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Bouwmeester Climbing Canada's Depth Chart

by Staff Writer / St. Louis Blues

OTTAWA -- Defenseman Jay Bouwmeester has done this before, and it always turns out the same way.

When he was named to the Team Canada roster for the World Cup of Hockey 2016 on Aug. 24, it was the third time Bouwmeester had been added to the national team for a best-on-best tournament as an injury replacement, the third time it was announced within weeks of the start of the tournament and the third time he was replacing a significant player.

Two weeks prior to the opening game of the World Cup of Hockey 2004, Bouwmeester was named to replace Chris Pronger. He began the tournament as a reserve, but injuries to Ed Jovanovski and Wade Redden allowed Bouwmeester to play the final four games of the tournament, including the championship game when Canada defeated Finland 3-2.

Two days before the opening ceremonies of the 2006 Torino Olympics, Bouwmeester was added to the roster to replace Scott Niedermayer and played in all six games in the tournament before Canada was eliminated by Russia in the quarterfinals.

So being asked to replace Duncan Keith on Team Canada for this latest best-on-best tournament is nothing new for Bouwmeester, but it still remains to be seen if he will wind up with a regular spot in the lineup like he did on the two prior occasions.

After practice Monday, it appeared that might happen.

Bouwmeester did not play in Team Canada's first pretournament game against Team USA on Friday but stepped into the lineup for the second game Saturday, taking Jake Muzzin's spot next to Drew Doughty.

At practice Monday, Bouwmeester was skating next to Doughty, and Muzzin was skating as the seventh defenseman, a solid performance Saturday appearing to allow Bouwmeester to jump ahead of Muzzin on coach Mike Babcock's depth chart.

Bouwmeester, however, was not ready to make any assumptions based on one practice.

"I don't know about that, everyone was going to get to play over the first two games in a back-to-back," he said. "I like to play and I felt pretty good. You just play hockey. It's pretty fun to play with all these guys. The forwards make it, I don't want to say easy, but make things pretty clear for you.

"As long as you're moving the puck and giving it to guys that are open, they'll make you look pretty good."

That is exactly what Bouwmeester does so well.

His skating ability has always been his calling card and it is what makes Bouwmeester so valuable in tournaments like this, when speed and poise are at a premium, and mistakes can lead to an early exit. There were a number of other options for Team Canada general manager Doug Armstrong when Keith pulled out of the tournament, but Bouwmeester's international experience, Babcock's familiarity with him and that speed and poise led Armstrong to take someone he knows very well from the St. Louis Blues.

After watching him in one game, Babcock was impressed.

"I've had [Bouwmeester a lot], so he's a real good player," he said. "He covers a ton of ice, he's got real good hockey sense. The thing about Bo on a national team, he never worries about anything except being Bo, and he kind of likes that and he's good at it. I think he's a real good player.

"The other thing people don't understand is he's 32, it's not like he's old; he can still skate. I thought he helped us a lot."

Bouwmeester and forward Joe Thornton are the only two players on Team Canada who played in the previous World Cup in 2004, but even though the way he made the team is very similar, that's where the comparisons end.

"It was a totally different situation for me," Bouwmeester said. "I was 20 years old, Mario Lemieux, Joe Sakic and those guys were there, guys that were big stars when I was a kid. So just to be a part of that group and be around those guys was really cool. Then I got to play, so that was exciting. It was a really cool experience, just being around that group you learn from those guys."

Bouwmeester will turn 33 on Sept. 27, making him the oldest defenseman on Team Canada, but he's still learning from the group he is playing with now.

"You don't get this group of guys together very often," he said. "I think to be around it, even if you're not playing, you're practicing at such a high level. You don't get this at a normal training camp or summer skates or anything like that."

Practically all of his teammates had all summer to prepare for World Cup training camp, but not Bouwmeester. Still, he did not look the least bit out of place over the course of the first practice on Sept. 5, a high-paced, hourlong skate.

His teammate and regular defense partner with the Blues wasn't surprised to see Bouwmeester arrive as prepared as he was.

"People asked me that and I told them he's the last guy you need to worry about," defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. "He keeps himself in tremendous shape all the time. I was pretty sure he was going to come in and not miss a beat, and I was right."

Babcock has often said he likes his defensemen to be predictable, which is what makes it difficult for offensive defensemen like Kris Letang of the Pittsburgh Penguins and P.K. Subban of the Nashville Predators to make the roster.

Bouwmeester, on the other hand, might as well have the word "predictable" tattooed on his forehead.

"He's predictable and consistent, those are the two biggest things," Pietrangelo said. "Every night you know what you're going to get from him."

That is why when Canada plays its first game of the World Cup against Team Czech Republic at Air Canada Centre in Toronto on Saturday (7 p.m. CT; ESPNEWS, SN, TVA Sports), Bouwmeester has a very good chance of being in uniform.

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