After missing the cut last year, Montreal Canadiens prospect Louis Leblanc made sure to put himself in the best possible situation to make Canada's World Junior team this time around. Leblanc left Harvard University to play for the Montreal Juniors in the QMJHL where he would get an earlier start to the season, and give himself a greater chance to impress Team Canada coaches.
"That was a big, big factor (wanting to play for Team Canada)," said Leblanc. "Camp coming up is a huge thing for me. It's something I want to be part of and it was a big factor in my decision (to leave Harvard)."
Leblanc was the Canadiens' first-round draft pick, 18th overall, in the 2009 NHL entry draft. He was named the Ivy League Rookie of the Year last year after recording 11 goals and 12 assists in 31 games for the Harvard Crimson.
Harvard's season starts much later than Canadian junior teams' however, and one of the reasons Leblanc didn't make Team Canada last year was his late start, so he made the decision to come back home and play in the QMJHL.
Despite missing time with a shoulder injury earlier in the year - Leblanc said his shoulder is now 100% healthy - the highly touted centre has put up 13 goals and 16 assists in 23 games for the Juniors. Since last year's missed cut, Leblanc said he had extra motivation to make this year's team.
"I think I showed it this summer. I had a good summer camp and I think I had a pretty decent start to the season. Now, the last step is Saturday with the last three, four days of camp. I'm excited to go and I'm eager to get going."
Leblanc had a very impressive showing at Team Canada's development camp in August and the young centre will look to emulate that performance at the starting on Saturday.
"Obviously it was this summer but I remember the camp. I'm going to get there with the same attitude, same confidence, and hopefully it goes well like that again in a few days."
Leblanc doesn't want to look too far ahead, but said he thinks he can contribute to this year's team in more ways than one.
"I just want to earn a spot right now. Hopefully I can be putting some goals in for Team Canada, but if not I think I can play a defensive role on the third or fourth line; blocking shots and being a shutdown line."
And if Leblanc does make the team? He'll only have one thing on his mind.
"Getting back the gold medal would be obviously the priority for us. Canada always wants to win gold and it'd be a great honour to be a part of that team."
Team Canada's Selection Camp begins December 11. The tournament begins in Buffalo on Boxing Day. You can see all of Canada's games on TSN, including the opener against Russia on Dec. 26 at 4pm et/1pm pt.