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Ross To Sit Out Intra-Squad Games

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs
   
   
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ST. JOHN'S, N.L. -- Only seven of the 43 drafted players at the national junior hockey team development camp were selected by Canadian-based NHL teams.

Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Brad Ross of the Portland Winter Hawks is at camp but is not skating due to a groin pull, while Ottawa Senators defenceman Jared Cowen of the Spokane Chiefs is also sidelined.

Montreal has Leblanc and forward Brendan Gallagher of the Vancouver Giants, while the Edmonton Oilers have forward Curtis Hamilton of the Saskatoon Blades and goalie Olivier Roy of the Acadie-Bathurst Titan. The Calgary Flames have forward Ryan Howse of the Chilliwack Bruins.

The Los Angeles Kings have six prospects in camp _ goalie Jean-Francois Berube of Montreal, defenceman Nicolas Deslauriers of the Titan and forwards Tyler Toffoli of the Ottawa 67s, Linden Vey of the Medicine Hat Tigers, Kyle Clifford of the Barrie Colts and Brayden Schenn of the Brandon Wheat Kings.

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Louis Leblanc didn't make Canada's team for the world junior hockey championship last winter and the Montreal Canadiens prospect doesn't want to miss out again.

A knock against the Montreal native at the team selection camp last December was that he had not played many games in his first year at Harvard University. He fixed that by dropping out this summer and joining the Verdun Juniors of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

''It was a really hard decision for me and my family leaving the best school in the world,'' Leblanc said Thursday at the Canadian team development camp. ''I was very happy there.

''I just felt I needed to play more games and it was time to move on. I'm happy with my decision. (Juniors) camps starts next week and we're going to have a good team and hopefully, have a good season and go far in the playoffs.''

It will help that he's been through the Team Canada selection process before.

''I'm one of the older guys now,'' the 19-year-old said. ''You know what the coaches expect, you've been through the practices and team-builders.

''Every camp is hard and just because you're a second-year player doesn't mean you'll make the team, but I think I have more confidence and feel more comfortable.''

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No Connolly or McFarland: A year ago, it wouldn't have been imagined that Brett Connolly or John McFarland would not be invited to the Canadian junior development camp.

Both were among the top under-18 players in the country at that time, but things happened. Neither is in St. John's.

Connolly missed all but 16 games of last season for the Prince George Cougars while nursing a hip injury suffered at the mid-summer Ivan Hlinka under-18 tournament in the Czech Republic. Based on his talent alone, the Tampa Bay Lightning drafted him sixth overall in June.

McFarland was left out simply for having a weak season with the Sudbury Wolves. He went 33rd to the Florida Panthers.

Team Canada head scout Al Murray said Connolly worked hard to get onto the team for the world under-18s last April, but his lack of conditioning showed.

''We talked to Brett and said 'You just need a summer of training under your belt, get your strength back and work on all the off-ice stuff and then start your season and get back to being the Brett Connolly we all know,''' said Murray, who expects him to be ready for the team selection camp. ''We didn't see it in Brett's best interest to interrupt his summer program to come to a camp like this after hardly playing at all last year.''

As for McFarland, Murray said ''his most recent performances didn't warrant an invite to this camp, but he is highly skilled. He could be back in our program by Christmas easily if he starts off the season well.''

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Long and short:
The tallest players in camp are six-foot-eight defenceman Taylor Doherty of the Kingston Frontenacs and six-foot-seven rearguard Brett Ponich of Portland. The shortest is the five-foot-eight Gallagher.

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