Hockey Canada's National Junior Team Selection Camp is only one day old, but coach Don Hay appears to have found his starting goaltender.
The Niagara Ice Dogs' Mark Visentin
, who backstopped Canada at the 2011 World Junior Championship in Buffalo, appears to be a lock to start in Canada's goal as the national junior team searches for its first gold medal since 2009.
"He comes in as the No. 1 guy and we'd like to see him play like that," Hay said. "He was very good in our summer camp, so I feel he can continue to do that job."
Visentin, taken by the Phoenix Coyotes
with the 27th pick of the 2010 Entry Draft, isn't about to take anything for granted.
"It's good that he has the confidence in me, but I'm aware at the same time I need to come in here and earn my position," he said. "It's not just going to be given to me. I need to come out here and show I can play."
"He comes in as the No. 1 guy and we'd like to see him play like that. He was very good in our summer camp, so I feel he can continue to do that job."
-- Don Hay
Visentin seemed poise to earn gold last year, after heading into the third period of the gold-medal game against Russia with a 3-0 lead. However, Russia scored five times in the final 20 minutes to steal a 5-3 victory and earn their first World Junior Championship gold since 2003.
"Experience is a real valuable thing to have," Hay said. "To go through the day-to-day pressures of the tournament is going to be important and Mark has experienced that and he knows what it's all about."
Hockey Canada goalie coach Ron Tugnutt
, who had a big say in who the four goaltenders coming to camp would be, is a big believer in what Visentin can bring to the team, especially after last year's result.
"Given his history and being a part of the program and what he went through last year, you would expect that he would become stronger, especially mentally," said Tugnutt, a veteran of more than 500 NHL games. "I expect him to lead and take control, but the other three by no means are going to take a back seat."
Visentin's apparent stranglehold on the starting position leaves Tyler Bunz
of the Medicine Hat Tigers, the Quebec Remparts' Louis Domingue
and Scott Wedgewood
of the Plymouth Whalers battling for one spot.
And that's exactly how Bunz sees it.
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"In my mind it's three goaltenders competing for one spot," he said. "I want to go out there and pretend I'm the fourth guy on the depth chart and try to steal the starting job. It's just a challenge I've set for myself and I want to achieve that."
Bunz could be the frontrunner to push Visentin and has at least one fan in Hockey Canada head scout Kevin Prendergast.
"He’s been outstanding," Prendergast said of Bunz, a 2010 fifth-round pick of the Edmonton Oilers
. "I think over the course of 12 months, he may be the most consistent goalie in junior hockey. He really didn't have any downs. He's played very well. He's earned his way on here. Certainly from the talk we had with him yesterday he understands the next three days are very critical for him."
Prendergast's endorsement, though, doesn’t guarantee he will be with the team Dec. 26, when the tournament opens.
has been very consistent, as well," Tugnutt said. "Scott Wedgewood
, he got off to a real good start, then settled in a little bit, but has really picked it up. All three of these guys are very qualified goaltenders and all deserve to be there."
In fact, from a pure talent perspective, Tugnutt said nothing separates the foursome.
"From talent level, there is no separation," Tugnutt said. "They're all extremely talented goalies. It's going to be a real good competition here."
In the end, only one rule applies to choosing the goaltenders to represent Canada, Prendergast said.
"Best two stay."