"I think there're lots of good players. That's probably one of the strengths of the Canadian system, how many good players we have. When you look at the talent, there're a lot of first-round guys, guys with a lot of talent."
-- Willie Desjardins
Willie Desjardins has one of the hardest jobs in all of hockey, and 44 teenagers from Canada are making it that much harder.
Desjardins is the coach of Canada's national junior team, and will play a large role in picking the roster for the 2010 World Junior Championship, which will run from Dec. 26, 2009 to Jan. 5, 2010, in Saskatoon and Regina, Saskatchewan. Canada will be going for a sixth straight WJC gold medal.
Desjardins, who was on the bench as an assistant coach last year in Ottawa, laughed when asked if he was worried about being the coach that ends the streak.
"You don't want to be the guy that ends it," he told NHL.com. "But you can't concentrate on that. You only can concentrate on how hard you work."
With the talent he has to choose from, picking the roster will be a hard enough job.
At the recent junior evaluation camp held in Saskatoon, there were nine players who won gold in 2009, and there were 19 NHL first-round draft picks (defenseman Jared Cowen
, who didn't skate, would have made it 20).
"I think there're lots of good players," said Desjardins, who wouldn't single out any players for strong performances. "That's probably one of the strengths of the Canadian system -- how many good players we have. When you look at the talent, there're a lot of first-round guys, guys with a lot of talent."
Canada's roster won't be named until December, so Desjardins said picking a team solely on the summer camp would be very premature.
"You've got to take the camp for where it is in the season," Desjardins said. "There are players who made the team last year that didn't have a good summer camp. The one thing is they were fortunate because the summer camp does have weight, but they had a good enough first half of the season that they still got the invite. You have to take lots of things into consideration. It's not just the camp, it's not just the season, it's not just the winter camp -- it's a combination of all three."
The camp, however, gave Desjardins, who also coaches the Western Hockey League's Medicine Hat Tigers, a chance to see players he might not otherwise have personal access to.
"It's way better to see them in person because there's lot of guys I haven't seen at all," he said. "There're some guys I saw last year at this camp and there's a big difference compared to where they were last year. The biggest thing is, the more you see a guy, the bigger your comfort level is, then you get pretty confident that this is what you're going to get from this player."
His comfort level already exists with returning players like Cody Hodgson
, who captained last year's team and was the tournament's leading scorer; Jordan Eberle
, who scored the most memorable goal of last year's tournament in the semifinals against Russia; and Patrice Cormier
and Stefan Della Rovere
, who anchored Canada's checking line.
"I think your leadership is always huge in determining your success," said Desjardins. "It'll be a big factor. They have a big role. They have been through it, they know. The thing that's good for a quite a few guys, maybe their role (last year) wasn't as big as they'll have this year. Their role will be bigger; they'll be the leaders that have to set the tone for everybody else."
Other returning players at the camp were defenseman Tyler Myers
, Alex Pietrangelo
, Colten Teubert
and Ryan Ellis
; and forward Evander Kane
Contact Adam Kimelman at email@example.com