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Minus Morgan Rielly, Team Canada’s outlook on blueline for WJC needs sorting out

New York Islanders prospect Griffin Reinhart could only play the final game in the prelims of the WJC (AP)

Morgan Rielly being a Maple Leaf in full somewhat clears up the picture about which defencemen will be wearing the maple leaf in about seven weeks when Team Canada sets its lineup for the world junior championship.

The 19-year-old, now officially graduated from the Moose Jaw Warriors, could potentially have been the onl D-man to play in both Canada's final game in Ufa last January and its opener in Malmö, Sweden against Germany on Boxing Day. Carryover is not necessarily essential — creating as much distance as possible from that fourth-place faceplant might not be the worst thing, he typed while shuddering as the 2013 team's player of the game cape flashed before his eyes. Rielly's absence is not going to handcuff Canada coach Brent Sutter in any way, but is a segue to hashing out a hierarchy of needs for country's junior Redeem Team.

Accounting for Griffin Reinhart's suspension — Thanks to some IIHF overreaction, the only returning D faces sitting out three Group A games before being eligible to play vs. defending champion Team USA on New Year's Eve. Should Reinhart be included even though he can only play half of the tournament? What is the risk of having him go a week without playing before being dropped into the game that will likely decide Group A and who gets the presumably softer quarter-final matchup? (No more bye to the semifinal, people; that will take some getting used to.)

Another question is whether including Reinhart will require having an eight-defenceman roster instead of the more standard. The New York Islanders first-rounder would miss games against Germany, the Czech Republic and Slovakia where Canada could probably get by using only six defenceman. Of course, that could lead to accumulated fatigue heading into the all-important Team USA tilt.

Does Mathew Dumba return — Sutter's charge from the Red Deer Rebels can play two more Minnesota Wild games before the NHL team is committed to using up the first year of his NHL entry-level contract. Dumba is averaging only 12 minutes 52 seconds of ice time across his seven games in Wild, which not that anyone should ever ask a junior blog about this, doesn't scream justification for keeping a player for the full season. Of course, Dumba could be kept up for organizational need since the Wild have lost fellow young defenceman Jonas Brodin to a broken cheekbone.

The shutdown cornerstones — That would figure to be Reinhart. Two 18-year-olds, the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds' Darnell Nurse and Swift Current Broncos' Dillon Heatherington, also fall under this heading.

Josh Morrissey, like Rielly, is a Canadian NHL team first-rounder who plays for a small-market WHL team (Larry …Speed and stability — Playing on the wider international ice surface at the Malmö Isstadion will require having a defenceman who can skate out situations. There are candidates aplenty out of the Western League, including Dumba, Winnipeg Jets first-rounder Josh Morrissey of Prince Albert, New York Islanders first-rounder Ryan Pulock of Brandon and Pittsburgh Penguins prospect Derrick Pouliot of Portland. A half-educated guess is there is room of some combo of two out of that quartet. It might turn on which defenceman the coaching stuff feels provides the most stability to back up his offensive spark.

Defensive-minded types with good wheels are also at a premium. The OHL offers Toronto Maple Leafs second-rounder Matt Finn, the Guelph Storm captain, and Islanders second-rounder Adam Pelech, the No. 1 defenceman on the resurgent Erie Otters.

There's always a darkhorse — Someone will emerge out of the whole exercise of Super Series games next month and the December camp. Boston College's Michael Matheson, a Florida Panthers 2012 first-rounder, was part of Canada's summer development camp and could furnish the sound two-way play the country's brain trust typically desires for a short tournament.

Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet. Please address any questions, comments or concerns to btnblog@yahoo.ca.

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