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The Opening Faceoff: Youth Gone Wild

by Shawn P. Roarke

Since I was born they couldn't hold me down
Another misfit kid, another burned-out town
I never played by the rules and I never really cared
My nasty reputation takes me everywhere
I look and see it's not only me
So many others have stood where I stand
We are the young so raise your hands
They call us problem child
We spend our lives on trial
We walk an endless mile
We are the youth gone wild
We stand and we won't fall
We're one and one for all
The writing's on the wall
We are the youth gone wild
-- Skid Row, Youth Gone Wild

If “Youth Gone Wild,” or any other song off the debut disc by Skid Row doesn’t get you all fired up, you might want to see a physician, because there is something wrong with you. The self-titled album, released in 1989, was pure power rock, fronted by Sebastian Bach’s unforgettable vocals and Dave Sabo’s burning guitar licks.

“Big Guns,” “Piece of Me,” “Rattlesnake Shake,” “18 and Life,” and “Youth Gone Wild” were all instant classics. But it is “Youth Gone Wild” that really captured the essence of this Jersey-based band, which was just starting to live the rock-and-roll dream.

And, it is for that attitude, as much as anything else, that Sebastian and the boys lead off this week’s Crashing the Net. But it certainly doesn’t hurt that the lyrics to that masterpiece are perfectly suited to the Canadian national junior team -- the subject of this week’s Opening Faceoff.

Now, before all you Canucks start opening your e-mail programs to berate CTN, this space is in no way suggesting that the Canadian boys are misfit kids from burned-out towns. Nor is CTN suggesting that Team Canada doesn’t play by the rules and has a nasty reputation as a problem child.

Rather, CTN believes Team Canada espouses the “all for one and one for all” ethic embodied by the “Youth Gone Wild” mantra. Team Canada will stand tall come the start of the World Junior Championships in the Czech Republic starting Dec. 26. And while they might not win a fourth-straight gold medal, the Canadian boys will be a force. They will, as always, be the hockey youth gone wild on the international stage.

Opening Faceoff

This week, CTN takes a seat as a front-office executive, taking a stab at picking the players who should represent Team Canada at this month’s World Junior Championships.

Team Canada’s actual brain trust already has done the hard part for CTN, picking 37 players to compete at a tryout camp in Calgary next week for the final 22 roster spots.

In reality, Canadian coach Craig Hartsburg, who won the gold medal at last year’s WJC, will make those difficult decisions. But in the oft-wacky realm of Crashing the Net, CTN himself gets to play talent evaluator and decision maker. So, without further ado, here are the 22 players CTN would pack on a plane to head to the Czech Republic to be the “youth gone wild” at the World Junior Championships.

Goalies (2)

Steve Mason -- Simply the best junior-eligible goalie in Canada at the moment. He single-handedly saved London’s season when he returned from Columbus’ camp.

Tyson Sexsmith -- Are Leland Irving and Jonathan Bernier -- the other two goalies at the tryout camp -- better than Vancouver’s Sexsmith? Yes. Are they playing better right now? Debatable. CTN listened intently the other day when Devils coach Brent Sutter talked about selecting WJC goalies. He said, pick the hottest goalies at that point in time, not the ones with the best potential to be pros. Amen to that.

Defenseman (8)

Karl Alzner -- The Calgary Hitmen star was arguably Team Canada’s best defenseman at the Super Series this fall. He can do it all and he played for Canada at last year’s WJC. This pick is a no-brainer.

Drew Doughty -- Enjoyed a coming-out party at the Super Series and was regularly paired with Alzner as Canada’s “go-to” pairing in the eight-game showdown against Russia. He will show the rest of the world why he is at the head of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft class.

Keaton Ellerby -- It has not been a good season for Ellerby in the Western Hockey League. He has struggled mightily and has already been traded from Kamloops to Moose Jaw. But, he was taken by the Panthers with the No. 10 pick in June’s Entry Draft and he played very well in the Super Series. He has earned a shot to right his game in the Czech Republic.

Josh Godfrey -- He is the blue-line backbone in Sault Ste Marie, which just happens to be where the Team Canada coach runs the bench, so, there is some familiarity there that certainly helps Godfrey. But this young man also has the size and sound instincts that are hallmarks of the Canadian game.

