quickness and scoring touch would have earned him a long look at the final selection camp. In lieu of playing doctor, one might also presume that with tendon damage, that projected 3-month absence is pretty accurate.

The Generals lost to Plymouth on Sunday in the game when Lessio was injured. Without him, they needed a four-round shootout to shade last-place Ottawa on Wednesday. Oshawa (9-4-0-1, .679 point percentage) is deep up front with essentially three NHL first-rounders, centres Scott Laughton and Boone Jenner (who would go in the first round instead of the second if the 2011 draft was done over) and right wing Tyler Biggs, but Lessio adds a key ingredient. As it stands, each of the two best teams in the OHL's East Division are each running with a top forward, since the second-place Belleville Bulls are minus 18-year-old captain Brendan Gaunce for at least three weeks.

Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at neatesager@yahoo.ca and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.

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