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Hockey Canada to world junior hopefuls: bring your two-way game

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OTTAWA - Its roster for the world junior championship won't be finalized for more than another five months, but Hockey Canada already knows the kind of players that will lead the charge for a fifth consecutive gold medal at the tournament.

"Well, obviously what we want to do is have the best players," coach Benoit Groulx of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League's Gatineau Olympiques said Tuesday. "(But) one thing is for sure: we're looking for two-way players. When you play at this level, you've got be able to play offence and defence."

Groulx made the short trip across the river into downtown Ottawa to meet with assistants Dave Cameron of the Ontario Hockey League's Mississauga-St. Michael's Majors and Willie Desjardins of the Western Hockey League's Medicine Hat Tigers.

Forty-five hopefuls, 10 of whom were members of last year's winning entry, have been invited to Ottawa for the July 25-30 camp. All but five of the 45 are property of the three Canadian Hockey League circuits.

It's from this bunch that the final roster will likely be selected and Canada's coaching staff is making it known that one-dimensional players need not apply, not to mention that those who are stars on their respective teams may also have to accept different roles than they're used to.

"The reason for meeting here is to familiarize ourselves with a core, a bunch of junior kids that are on the radar to make this team," Cameron said. "Obviously Ben knows the guys in the Quebec league a little better and I know the guys in the Ontario league a bit better and Willie knows out west.

"I think probably in its simplest form, hockey is a game of roles and the roles are kind of like a puzzle. If they don't fit in and there's a piece missing, your team isn't complete. And we're looking to get the best the players and fit them into roles and give us the best chance to win.

"It's exciting. Because of the amount of kids we can draw from, the selection process is going to be very challenging, but that's a real nice positive."

Groulx, 40, takes over the coaching job from Craig Hartsburg, who was the head coach for Canada's last two gold medals but was hired last month by the NHL's Ottawa Senators.

Having served as an assistant to Brent Sutter last summer during the Canada-Russia Super Series, Groulx will try to stick with what's proven to be a winning formula in preparations for this tournament, which begins Boxing Day in Ottawa.

"It's about skating, hitting and making plays, this is what's been successful and we want to keep doing it," Groulx said, adding that the returning players stand a good chance of suiting up again when the roster is selected following the final training camp in early December.

Players invited to this month's development camp won't be guaranteed an invite to the final training camp, but it will be that much tougher for them to get noticed if they're not in Ottawa later this month.

"It's an opportunity to leave a good impression, but also you have to go and make a good impression (during the fall)," Groulx said. "The evaluations will stop in December."

Another determining factor in the selection process will be the status of invitees such as Steven Stamkos, whom the Tampa Bay Lightning selected first overall in last month's NHL entry draft and who will likely stick with them.

"It all depends on who's going to stay in the NHL and who's going to be back," Groulx said.

"(But) we want everybody at camp. If you're not invited, it doesn't necessarily mean you have no chance, but right now the focus is going to be on the players who are in camp."

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