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Canada camp features three players from 2015 team

by Tim Wharnsby

TORONTO -- The Canadian National Junior Team will have plenty of fresh faces when it opens its gold-medal defense at the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship.

Hockey Canada released its 30-player roster for selection camp, which will be held Dec. 10-14 in Toronto and will be the final step in picking the roster that will play for Canada at the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship, which will be held Dec. 26 to Jan. 5 in Helsinki, Finland.

Canada World Junior camp invitees

GOALIES: Mackenzie Blackwood, Barrie, OHL (New Jersey Devils); Mason McDonald, Charlottetown, QMJHL (Calgary Flames)

DEFENSEMEN: Thomas Chabot, Saint John, QMJHL (Ottawa Senators); Jakob Chychrun, Sarnia, OHL (2016 draft eligible); Travis Dermott, Erie, OHL (Toronto Maple Leafs); Vince Dunn, Niagara, OHL (St. Louis Blues); Haydn Fleury, Red Deer, WHL (Carolina Hurricanes); Joe Hicketts, Victoria, WHL (Detroit Red Wings); Brandon Hickey, Boston University, HE (Calgary Flames); Noah Juulsen, Everett, WHL (Montreal Canadiens); Roland McKeown, Kingston, OHL (Carolina Hurricanes); Travis Sanheim, Calgary, WHL (Philadelphia Flyers); Jake Walman, Providence, HE (St. Louis Blues)

FORWARDS: Mathew Barzal, Seattle, WHL (New York Islanders); Anthony Beauvillier, Shawinigan, QMJHL (New York Islanders); Rourke Chartier, Kelowna, WHL (San Jose Sharks); Lawson Crouse, Kingston, OHL (Florida Panthers); Michael Dal Colle, Oshawa, OHL (New York Islanders); Pierre-Luc Dubois, Cape Breton, QMJHL (2016 draft eligible); Julien Gauthier, Val-d'Or, QMJHL (2016 draft eligible); Jayce Hawryluk, Brandon, WHL (Florida Panthers); Travis Konecny, Ottawa, OHL (Philadelphia Flyers); Mitchell Marner, London, OHL (Toronto Maple Leafs); Nicholas Merkley, Kelowna, WHL (Arizona Coyotes); Brendan Perlini, Niagara, OHL (Arizona Coyotes); Brayden Point, Moose Jaw, WHL (Tampa Bay Lightning); John Quenneville, Brandon, WHL (New Jersey Devils); Mitchell Stephens, Saginaw, OHL (Tampa Bay Lightning); Dylan Strome, Erie, OHL (Arizona Coyotes); Spencer Watson, Kingston, OHL (Los Angeles Kings)

Forwards Lawson Crouse and Brayden Point, and defenseman Joe Hicketts were the only players available who were part of the gold medal-winning team last year in Toronto.

The camp roster consists of 11 defensemen, 17 forwards and two goalies: Mackenzie Blackwood, a New Jersey Devils draft pick, and Mason McDonald, a Calgary Flames prospect. The final roster for the tournament will have two goalies, seven defensemen and 13 forwards.

Canada director of player personnel Ryan Jankowski said the lack of World Junior experience doesn't concern him because 26 of the 30 players invited to the selection camp have played for Canada in under-17 and under-18 international events.

"Last year's group was special," said Jankowski of the Canada team that went 7-0 at the 2015 WJC and outscored the opposition 39-9. "We had a lot of speed and skill and was pretty dominant.

"This group will have speed and skill too, but it also should have an element of grit. As a whole we like this group because it has a lot of international experience."

In addition to the players named Tuesday, there are six players in the NHL eligible to play for Canada in forwards Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers, Sam Bennett of the Calgary Flames, Robby Fabbri of the St. Louis Blues and Jake Virtanen and Jared McCann of the Vancouver Canucks, as well as Florida Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad.

McDavid is out with a broken clavicle and there's no timetable for his return.

Jankowski and Hockey Canada vice-president of hockey operations Scott Salmond said they will remain in contact with the different NHL teams to see if any of those players will be made available. The deadline for them to join Canada is Dec. 19, when the NHL holiday roster freeze begins.

The camp roster also contains a youth element with three 2016 NHL Draft prospects invited in Sarnia (OHL) defenseman Jakob Chychrun, Cape Breton (QMJHL) left wing Pierre-Luc Dubois and Val-d'Or (QMJHL) right wing Julien Gauthier. All three players received A ratings from NHL Central Scouting on its November players to watch list.

Chychrun, a 6-foot-2, 215-pound, left-shot defender, has four goals and 16 points in 25 games.

Gauthier, a 6-3, 225-pound forward, is third in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League with 23 goals in 27 games. Dubois (6-2, 202) is ninth in the QMJHL with 43 points in 30 games.

There also were two NCAA players invited to the camp, Boston University defenseman Brandon Hickey and Providence College defenseman Jake Walman. The last NCAA player to make Canada's WJC roster was University of Minnesota-Duluth defenseman Dylan Olsen in 2011.

"Brandon Hickey has been a solid performer all the way through," Jankowski said. "He's had a great year and played on a team that was close to a championship last year. He was really good at our summer camp and deserves a look at his camp.

"I think Walman was a bit of a surprise to be considered for our team. But he was on a national championship team in Providence and he is off to a tremendous start with 10 goals to lead all NCAA defensemen."

The 30 players picked represent 15 NHL teams, with the New York Islanders and Arizona Coyotes having three prospects each selected. The Islanders had forwards Mathew Barzal, Anthony Beauvillier and Michael Dal Colle invited; the Coyotes had forwards Nicholas Merkley, Brendan Perlini and Dylan Strome picked.

Some of the players invited have been teammates at various levels growing up. Among them are Mitchell Stephens and Dylan Strome, who played together in the Toronto Marlboros minor system.

Crouse and Travis Konecny played together for the Elgin-Middlesex AAA minor midgets.

They have played against each other the past three seasons in the Ontario Hockey League, Crouse with Kingston and Konecny with Ottawa. They're looking forward to potentially being teammates once again.

"We have been there for each other every step of the way," Crouse said. "We spend every day in the summer together. We talk every week during the season.

"We're able to put that friendship aside when we play against each other. But it would be great to play together again."

Last year Canada won gold for the first time since 2009, but it hasn't won in Europe since Steven Stamkos, John Tavares, Drew Doughty and P.K. Subban led Canada to victory in 2008 in the Czech Republic.

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