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Canada still hoping to add NHL talent to WJC roster

by Tim Wharnsby

TORONTO -- Every year the Canadian National Junior Team hopes to receive an early Christmas present from an NHL team in the form of a teenage player who can help the cause at the IIHF World Junior Championship.

Last year the New York Rangers were in a giving mood when they loaned forward Anthony Duclair. He scored four goals in seven games to help Canada win gold for the first time since 2009.

On Tuesday, Hockey Canada released its 30-player invite list for a selection camp to be held Dec. 10-14 in Toronto. There were no NHL players on the list, but that could change before the NHL roster freeze starts Dec. 19.

There are six teenagers in the NHL eligible to play for Canada: Florida Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad, and 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.

McDavid, who is out indefinitely because of a broken left clavicle, and Ekblad, the Panthers' top defenseman, won't be available. Bennett is unlikely to be released. Bennett is playing well for the Flames with five goals and 13 points in 23 games this season.

"The calls have been made to the general managers in the NHL," Canada director of player personnel Ryan Jankowski said. "We've let them know that we want these players. Now it's a matter of wait and see where they're at in terms of comfort standpoint with injuries and where they're at in their different situations.

"We feel there is a possibility of McCann, Virtanen and Fabbri. Bennett got off to such a good start so it probably won't be realistic there. I'll be checking the ice times and the stats real closely over the next few weeks."

Canada's tournament roster will consist of two goalies, seven defensemen and 13 forwards. Coach Dave Lowry and his staff may take as many as 25 players to Europe after the selection camp concludes and make final cuts in the days leading up to the tournament, which starts with a preliminary-round game Dec. 26 against the United States.

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