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Canada poised for another gold

by Adam Schwartz /

Matthew Duchene, a veteran of international competition, will serve as team captain for Cananda in the upcoming Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament which will kick off on August 12.  
Team Canada is looking to reclaim its gold medal at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament starting Aug. 12 in the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

Last year, Sweden won the tournament for the first time with a 3-2 victory against Finland in the gold-medal game. Russia captured the bronze medal by defeating the Canadians.  

Prior to last year’s setback, the Canadians had won the prior three gold medals at the event and are poised to do so again with a strong roster.

Canadian captain Matthew Duchene scored the second-most goals for the Brampton Battalion of the Ontario Hockey League with 30 and added 20 assists in 64 games. Duchene, who lives in Haliburton, Ontario, works out with Brampton teammate and fellow Haliburton resident Cody Hodgson, who was picked No. 10 by the Vancouver Canucks at the 2008 Entry Draft.   

Many eyes will focus on Canadian alternate captain Taylor Hall, who is among the early favorites to be picked first in the 2010 Entry Draft. Hall was tied for second on Team Canada in the Under-18 World Championship in the spring with 4 goals and 5 assists in seven games as Canada captured the gold medal by defeating Russia, 8-0. Hall also had a terrific regular season with the Windsor Spitfires of the OHL where he led the league’s rookies with 45 goals and was second among rookies with 84 points. 

Hall’s teammate in Windsor, defenseman Ryan Ellis, is another Canadian alternate captain and led OHL-rookie and Spitfire defensemen with 63 points in 63 games during the regular season. Despite Windsor’s first-round loss in five games to the Sarnia Sting, Ellis had three assists and five points. Windsor’s early elimination enabled Ellis to partake in the Under-18 World Championship, where he led Canada’s defensemen with three goals and had seven points in seven games.

While Ellis is a diminutive 5-foot-9, 176-pound offensive defenseman, he is not typical of Canada’s blueliners. Of the six other defensemen, four are at least 6-foot-4, including Taylor Doherty, a towering 6-foot-6, 220-pounder, who had 118 penalty minutes in 64 games with the Kingston Frontenacs of the OHL. 
Like Duchene, Ellis and Hall, forward Brayden Schenn played for Team Canada at the Under-18 Championship in the spring. Unlike his brother Luke, Schenn is a skilled forward, but he was only able to muster two assists, three points and a plus-2 rating in seven games at the Under-18 Championship. More impressive, Schenn, whose brother Luke was picked No. 5 by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 2008 Entry Draft, led Western Hockey League rookies with 71 points in 66 games with the Brandon Wheat Kings.

Defenseman Jared Cowen, who helped the Spokane Chiefs of the WHL win the Memorial Cup this past season, is the lone alternate captain who has not played for Team Canada yet. Cowen is a bruising 6-foot-5, 211-pound defensive defenseman, who was a plus-27 rating in 68 regular-season games and a plus-6 rating in 21 playoff games.  

To illustrate Canada’s depth, they have just two players who didn’t play in the Canadian Hockey League last season. Goalie Nathan Lieuwen played for the Westside Warriors of the British Columbia Junior Hockey League and forward Louis Leblanc played midget AAA in Lac St-Louis, Quebec.

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