With only four days to go until the start of the 2010 IIHF World Junior Championship, hockey fans across the country are buzzing about Team Canada's chances of winning a sixth straight gold medal at the tournament, and which players will be heading the charge.
"That's huge, that's history right there," said Canadian defenceman Ryan Ellis of the potential for six straight gold medals. "To be part of a team like that would be pretty special."
"Five gold medals is very surprising and if we could get six that would be something that could bring Canada to its feet," said forward Taylor Hall. "And that's something we'd love to do."
According to TSN hockey analysts Bob McKenzie and Pierre McGuire, Hall could be one of the potential game-breakers in this tournament.
"In terms of breakout stars, Taylor Hall, potential number one overall pick in this year's NHL Entry Draft, looks as though he is ready to emerge on the world stage," said McKenzie.
McGuire compared Hall to Mark Messier.
"He's got size, speed and skill, and he knows how to make the players around him better," McGuire said.
TSN host James Duthie pointed out, however, that Hall isn't alone when it comes to potential Canadian stars.
"Team Canada is an aggressive, physical, strong-skating team. It has plenty of potential game-breakers in Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall and Nazem Kadri," Duthie said. "They also have the home crowd behind them in Saskatoon. When Canada plays at home, I believe it's worth almost a goal a game."
TSN play-by-play announcer Gord Miller also likes Canada's chances.
"Team Canada's strengths are its defence, led by Ryan Ellis, Colten Teubert and Alex Pietrangelo; the presence of four members of the defending Memorial Cup champion Windsor Spitfires; and playing on home ice," Miller said.
While home ice is generally an advantage, Duthie wondered how tough it would be for the Canadians to follow five straight golds.
"Pressure could also be a factor for Team Canada," Duthie said. "When Canada expects nothing less than gold for a sixth straight year this has to weigh heavily on a bunch of teenagers."
Pietrangelo said the team was ready for the challenge.
"To represent your country is one thing, to make it six in a row is another," said Pietrangelo. "I don't think any guy in that room would trade this situation or this pressure for anything."
McKenzie said Canada had no glaring weaknesses, but had plenty of competition.
"I don't really do specific predictions for this tournament, but I would say Canada and Sweden – on paper – are considered co-favourites, but the Russians are also a threat for the gold medal," McKenzie said. "I think the U.S. is a sleeper pick – not experienced enough to rate as a pre-tournament favourite for gold but it's a young and talented team that could upset or knock off one of the gold medal threats. It's tough to bet against Canada on home ice, though."