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Blueshirts land most prospects on Team Canada

by Staff Writer / New York Rangers

· Prospect Profile: Cliche
· Prospect Profile: Pyatt
· Prospect Profile: Staal

The Rangers organization will be well represented on Team Canada's entry at the upcoming 2007 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship tournament in Sweden.

On Friday, Hockey Canada announced its final roster for the annual tournament - considered the most prestigious international event for players age 20 and under. Three Rangers prospects made the roster, giving the Blueshirts more players on the squad than any other NHL team.

Marc Staal, the Rangers' first-round draft pick in 2005, returns to the Canadian team along with fellow 2005 draftee Tom Pyatt. Both players are finishing out their junior careers in the Ontario Hockey League this season. They helped Canada to the gold medal in Vancouver last season, with Staal being named the tournament's top defenseman.

Marc-Andre Cliche, a second-round pick in 2005, will make his World Junior debut in Sweden, joining Pyatt as one of the 13 forwards on the Canadian team. Cliche, who serves as captain for Lewiston of the QMJHL, is also closing out his junior career this season. He is having a big year for the MAINEiacs with 35 points through his first 30 games.

Nine other players who joined Staal and Pyatt on the 2006 gold-medal team, return this year, and 16 of the players have played for Canada's National Under-18 Program. Canada will be the favorite at this year's event, which runs from Dec. 26 to Jan. 5.

Both Chicago and Nashville have two prospects on the Canadian roster, but the Rangers' threesome suggests just how bright the organization's future is looking. Canadian World Junior rosters have included virtually every future NHL star of the past three decades, including Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux, and making the team is one of Canada's top honors for a young hockey player.

Canadian teams have medaled in eight straight World Junior Championships including back-to-back gold medal performances in 2006 and 2005.

Team Canada will train in Vierumakki, Finland, from Dec. 16-19 before playing two exhibition games, on Dec. 20 in Helsinki against Finland, and on Dec. 22 vs. Sweden in Stockholm.

The complete Canadian roster can be viewed on Hockey Canada's official web site.

Several other Rangers prospects are currently either on national team rosters or in the running to join them. Team Slovakia will include Tomas Zaborsky, and Team Russia is expected to feature Artem Anisimov. David Kveton is also a candidate for the final Czech Republic roster.
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