Rangers prospects Marc-Andre Cliche, Tom Pyatt and Marc Staal
were named to Canada's 38-man preliminary roster for the World Junior Hockey Championships on Monday afternoon. Each player will compete for one of 22 roster spots at Canada's National Junior Selection Camp from Dec. 10-15 at the Father David Bauer Olympic Arena in Calgary.
Also in the running for this year's World Junior tournament is Czech forward David Kveton
, the Rangers' fourth-round pick in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft. Kveton was one of 28 players selected for the Czech Republic camp. Team USA has yet to name its training camp roster.
Cliche, the captain of the Lewiston MAINEiacs in the QMJHL, has recorded 15 goals and 19 assists for 34 points and 24 penalty minutes in 28 games. A 6-foot-11, 190-pound winger from Rouyn-Noranda, Quebec, he is a two-way player who is very fast and strong on the puck. In 2005-06, he finished the season ranked second on his team in goals (37), assists (45) and points (82), while leading the MAINEiacs with eight game-wining goals and 22 power play tallies. The Rangers selected him in the second round, 56th overall, in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft.
Rangers Head Coach Tom Renney describes Cliche as "an explosive player (with) deadly hands and feet. When they work in combination, he is one of those guys who is very hard to defend because of his quickness. He has great work habits and is very conscious defensively. From a hockey sense, instinctively he is a very smart player."
Pyatt, a 6-foot-0, 185-pound pivot, struck gold as a member of last years Canadian team at the World Junior Championship, recording one goal and 16 penalty minutes in six games. He has had one of the most dominating performances in all of major junior hockey this season with the Saginaw Spirit in the OHL, tallying 20 goals and 22 assists for 42 points and 14 penalty minutes in only 30 games this season.
A native of Thunder Bay, Ontario, Pyatt also ranks third in the league in both shorthanded goals (3) and plus-minus (20). Pyatt turned heads on Oct. 15 and Oct. 19, netting back to back hat-tricks including one five-point game The Rangers selected him in the fourth round, 107th overall, in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft.
"Tom is a terrific thinker of the game,""says Renney. "He is very intense and very business like when he comes to the rink. He knows it is a job. It's a job he loves, but at the same time he is very dedicated to being a great player. (At this summer's Prospect Development Camp) he was heads and tails above everybody else from a fitness perspective and set a standard that no other has. Because of that, you have to respect Tom."
Staal, another member of last year's gold medal winning squad, was named Top Defenseman at last year's World Junior Championship, largely in part to his ability to shutdown explosive opponents such as Evgeni Malkin.
Also hailing from Thunder Bay, Ontario, Staal has recorded five goals and 11 assists for 16 points and 41 penalty minutes in 26 games this season as captain of the Sudbury Wolves in the OHL. The big, mobile defenseman always lines up against the opposing team's top line, yet still manages to muster some offense, finishing 12th amongst all defenseman in points last season with 49.
Staal also participated in the 2005 CHL Top Prospects game in Vancouver, where he won the puck control competition, a remarkable feat for a defenseman. The 6-foot-4, 205-pound blueliner was called up to Hartford Wolf Pack of the AHL last season, recording two assists and eight penalty minutes in 12 playoff games. The Rangers selected him in the first round, 12th overall, in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft.
"With some prospects you don't know if they are going to be a player at the NHL level," said Don Maloney, Vice President of Player Personnel and Assistant General Manager ""t depends on their maturity. With Marc, there's no doubt he is going to be an NHL defenseman. He's smart and knows how to move the puck. He is a sound all-around defenseman."
Renney agrees with Maloney, describing Staal "a very steady deliberate hockey player. Handles himself like a pro and is very business like. Marc's always in good position and doesn't get rattled. He certainly uses a very good stick along with good body position versus one-on-one or all types of attack for that matter. He's got good transition skills in that he can step up from backing out and make a very good pass. He follows the play up well. This is a guy who once he starts to play in the NHL he'll be there for a long time."
Kveton, the 104th overall pick in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft in Vancouver, has been playing for Vsetin of the Czech Extraliga. He began his season in the QMJHL but opted to return to Europe after only a handful of games. Last year he competed in the World Under-18 championship tournament.
The 2007 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship will be held in Leksand and Mora, Sweden from Dec. 26 to Jan. 5.