Team Canada's likely offensive leaders Mark Scheifele and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (The Canadian Press)
The captain and alternates are yet to be chosen and an end to the NHL lockout, but Team Canada has been chosen.
Hockey Canada announced its 23-player roster on Thursday for the IIHF world U20 championship, with a strong emphasis on depth up front and along the blueline. The Ryan Nugent-Hopkins-led squad that coach Steve Spott hopes he will have for the Dec. 26 opener at the world junior championship in Ufa, Russia includes five of the first nine players taken in the 2011 NHL draft, thanks in part to Gary Bettman and Donald Fehr. It also includes six returning players from last season's bronze-medal squad. For the first time since 2008, two 17-year-olds made the team, with the Halifax Mooseheads' two-man electric circus of Jonathan Drouin and Nathan MacKinnon making the cut.
By process of elimination, and thanks to Tweeting journalists at the camp in Calgary, here is a look at the roster Canada will depart with when it leaves Saturday for further preparation in Finland. The lineup does not have to be settled until Christmas Day, the eve of the tournament.
Here is a rundown of the roster.
Anthony Camara, Barrie Colts — The Boston Bruins third-rounder will be expected to bang and crash as an energy-line wing. The 19-year-old Camara was considered a longer shot to make the team, but being a year older than rugged Tom Wilson and having a better camp than the Washington Capitals first-rounder earned him a jersey. Camara was also more disciplined than Wilson and has been more productive offensively in the OHL.
Phillip Danault, Victoriaville Tigres — One of two Chicago Blackhawks first-round picks to make the cut, Danault is a versatile centre who could likely helm the third or fourth line and kill penalties. He was expected to be on the team provided he arrived in Calgary healthy.
Jonathan Huberdeau, Saint John Sea Dogs — Dynamic left wing will ride shotgun alongside Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Mark Scheifele on a first line that includes three of the first seven players chosen in the 2011 NHL draft — with No. 5 pick Ryan Strome as the second-line centre. Huberdeau played for a physical team in Saint John during its back-to-back QMJHL championship years, making him the line's de facto power winger.
Charles Hudon, Chicoutimi Saguéneens — The Montreal Canadiens prospect adapted seamlessly to coming in as a betting favourite to be on the squad. Hudon has consistently made a strong impression whenever he's played internationally. At a compact 5-foot-10, he is the type who can fit well into a more European hockey environment but also be tough as nails.
Boone Jenner, Oshawa Generals — One of the four returning forwards, Jenner will be expected to helm a rough-and-ready third line and provide a modicum of offence. He has 27 goals in 32 games, good for a share of the OHL lead. Jenner and Oshawa linemate Tyler Biggs, a Toronto Maple Leafs prospect, will likely face off when Canada plays Team USA on Dec. 30.
JC Lipon, Kamloops Blazers — The late bloomer becomes the second undrafted 19-year-old in as many seasons to make Team Canada, following the lead of Los Angeles Kings prospect Tanner Pearson. The right wing from Regina is considered a good skater who reads the ice well and has a good shot. At 19, he might also be more mature than Medicine Hat Tigers star Hunter Shinkaruk, a surprising cut who turned 18 in October.
Nathan MacKinnon, Halifax Mooseheads — When Hockey Canada roomed with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, that was a decent sign that Nate the Skate would follow (here we go again) Sidney Crosby's path by making the WJC squad as a 17-year-old despite Hockey Canada getting a windfall of 19-year-olds from the NHL lockout. MacKinnon's tenacity in tight quarters, particularly in puck battles, should erase any doubt he's too inexperienced for the WJC.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Oklahoma City Barons — Edmonton Oilers centre really needs no introduction. You already now he has a full NHL season to his credit, is expected to become the offensive leader on this squad and was cut two seasons ago as a callow 17-year-old.
