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On Point: Brayden Point's return from injury adds depth to Canada's junior team @NHL

TORONTO - It's rare that Brayden Point gets overshadowed.

Head coach Dave Lowry announced that Point was cleared to resume contact drills with Canada's junior team on Sunday, but less than an hour later the Vancouver Canucks gave forward Jake Virtanen permission to join the national roster ahead of the world championships.

Virtanen's addition grabbed the headlines, but Point being cleared to play after wearing a non-contact yellow jersey throughout selection camp to avoid doing damage to an injured shoulder is also big news for Canada.

"It's exciting," Point told reporters on Sunday. "It's exciting to see what the lines are going to be so I'm looking forward to it."

Both Point and Virtanen were on Canada's gold medal-winning team last year, with Virtanen making the NHL in November while Point returned to the Western Hockey League's Moose Jaw Warriors.

Point has continued to develop as a dynamic, play-making centre and is fifth in the WHL's points race with 18 goals and 25 assists. He led the league in points after 19 games, but dropped after injuring his shoulder in Moose Jaw's 4-1 loss to the Prince Albert Raiders on Nov. 17.

He hasn't played since then but practised at Canada's selection camp in Toronto before heading to Imatra, Finland, on Monday night for more training and pre-competition exhibition games.

"Pointer's been fantastic for us," said defenceman Joe Hicketts, who also returns from Canada's championship team and regularly has to play against Point with the Victoria Royals. "He's probably one of the best players in our league, if not the best.

"He's got vision, he's got skill, he's got speed and I think he brings all the elements you look for on the big international ice."

Point ??? who says he's happy to play at either his natural position at centre on the wing ??? had two goals and two assists for Canada at last year's world junior championship. His return, along with Virtanen's assignment to the team, adds depth to Canada's forward corps, taking pressure off the presumptive top line of the returning Lawson Crouse and world junior rookies Dylan Strome and Mitch Marner.

"I think it's going to be a fast, skilled team," said Point. "That's what (Lowry) has been wanting and I think it's going to be fast."

Point looked to be 100 per cent while practising with Canada last week but did not play in its two exhibition games on Saturday and Sunday against an all-star team of university players from across Canada.

Brandon Wheat Kings forward Jayce Hawryluk also wore a yellow jersey, practising alongside Point on Friday before playing against the Canadian Interuniversity Sport team.

"He's a great player," said Hawryluk. "He's easy to play with. Find some open ice and he'll find you. I think everyone knows that."

Lowry insisted throughout the camp that Point would be ready when Canada needed him. Point has worked diligently first with the Warriors training staff and then with Canada's.

"It takes some time, but it feels good," said Point. "Just some weights, some band work. It's pretty standard stuff. Nothing too out of the ordinary."

Canada plays the United States on Dec. 26 in its first game of the world junior hockey championship in Helsinki, Finland.


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