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Sens prospect makes large strides

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
It wasn't Patrick Wiercioch's time just yet.

But the Ottawa Senators prospect has taken a few large strides toward earning himself a blue-line home with Team Canada's national junior teamin the future.

Wiercioch was among 16 players released earlier today as Hockey Canada finalized its 22-man roster for the 2009 IIHF World Junior Championship in Ottawa. The tournament runs from Dec. 26 to Jan. 5 at Scotiabank Place and the Ottawa Civic Centre.

"It's definitely not the call you want, but it's something that needs to be done and I wish the team the best of luck," Wiercioch told reporters after getting the news.

Bell Capital Cup grads John Tavares (left) and P.K. Subban are back with Team Canada for another shot at gold at the 2009 IIHF World Junior Championship in Ottawa.
While the 18-year-old from Burnaby, B.C., wasn't among the eight defenceman selected for the team, Hockey Canada's staff liked what it saw over the weekend from a player who hadn't previously been involved with any of their national team programs.

"For his first time involved in the program ... you're never sure what to expect when you come into that," Hockey Canada head scout Al Murray said as Team Canada assembled at the Bell Sensplex for media photos and interviews. "He looked a bit tentative, then seemed to get a little bit more comfortable as the week went along."

With a little more physical strength, Murray believes Wiercioch could be a part of the team Hockey Canada sends to the 2010 WJC in Regina and Saskatoon.

"He needs to gain more strength so he can handle the physical battles," Murray said of Wiercioch, the Senators' second-round pick in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft at Scotiabank Place. "When you're playing against the best players your age in the world, you've got (have) a lot of physical strength on some of those guys.

"As the week went on, he got more comfortable in the offensive situations, better in his positioning, used his stick well and I thought he handled himself very well. We're anxious to see him here again, and if he's not in the National Hockey League, I think he's got a real good chance to be a part of our program."

Based on those comments, it would seem Wiercioch achieved one of his primary goals when he earned an invite to the Team Canada selection camp.

"I want to come and do my best and leave as a better player than when I came in," he said on the first day of camp. "It's truly an honour to be on the ice with some of the best Canadians out there."

The final roster includes four returnees from the team that brought Canada a fourth straight world junior gold last January in the Czech Republic: Defencemen Thomas Hickey of Calgary and P.K. Subban of Toronto, and forwards John Tavares of Oakville, Ont., and Zach Boychuk of Airdrie, Alta.

Tavares and Subban give Team Canada a local connection of sorts. Both are "graduates" of the Bell Capital Cup, the world's largest minor hockey tournament, which will be played at the Bell Sensplex at the same time the world juniors are held down the road at Scotiabank Place.

Check out Team Canada's roster for the 2009 WJC here.

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