Forget the ghost of Christmas Past — the ghost rosters might not be thrown out until Christmas Present.
Hockey Canada's announcement of the national junior team selection roster included some clarity regarding their top-shelf talents who might have cracked the NHL this season. Locked-out Edmonton Oilers centre Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is expected to be the centrepiece of the Steve Spott-coached squad. Several others such as returning players Jonathan Huberdeau, Dougie Hamilton, Mark Scheifele and Ryan Strome, along with Dallas Stars prospect Brett Ritchie, were placed on NHL emergency recall lists several weeks ago.
"Barring health, we would expect Ryan to be here on the 10th of December just like any player invited today. I've had conversations — a number of them — with [Oilers GM] Steve Tambellini. We'll continue to talk about the [shoulder] exam Ryan had today in Edmonton and we'll check his status later. Right now, I don't anticipate a change to him being here on the 10th."
It appears there is no assurance the aforementioned players would not be summoned to a NHL camp in the next three weeks.
"We have spoke personally to each NHL general manager who has a player on the recall list," said Scott Salmond, Hockey Canada's senior director of men's national teams. "We haven't at any time asked for commitment. We have just talked about the announcement [Monday] and got their support in announcing those players. We've agreed that we'll continue to talk as things may or may not change with these [NHL-PA negotiations].
"That's true all the way through," Salmond added. "We don't have to have our roster set until Dec. 25 [the eve of the tournament]. We're hopeful that we're gonna leave Canada on the 15th of December with the 23 players who are gonna stay with our team. But we haven't asked for that commitment."
Sweden won the gold medal last season despite losing 19-year-olds Gabriel Landeskog and Adam Larsson to the NHL. It also used a lineup with nine players aged 18 and under. Hockey Canada believes it needs the mature talent to win, though.
"The Scheifeles and the Stromes and the Dougie Hamiltons, they're that much more mature and physically stronger," head scout Kevin Prendergast said. "The tournament, it's a 20-year-old tournament. The physical part of it ... we just witnessed that [in the Subway Super Series] with the Russians, who are a very strong team. It gives us that much more of a chance."
Scheifele is the only one beyond Nugent-Hopkins who played NHL games last fall, scoring once in seven games for the Winnipeg Jets. The Barrie Colts star had a so-so tournament last time, meaning his performance as a go-to scorer will be very hot-button.
"When you come back a second time, you're a better person for it," Prendergast said. "In the summertime against the Russians, I thought Mark was one of our best players. He's that much more stronger and he's probably more mature about the whole process. We're expecting big things from him."
Nugent-Hopkins, Scheifele and Huberdeau are Canada's projected top line. It won't be known if that can be pencilled or penned in.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.