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Nugent-Hopkins named Canada's captain for WJC

by Mike G. Morreale

Less than 24 hours after solidifying the roster for the 2013 World Junior Championship in Ufa, Russia, later this month, Canadian National Junior Team coach Steve Spott named his captain.

Not surprisingly, forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins will don the "C" on his Canadian jersey when he represents his country at the WJC for the first time. Nugent-Hopkins, the first selection of the 2011 NHL Draft by the Edmonton Oilers, is in his last year of WJC eligibility.

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Additionally, defenseman Scott Harrington (Pittsburgh Penguins) and forward Jonathan Huberdeau (Florida Panthers) were named alternates. Spott made the announcement on Friday prior to Canada's departure for Helsinki, Finland, for a pre-competition camp.

Canada will play exhibition contests on Dec. 20 against Finland in Vantaa, and Dec. 22 against Sweden in Helsinki. Canada opens the 2013 WJC on Dec. 26 against Germany at 4:30 a.m. ET.

"I think good leaders in situations like this, they find ways to bring the team together," Nugent-Hopkins told the media Thursday. "The best leaders always find a way to do that. Whoever is wearing the 'C' and the 'A's are going to have different responsibilities, but so are all the other guys. That's the way a team should be."

As a 17-year-old in 2010, Nugent-Hopkins was among the last nine players cut on the final day of selection camp.

As a rookie with the Oilers last season, he was a finalist for the Calder trophy after producing 18 goals and 52 points in 62 games. This year, he was given one more shot to fulfill a childhood dream of every Canadian hockey player: representing his country at the WJC.

Nugent-Hopkins, who scored eight goals and 20 points in 19 games with the Oilers' American Hockey League affiliate, the Oklahoma City Barons, this season, was the only AHL player invited to camp.

Spott admitted there was no assurance Nugent-Hopkins would remain with Canada if the NHL lockout is resolved between now and the tournament's conclusion on Jan. 5, but also said the Oilers were fully supportive of the decision to name Nugent-Hopkins captain.

Huberdeau was chosen No. 3 in 2011 by the Panthers, and Harrington was a second-round pick of the Penguins in the same draft. The 23-man Canadian roster was finalized Thursday in Calgary.

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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