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Finalized Team Canada roster a reflection of their coach

TSN.ca Staff

12/15/2010 11:17:07 PM

Thirteen Team Canada hopefuls woke up to disappointment on Wednesday morning as they got the call from the coaching staff telling them they've been cut from the final roster for the World Junior Hockey Championship.

But for the 22 remaining players who survived, the sound of an early morning knock at the door meant that they had realized their dream.

"It's just a big relief right now," said forward Jaden Schwartz, who was more than happy to see TSN's Ryan Rishaug and a camera operator awaiting him outside his hotel room.  "I'm not going to lie; I didn't get a lot of sleep last night. I've been up for a couple of hours now."

Unkempt roommates Brett Connolly and Dylan Olsen echoed Schwartz's sentiments.

"It's good now," a smiling Connolly said with a severe case of bed head.

"It's better than waking up at six AM that's for sure," agreed Olsen, who was sporting a sweatshirt worn backwards and inside out having just recently been awakened. "Having a camera in my face, it feels pretty good."

Olsen will be part of a very large and experienced defence that includes returning players Ryan Ellis, Calvin de Haan and Jared Cowen alongside the likes of Simon Despres, Erik Gudbranson and Tyson Barrie.  Canada's massive blueline bunch averages 6'2" and 207 pounds and features a nice mixture of grit and puck movers.

TSN Hockey Insider Bob McKenzie feels that big game experience was a key factor in determining Canada's defense corps.
  
"They went for experience over youth," he said.  "You saw this in the decision making for the defensive picks.  Ryan Murray and Ryan Murphy may have played well enough in this camp to earn spots in the top six or seven, but (Hockey Canada) went with Simon Despres and Tyson Barrie, more experienced guys."

While underage talents Murray and Murphy failed to make the cut, highly-touted NHL draft prospect Sean Couturier secured a spot with a very strong camp that saw him tally three assists in Tuesday night's game against the CIS All-Stars.

While Couturier is in, fellow 2011 blue-chipper Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is headed home. While he was disappointed in not being part of the team, the Red Deer Rebel felt he gained something significant from the experience.

"This is a brutal feeling," said an upset Nugent-Hopkins. "But getting the opportunity as a 17-year old was a really great honour for me.  I really enjoyed the camp and I'm looking forward to coming back next year hopefully."

McKenzie believes that Nugent-Hopkins' exclusion had more to do with the team that Canada was attempting to assemble than it did with anything that he did or didn't do in camp.

"Up front, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is a guy that easily had the offensive chops to maybe be the 13th forward, but they decided to go with more experience," said McKenzie.

With Brayden Schenn as the only returning forward, Canada will have a completely different look up front. 

"It's a big, physical team," said McKenzie.  "They're fast and they are going to be very hard to play against.  There's no first line, second line, third line, fourth line.  It's more likely four second lines or four third lines.  That's the nature of this team." 

Joining Schenn, Connolly, Couturier and Schwartz up front are Carter Ashton, Curtis Hamilton, Casey Cizikas, Cody Eakin, Zack Kassian, Quinton Howden, Ryan Johansen, Louis Leblanc and Marcus Foligno.   
 
Perhaps no player helped themselves more at camp than Foligno, who was the star of the first intra-squad game on Sunday night. Head coach Dave Cameron let Foligno know just how much he was able to help his own fortunes in camp when he personally delivered the early morning knock at his hotel room door.

"We asked you when you came to make our job difficult, you didn't make it difficult, you made it impossible. Welcome to Team Canada," said Cameron to an overjoyed Foligno.

Foligno will be an interesting case as he is one of two players on the Canadian roster who were actually born in the United States (Couturier being the other as he was born in Phoenix where his father played professional hockey).  A native of Buffalo - where father Mike played for parts of 10 seasons with the Sabres - Foligno will actually be going home for the tournament. Marcus' older brother Nick, who plays with the Ottawa Senators, skated for the United States at the tournament, making them one of four sets of brothers to play for different countries in international competition. 

But a beaming Foligno was not thinking about his role in the course of history on this day. "Just to get this knock on the door instead of a phone call at six o'clock is amazing for me," he said.

For another Canadian forward, the honour of being selected was a family affair of a different kind.

"My family has been through a lot over the last couple of years and I know that for me and my family, especially my sister, they wanted me to be here and it was a great opportunity for me obviously I know," said Schwartz. 

In 2008, Schwartz's older sister Mandi was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. For two years, she battled the disease while awaiting a stem cell transplant that could save her life. Meanwhile, Jaden has established himself as one of the best all-around talents in college hockey. He said his sister would be the first person he would contract.

"I'm going to call Mandi right now and she's going to be very, very happy for me," he said. "I know my family is going to all be excited. It's a big moment for me and my family."

Rounding out the roster is Canada's last line of defence in goaltenders Olivier Roy and Mark Visentin. Coach Cameron made the tough decision to send goalie J.P. Anderson back to his junior club - the Mississauga St. Mike's Majors - where Cameron serves as head coach when not on Hockey Canada duties.

This year's team will feature 15 first-round NHL draft choices. In terms of national breakdown, the Western Hockey League is well represented with nine players, the OHL has seven on the squad while the QMJHL has four. The final two roster spots are taken up by talent from the college ranks.

The team appears to be a real blue-collar crew that is built in the likeness of their head coach. Cameron repeatedly stated that he wanted players who play all 200 feet of the ice. And he got his wish as the team should be strong in all three zones - something Bob McKenzie points out as both a strength as well as possibly being a weakness.

"(The roster is) balanced and it's score by committee," said McKenzie.  "It will be interesting to whether they can get the goals when they need them.  There are not a lot of elite, high-end offensive guys but they've got a lot of guys that can score and play both sides of the puck."

Canadian hockey fans will get their first glimpse of the team on December 20 in a pre-tournament game against Switzerland in Oshawa, Ontario.  They will open the tournament proper on Boxing Day against Team Russia. And if all goes according to plan, Cameron's crew will be playing for gold on January 5.