It was a day of redemption for forward Angelo Esposito as he made the final roster for the 2009 edition of Team Canada's World Junior Hockey squad. Last season the 19-year-old joined Dan Cleary as the only players to be cut on three separate occasions.
Canada also decided to go heavy on defence, opting for the first time ever to go with eight defencemen and just 12 forwards.
Among the final 16 cuts made on Monday were Memorial Cup winning netminder Tyson Sexsmith and Jake Allen; defencemen Travis Hamoic, Kevin Marshall, Patrick Wiercioch, Jarred Spurgeon, Brendan Smith and Tyler Cuma, who suffered a knee injury during camp; forwards Evander Kane, Riley Nash, Jamie Arniel, Nazem Kadri, Matt Duchene, Brayden Schenn, Taylor Hall and Matt Calvert, who was hampered with a back injury suffered prior to camp.
Hamoic, Duchene, Allen, Schenn, Hall and Cuma all won gold under coach Pat Quinn at the world under-18 championship last spring.
Cuma likely would have made the team, but he injured his knee on Friday night. Calvert was unable to play intersquad games due to a back injury.
Among those getting good news on Monday morning were goaltenders Chet Pickard and Dustin Tokarski. They will man the nets for Team Canada.
The forwards are Esposito, John Tavares, Tyler Ennis, Jamie Benn, Zach Boychuk, Patrice Cormier, Stefan Della Rovere, Chris DiDomenico, Jordan Eberle, Cody Hodgson, Brett Sonne and Dana Tyrell.
The defencemen are Ryan Ellis, Keith Aulie, Cody Goloubef, Thomas Hickey, Tyler Myers, Alex Pietrangelo, P.K. Subban and Colten Teubert.
Tavares, Boychuk, Subban and Hickey all return from last year's Gold Medal winning team.
Tavares will be expected to lead Canada's offence. The Oshawa Generals forward has 25 goals, 27 assists and a plus-8 rating over his 31 games in the OHL this season. Tavares is eligible for the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.
Boychuck has 12 goals, 14 assists and is a plus-18 in 21 games for the WHL's Lethbridge Hurricanes. The 19-year-old was drafted by the Carolina Hurricanes in the 1st round (14th overall) of the 2008 draft.
Subban has helped the Belleville Bulls' to the top of the OHL's Eastern Conference. The 19-year-old has put together impressive offensive numbers this season. He has played in 29 games for the Bulls and has 37 points (4 goals, 33 assists) with a plus-27 rating. He was drafted by the Montreal Canadiens in the 2nd round (43rd overall) of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft.
The 19-year-old Hickey has played in 26 games for the Seattle Thunderbirds of the WHL this season and has six goals, 12 assists and is a plus-13. He was drafted by the Los Angeles Kings in the 1st round (4th overall) in 2007.
Hickey was also named team captain. Tavares, Hodgson, Boychuk and Subban are the alternates.
"Tavares and Hodgson, the one-two punch at centre, they're going to be the guys to lead the charge offensively," said TSN Hockey Analyst Bob McKenzie.
Esposito was drafted by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 1st round (20th overall) in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. He was included in a deadline day trade between the Penguins and Thrashers this past February that saw Atlanta send Marian Hossa and Pascal Dupuis to Pittsburgh for Esposito, Colby Armstrong, Erik Christensen and a 1st-round selection in 2008.
Esposito has 15 goals with 12 assists and is a plus-5 over his 21 games for Montreal in the QMJHL.
""Esposito looked so-so in Friday's scrimmage, but on Saturday and Sunday he really stepped up his play and worked much harder," said McKenzie. "Esposito probably gets in, in large part because he worked so hard, but also because he's a 19-year old who's got some experience. He made it over some of the youngsters on this team - the draft eligible players like Evander Kane and Matt Duchene."
One of the reasons for taking an extra defenceman was the play of Ellis, who became the first blue-liner to make the team as a 17-year-old since Jay Bouwmeester in 2001. Ellis is expected to be a power-play specialist.
"They were a little concerned, I think, that if they played him as the number seven defenceman and one of the top six guys got injured, they'd have to put him out there on even strength situations against some of the powerhouse teams like the Russians or Sweden and it might have been too much, too soon, for Ellis," said McKenzie.
"It's interesting when you look at the team. There's some big guys on defence, but they're not physically punishing on defence. Puck-handling is their strength."
Several of the eligible players from last season's squad were not made available for the tournament. Players like Steven Stamkos, Drew Doughty, Brandon Sutter and Luke Schenn will be remaining with their NHL clubs.
The 2009 version of the team will take to the ice in Ottawa looking to bring home a fifth straight gold medal and 15th for Canada in the history of the tournament.
In 2008, Canada had their 20-game winning streak at the tournament snapped by Sweden in the first round only to defeat the Swedes 3-2 in overtime of the Gold Medal Game.