Brett Ritchie, Niagara IceDogs — Both Barrie and Niagara have contributed a returning forward and a physical wing. The 6-foot-4, 215-pound Ritchie has been a Hockey Canada favourite since playing in the Memorial of Ivan Hlinka under-18 tournament two years ago. The Dallas Stars second-rounder is responsible defensively, but his size and hands has helped share the OHL goal lead with Jenner (27 in 32 games). He could also start on the same line as Strome, whom he skates alongside on the IceDogs.
Mark Scheifele, Barrie Colts — Winnipeg Jets prospect is sliding over to the right wing for the good of the team. Scheifele likely had the highest expectations going into the 2012 tourney of any of the four forwards who are back for a second turn as 19-year-olds.
Ryan Strome, Niagara IceDogs — Projected second-line centre, would not be a bad No. 1 if RNH was unavailable. The New York Islanders first-round pick was leading the OHL with 62 points when he departed.
Dougie Hamilton, Niagara IceDogs — Expected to be the total package on the top pairing with Morgan Rielly. The 6-foot-5, 205-pound Boston Bruins first-rounder has great reach and is good positionally, which can count for more than being physical. Hamilton covers a lot of ice and is adept offensively, with 136 points in 102 OHL games since being drafted by the B's.
Scott Harrington, London Knights — Expected to be a steady second-pairing defenceman and possible captain material. The Pittsburgh Penguins prospect led the Knights to within an overtime goal of the MasterCard Memorial Cup last season, so he's familiar with being at the precipice of a dream and having it dashed.
Ryan Murphy, Kitchener Rangers — Playmaker figures to be the power-play specialist. His week did not start auspiciously but the Carolina Hurricanes prospect has a high enough ceiling to make an impact come WJC time, in Hockey Canada's estimation.
Xavier Ouellet, Blainville-Boisbriand Armada — An ankle injury limited Ouellet's participation in camp. Arguably, his litmus test came during a successful showing in this summer's Canada-Russia Challenge series. The Detroit Red Wings second-rounder ought to be the more offensively-oriented defenceman on the second pair with Harrington.
Griffin Reinhart, Edmonton Oil Kings — The 6-foot-4, 202-pounder makes it two Islanders first-rounders on the squad. Reinhart, the No. 4 overall pick by the Islanders last summer, has the size to balance out a defence corps longer on two-way types who play more off a skating game. The 18-year-old son of former NHL star Paul Reinhart will likely be on the third pairing.
Reinhart's D partner, Vancouver Canucks prospect Frank Corrado, was cut despite having a strong camp.
Morgan Rielly, Moose Jaw Warriors — There was a collective exhale when the Toronto Maple Leafs decided their first-round prize would wear red-and-white for the duration of the tournament. The swift-skating Rielly is pencilled in as the No. 1 defenceman. He also wields his stick wisely, which is key in IIHF events: he has not had a minor penalty all season.
Tyler Wotherspoon, Portland Winterhawks — The Calgary Flames will be doubly represented defensively when Canada plays the U.S., with second-rounders Wotherspoon and Patrick Sieloff of the OHL's Windsor Spitfires manning opposiing bluelines. Wotherspoon, 19, plays a quietly effective game for Portland. As top draft prospect Seth Jones' D partner, the Surrey, B.C., native leads the Western League in plus/minus, has helped his team maintain nearly 90 per cent penalty-killing efficiency and has only eight penalty minutes.
Jordan Binnington, Owen Sound Attack — The easygoing Gravenhurst, Ont., resident has advanced considerably in the past year after growing into his 6-foot-3 frame. The 19-year-old St. Louis Blues prospect was the Memorial Cup all-star goalie two seasons ago
Jake Paterson, Saginaw Spirit— The Detroit Red Wings prospect nosed out the older and more hyped Laurent Brossoit to become one of the three goalies Canada will take overseas. Paterson, who completes the trio of Toronto-area goalies, regularly faces heavy shot loads with a young Spirit team.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.
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