TORONTO -- When Sam Reinhart looked around the dressing room at Toronto’s MasterCard Centre on the opening night of the final training camp for the Canada’s National Junior Team, he saw a lot of familiar and friendly faces.
Reinhart is one of seven returnees vying for a spot on the roster that will represent Canada on its home ice in the IIHF World Junior Championship, to be played in Montreal and Toronto beginning Dec. 26.
He said the seven returnees have the benefit of knowing what to expect in such a high-profile event.
"We learned just how tough a tournament it is," Reinhart said. "Any time you can get some experience it’s beneficial and until you experience this level of competition on this stage you can only be told so much about what it’s like. We have a lot of leadership in this group and that’s a positive."
Canada leads all nations with 15 gold medals at the WJC, but it has not placed first since 2009. Since then, Canada has progressively slipped with back-to-back second-place finishes in 2010 and 2011, a third-place finish in 2012 and fourth-place finishes in each of the past two tournaments.
Reinhart does not believe the past has any significance for this year’s team.
"In the room, none," Reinhart said when asked if there's any discussion of the past in the dressing room. "Every year is a clean slate for everybody. Obviously there is disappointment from last year. For the guys that were over there that is extra motivation and we’re certainly carrying that over."
Canada lost 5-1 to Finland in the semifinal at the 2014 tournament in Malmo, Sweden, then was edged 2-1 by Russia in the bronze medal game.
Reinhart, who was the second player chosen in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft behind defenseman Aaron Ekblad of the Florida Panthers, started the season with the Buffalo Sabres and had one assist in nine games before being sent back to the Kootenay Ice of the Western Hockey League. In 15 games with Kootenay he has eight goals and 27 points.
Reinhart scored two goals and five points in seven games at the 2014 WJC. The Vancouver native has extensive international experience, having captained Canada’s Under-18 team to a gold medal at the 2012 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament in the Czech Republic and to another gold at the 2013 IIHF World Under-18 Championship in Sochi, Russia.
Canada coach Benoit Groulx is counting on Reinhart to be an impact player and leader for this year's team.