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MacKinnon and Drouin impress at Canada camp

by Mike G. Morreale

Even when they're not performing their magic together for the Halifax Mooseheads of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, linemates Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin are inseparable.

The dynamic duo, who have combined for 41 goals and 100 points with the Mooseheads this season, were again in the spotlight Tuesday during Hockey Canada's selection camp intrasquad game for Team Red against White.

"I think they were both nervous early," Canada coach Steve Spott said after Red's 3-1 win. "Both kids made plays with the puck that they didn't look like [17-year-old] kids to me. They looked like 19- or 20-year-olds out there, so I thought both kids played real well."

MacKinnon and Drouin, who rank No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, on NHL Central Scouting's preliminary ranking of the top skaters for the 2013 NHL Draft in the QMJHL, are the only two players at camp who were born in 1995. Despite that fact, Spott will not make any final decisions based on age. If one or both skaters are talented enough, he said he won't think twice about penciling them onto the final 23-player roster for the 2013 World Junior Championship, which will be announced Thursday.

MacKinnon said there is no fierce competition between teammates because they are fighting for spots at different positions.

"I'm not going to play left wing, and I don't think Jonathan is going to play center or right, so honestly I think we're battling for different positions right now," MacKinnon told reporters Tuesday. "Actually, we're not even battling. We're wishing the best for each other.

"We're friends and we wish the best for each other. We play together, we go to school together, we eat together. We're buddies and hopefully we can both do good things."

Neither MacKinnon nor Drouin got on the score sheet Wednesday, but both presented themselves admirably in the Red victory.

MacKinnon is second in the QMJHL with 22 goals and 52 points, while Drouin has 19 goals and 48 points.

During camp, MacKinnon has been rooming with Edmonton Oilers forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, the first pick of the 2011 NHL Draft.

"Those are two young men that I think have unique experiences," Spott said. "I think that if there's someone that could lend some advice to Nathan, that maybe Ryan would be a good mentor for him. I think if anything, helping him through this process that Ryan's been through so obviously there was some thought put into that."

MacKinnon was asked if Nugent-Hopkins has offered any advice.

"He just told me to play my game," MacKinnon said. "We haven't talked about it a whole lot. It's nice to spend this time with him. He gets instant respect, and he's done very well for himself. He's a good role model for young kids, a cool guy to have around. Thankfully, for Team Canada, he's back."

NHL management attending Tuesday's intrasquad game included John Davidson, president of hockey operations for the Columbus Blue Jackets, and Oilers general manager Steve Tambellini.

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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