Thomas Hickey -- Hickey’s 2007 has been a whirlwind, to say the least. He was a surprise fourth-overall pick in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, signed a deal with the Los Angeles Kings, and played in the Super Series. Now, he gets a chance to chase gold with Team Canada in the biggest junior tournament of them all.

Kevin Marshall -- All Canadian teams feature shut-down defensemen and Marshall fits that mold to a tee. He counters the offensive talents that populate the wide-open QMJHL and is still a respectable plus-8. He also has the leadership skills that coach Craig Hartsburg will crave.

Logan Pyett -- A later bloomer, Regina’s Pyett is a power-play specialist (nine power-play goals this season) that will thrive on a man-advantage unit that will certainly be loaded with skilled players. His puck-moving ability and a sound transitional game will earn him playing time.

Luke Schenn -- This young man’s stock continues to rise. A virtual unknown when he was named to the Team Canada roster that took part in the Super Series, Schenn seized his opportunity and turned in a brilliant performance. He has not let up upon his return to Kelowna and has barged his way into the WJC party.

Forwards (12)

Zach Boychuk -- A 15-goal, 32-point campaign with Lethbridge this fall, combined with a strong showing at the Super Series will help Boychuk’s cause. In addition, there could be a few open spots on Canada’s top two lines because of players sticking in the NHL. This could present an even greater opportunity for the draft-eligible Boychuk to shine.

Claude Giroux One of the offensive stars in the Super Series, Giroux is playing at an even higher level now. He is dominating the QMJHL with 48 points and a plus-21 rating. He is also a power play threat. He will be a top-six forward for Canada.

Matt Halischuk -- Almost every year, a player steps out of the shadows and makes a name for himself with Team Canada at the World Junior Championships. This year, it could – and should – be Kitchener’s Halischuk The smallish forward is among the Top 10 scorers in the OHL and he can handle an offensive role with Team Canada.

Stefan Legein -- One-third of coach Brent Sutter’s shutdown line in the Super Series, Legein opened eyes with his defensive positioning and recovery speed. He will occupy the same role for Canada at the WJC. Guaranteed.

Brett MacLean -- Yes, he has been riding shotgun for wunderkind John Tavares in Oshawa and that has contributed to his gaudy numbers, which feature 31 goals, including 16 on the power play. But that is all the more reason to select MacLean. Put him on Tavares’ line in the Czech Republic and let the magic continue.

Brad Marchand -- He hurt his candidacy with some well-documented hiccups in the Super Series, but Marchand is one of three returning players from last year’s WJC team. That has to count for something, as does the fact that he has shown excellent chemistry playing with Giroux, who appears to be a lock.

Shawn Matthias -- He has 50 points this season and does everything for the Belleville Bulls. He is a true power forward, which has historically been the hallmark of Canadian teams on the international scene. Plus, Matthias just has the knack for producing dramatic moments, which is always a plus in a short tournament.

Nick Spaling -- Another late arrival to the international party for Canada, Spaling is having a season to remember for Kitchener. He already has 26 goals and has been an integral part of the Rangers’ top line this season as the club has thundered out of the gate. Some wonder if Spaling’s performance is a fluke. CTN says no.

Steven Stamkos -- The consensus No. 1 pick in the upcoming NHL Entry Draft deserves the international stage to showcase his considerable talents. But this isn’t a charity offer. Anyone who scores 28 goals -- including 14 on the power-play --and 48 points should be considered solely on his laying merits.

Brandon Sutter -- Every successful team needs a shutdown forward on its roster and Sutter is that man for Canada. His penalty-killing and defensive skills negated Russia’s top talents at even-strength, which was one of the key reasons Canada was so dominant in the Super Series. Sutter is a lead-by-example guy that should have a shot at the team’s captaincy.

John Tavares -- He is the best U-20 player in Canada. What else needs to be said?

Kyle Turris -- The University of Wisconsin freshman looked good centering John Tavares at the Super Series – and that is not as easy as it sounds. Tavares’ center must have above-average foot speed, superior vision and uncanny hockey instincts. Turris has all three in spades. He could conceivably center any of Canada’s four lines. He is that versatile.

The Opening Faceoff | The Breakaway | The Penalty Box


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