TORONTO - Jakob Chychrun grew up watching the world junior hockey championship at his family's cottage on White Lake outside Ottawa. One of his Christmas presents in 2009 was the chance to go see Canada play at the tournament.
Seven years later, the defenceman is one of three 2016 NHL draft-eligible players at Canada's world junior selection camp along with forwards Julien Gauthier and Pierre-Luc Dubois. The three youngest players at camp are getting every opportunity to make the team for Helsinki and feeling good about their situations in light of the microscope of being in their draft year.
"I think it's positive pressure," Gauthier said Friday after the second practice of camp. "They invite you here to see what you can do. I think you did something well, that's why you're invited here. I think it's good for me."
Gauthier just turned 18, and Chychrun and Dubois are still 17. But coach Dave Lowry said they don't have to stand out more than older players to earn a spot.
"They're all very highly-regarded players, and obviously we feel that they have a legitimate shot to be a part of our team, or they wouldn't be here," Lowry said. "We always say we don't look at the age of the player, we're going to take the best players."
In their age group, Chychrun, Gauthier and Dubois are some of the best players Canada has to offer. They may not be like last year's draft-eligibles, Connor McDavid and Lawson Crouse, but Chychrun is expected to be a top-five pick in June and Gauthier and Dubois could be first-round picks.
Chychrun, son of former NHL defenceman Jeff, has the most eyes on him all year whether he's playing for the Ontario Hockey League's Sarnia Sting or for Canada. He's no lock to make Canada's world junior team, though an injury to Jake Walman and a camp-ending pre-existing medical condition for Vince Dunn cleared a path.
No matter what, Chychrun is not feeling much unnecessary weight on his shoulders as a top prospect.
"I'm not looking at any outside pressure," Chychrun said. "I'm just coming in, I know I'm young but I'm going to try to be a leader, try to be vocal and do everything I can to make the team."
Hockey Canada staff members told the six-foot-two, 194-pound Chychrun they'd like to see a physical element out of him and want him to "defend hard." Already a dynamic offensive player, his aim is to be sound in all three zones.
Dubois wants to prove he can go to the net with and without the puck, and Gauthier would like to show off his power-forward game. Their first chance to do that is Saturday night in an exhibition game against CIS all-stars.
Wanting to impress coaches and management is the goal now.
"I don't think I have anything to lose," Dubois said. "They brought me here for a reason. They like how I play. I just want to come here and show them that even though I'm 17, I could have a spot on the team."
Crouse showed that a year ago and was a role player on Canada's gold-medal team. He believes Chychrun, Gauthier and Dubois have to take a simple approach.
"They're just coming in here and trying to make the team," Crouse said. "That's the way I was last year was just kind of make it difficult for the coaches to send me home."
Follow @SWhyno on Twitter