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Marie-Philip Poulin hopes to make Canadian women's hockey team at just 17 @NHLdotcom

CALGARY - If there's a Next One in women's hockey, Marie-Philip Poulin could fit that bill.

At just 17, the forward from Beauceville, Que., has a shot at playing in the upcoming world championship and is also a candidate to try out for the 2010 Olympic team later this year.

Poulin is trying to prove she's worthy of both at a Canadian women's team camp in Calgary this week. It's the last tryout before head coach Melody Davidson decides her roster for the world championship April 4-12 in Hameenlinna, Finland.

Out of a pool of 37 players, Davidson will pick a 21-player roster for the world championship and about 27 to move to Calgary this summer when Olympic tryouts commence.

The Olympic squad has carried young players before at the Games. Forward Megan Agosta turned 19 during the 2006 Olympics in Turin. Forward Jennifer Botterill was just 18 at the 1998 Olympics.

Poulin has bundles of talent, but she's still a diamond in the rough when it comes to playing with and against the older and more experienced in the game.

The question is whether Poulin can polish those rough edges in time for the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver a year from now.

"It's been a dream in my head growing up," Poulin said Monday. "Maybe I have a little chance to go in 2010. I just have to be confident in myself and do my thing."

"It would be quite something. It's my dream and it would be amazing."

The five-foot-six, 161-pound forward combines a high-end skill set with speed. She moves and shoots the puck quickly.

At 16, she led Canada in goalscoring with eight in five games at world under-18 championships in Calgary last year. She was named top forward in the tournament.

"The kid can do it all," observed veteran forward Cherie Piper.

Working against Poulin this week is her fuel tank is running low. It's been non-stop hockey since last summer with her Dawson College Blues team, a national team camp in Calgary in September, a pair of camps with Team Quebec, the Canadian under-18 championships and earlier this month another world under-18 championship in Germany.

With all her travel, Poulin has played just 11 of 18 games for the Blues, but has 49 points in those games. She also carries a full load of courses at Dawson College.

"The poor girl is just burned out," Dawson College coach Scott Lambton said from Montreal. "She's played more hockey than anyone I know.

"I really hope she's really going to show well this week."

Davidson carefully praises Poulin because she doesn't want to add to the weight of expectations on her. The head coach also believes Poulin needs changes in her game to play at the world championships and Olympics.

"Marie-Philip has a lot of tools, but in my opinion I feel like she's got to settle into a good solid power-forward role," Davidson explained. "She's fortunate enough that she has the hands and the skills to be a bit of a finesse player, but her size and skating alludes to the fact she should be a strong power forward who can put the puck in the net."

Poulin will soon decide which NCAA Division 1 school she wants to attend next season, or if she's summoned to an Olympic team tryout, the following year. Harvard, Minnesota and Minnesota-Duluth are interested in her.

She moved from Beauceville, a town of less than 7,000 south of Quebec City, to Montreal to attend an English high school and then Dawson College this season because she felt her hockey career depended on her ability to speak English fluently.

"She's a French girl from a small town in Quebec and she realized she needed to speak English and that was going to help in the future with Team Canada," Lambton said.

It's a common theme among the women that they play hockey because their older brothers did. Poulin took off figure skates and put on hockey skates at the age of five after following older sibling Pier-Alexandre to the rink multiple times.

Even though Poulin is more comfortable speaking English now, she's still a shy player of few words.

"If you see her with a bunch of girls, you don't even notice her because she's so humble," Lambton said. "She just so doesn't want the limelight.

"But when she's on the ice, all eyes go to her."

Poulin took an important step towards cracking the national team's lineup by feeling she belongs on it.

"She's becoming more and more comfortable with being here and just playing versus worrying about who she's playing with and what's going to happen," Davidson said.

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