Buzzing The Net - Junior Hockey

In case anyone had not put two and two together, the early exits for the NHL will making selecting Team Canada a little tougher.

Hockey Canada head scout Kevin Prendergast has indirectly acknowledged as much.

"It's going to be an interesting camp because right now we still have guys with NHL teams and they're high-end players ... Originally, we thought training camp might be 32 or 33 players.

"Now it might be around 40 if we don't get some players back. I just came from Portland (Ore.) last week and they had 10 players at NHL training camps and five of them are on the radar for Team Canada." (New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal)

Hinting about a smaller camp could fairly be read as meaning the choices were more obvious. Now it's more wide-open. Without naming names, since there was no need to with those "high-end players," Prendergast might as well have been talking about the Absent Four, Taylor Hall, Brayden Schenn, Tyler Seguin and Jeff Skinner, three 100-point scorers in the Canadian Hockey League and a 50-goal man.

Barrie Colts (for now) forward Kyle Clifford, 19, was a healthy scratch on Wednesday for the Los Angeles Kings, meaning he will return be in the mix. (Clifford, should he get an invitation in December, will have good reason to be glad the selection camp will not be in far-flung St. John's, N.L.)

The point remains finding some offensive firepower among the remaining 18- and (mostly) 19-year-old Canadian Hockey League forwards will be a major question going in for Team Canada as it tries to get the gold back from Team USA.

Trying to pick the right 12 or 13 forwards two months in advance is a shot-in-the-dark. To illustrate, Washington Capitals prospect Cody Eakin (pictured), a late cut last season, has only played seven games so far for Swift Current in the Western league. (By the same token, is that Calgary Flames winger Ryan Howse who already has 17 points for the Chilliwack Bruins? Yes, yes it is.)

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

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