Halifax Mooseheads center Nathan MacKinnon highlights a group of 40 players chosen to participate in Hockey Canada's National Men's Summer Under-18 Team selection camp at the MasterCard Centre in Toronto later this summer.
The camp, which will be held Aug. 3-6, includes four goaltenders, 12 defensemen and 24 forwards.
"These players are the cream of the crop of under-18 talent in Canada, and it's going to be exciting to see them battle for 22 roster spots," Hockey Canada head scout Kevin Prendergast said in a press release. "As it is every year, there were some tough decisions to get down to 40, and they'll be even tougher decisions to make to finalize the roster."
Canada National U-18 team camp roster
-Eric Comrie, Tri-City, WHL (2013 draft eligible) -Zachary Fucale, Halifax, QMJHL ('13)
-Tristan Jarry, Edmonton, WHL ('13)
-Spencer Martin, Mississauga, OHL ('13)
-Chris Bigras, Owen Sound, OHL ('13)
-Madison Bowey, Kelowna, WHL ('13)
-Nikolas Brouillard, Drummondville, QMJHL ('13)
-Kayle Doetzel, Red Deer, WHL ('13)
-Aaron Ekblad, Barrie, OHL ('14)
-Dillon Heatherington, Swift Current, WHL ('13)
-Samuel Morin, Rimouski, QMJHL ('13)
-Josh Morrissey, Prince Albert, WHL ('13)
-Matt Murphy, Val-d'Or, QMJHL ('13)
-Darnell Nurse, Sault Ste. Marie, OHL ('13)
-Jordan Subban, Belleville, OHL ('13)
-Shea Theodore, Seattle, WHL ('13)
-Nick Baptiste, Sudbury, OHL ('13)
-Jason Dickinson, Guelph, OHL ('13)
-Max Domi, London, OHL ('13)
-Jonathan Drouin, Halifax, QMJHL ('13)
-Anthony Duclair, Quebec, QMJHL ('13)
-Hunter Garlent, Guelph, OHL ('13)
-Jeremy Gregoire, Chicoutimi, QMJHL ('13)
-Carter Hansen, Moose Jaw, WHL ('13)
-Stephen Harper, Erie, OHL ('13)
-Bo Horvat, London, OHL ('13)
-Morgan Klimchuk, Regina, WHL ('13)
-Ryan Kujawinski, Kingston, OHL ('13)
-Yan-Pavel Laplante, P.E.I., QMJHL ('13)
-Curtis Lazar, Edmonton, WHL ('13)
-Nathan MacKinnon, Halifax, QMJHL ('13)
-Zach Nastasiuk, Owen Sound, OHL ('13)
-Matthew Needham, Kamloops, WHL ('13)
-Stephen Nosad, Peterborough, OHL ('13)
-Brent Pedersen, Kitchener, OHL ('13)
-Nic Petan, Portland, WHL ('13)
-Sam Reinhart, Kootenay, WHL ('14)
-Nick Ritchie, Peterborough, OHL ('14)
-Brandon Robinson, Brampton, OHL ('14)
-Tommy Veilleux, Victoriaville, QMJHL ('13)
-- Mike G. Morreale
The best 22 players at the camp will represent Hockey Canada's Summer U18 Team, which will play in the 2012 Memorial of Ivan Hlinka tournament, slated Aug. 13-18 in Piestany, Slovakia and Breclav, Czech Republic.
MacKinnon, regarded as a top-five pick for the 2013 Draft, centered 2012 draft-eligible wing Martin Frk most of the season in Halifax. He finished runner-up to Quebec's Mikhail Grigorenko as the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League's rookie of the year after producing 31 goals, 78 points and a plus-11 rating in 58 regular-season games for the Mooseheads.
Needless to say, expectations for the 16-year-old, 5-foot-11, 179-pound center will be through the roof in 2012-13. Add to that the fact MacKinnon is from Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia, the hometown of Sidney Crosby. He also played at Shattuck-St. Mary's, where Crosby spent some of his early years.
"It really isn't fair to put those expectations on Nathan," NHL Central Scouting's B.J. MacDonald told NHL.com. "It's a tough label to carry. You're comparing him to Crosby, who has been the premier player in the NHL in the last number of years and probably the foreseeable future. That's tough.
"I think eventually, as it progresses, he'll end up developing his own style and his own character and if he's as good a player as everyone is projecting he is, he'll carve out his own little niche."
When he turned 14, MacKinnon left home for prep school at Shattuck in Minnesota. In the spring of 2011, he was selected first overall in the QMJHL draft, just as Crosby had been eight years earlier.
"He's a really good skater, is solid on his skates and has really good playmaking ability … excellent hands," Central Scouting's Chris Edwards said. "We need to temper those comparisons to Crosby, though. Just because he comes from Cole Harbour and went to Shattuck, everyone seems to automatically compare him to Crosby. That's ridiculous, and it's not his fault the media hype gets shoved on him. The experts come out and start making comparisons … who he's going to be. Bottom line is he's a heck of a player and we'll wait and see what he's going to be next season."
In addition to MacKinnon, other top prospects eligible for the 2013 Draft include center Max Domi of the Ontario Hockey League's London Knights, center Curtis Lazar of the Western Hockey League's Edmonton Oil Kings and defenseman Jordan Subban of the OHL's Belleville Bulls.
Subban is the younger brother of Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban and goalie Malcolm Subban, who is NHL Central Scouting's top-ranked North American goalie eligible for the 2012 Draft. Jordan had five goals, 20 points and 31 penalty minutes in 55 regular-season game for the Bulls in 2011-12.
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale