CODE BLUE! CODE BLUE!
Boxing Day last year, Canada's World Junior team was assembled in hopes to win Canada's sixth straight gold medal at the World Junior Championship. Ultimately at the end of the tournament, Canada ended up losing the gold medal to Team USA in an overtime period.
This year it's time for revenge. Canada is now the underdogs. Canada is playing on American soil with this year's tournament being held in Buffalo, NY. Canada does not come into this tournament with gold. Canada has no big name to be the goal-getter or a big name on the blue line. This year's Team Canada is a blue-collared team.
But is Canada to claim back the gold before the tournament comes back to Canadian soil in Calgary come the 2012 tournament?
There isn't much to toot about along the blue line - except maybe the fact that we've got Ryan Ellis back for the third time, wearing the 'C'. Honestly, why wouldn't you like him and his hockey skills? He works his butt off, and he's not afraid to throw around the body instead of playing the puck.
On the blue line there are other bodies too. Erik Gudbranson, 2010 NHL entry draft #4 overall of the Florida Panthers; Calvin de Haan, returnee and New York Islanders' first-round pick in '09; Tyson Barrie, Colorado Avalanche 2009 second-round pick and 2010 and 2009 WHL defenceman of the year; Dylan Olsen, Chicago Blackhawks 2009 first-round pick, going 28th overall; Simon Després, 30th overall in the 2009 draft for the Pittsburgh Penguins; and Jared Cowen, Ottawa Senators' first-rounder (9th overall) in the 2009 draft, and a returnee.
Canada's defence is a hardworking, big group sporting some of the deepest line-up along the blue. There are several players who hold records in their respective leagues for the most points for a defenceman, the most points-per-game by a defenceman, or the most goals by a defenceman. Each player on the defence holds their role and has their skill they must bring. They are all brilliant on paper and on the ice they are usually equally as brilliant. The blue sports an average height of 6'2" and an average weight of 210 lbs. Yeah, you can say they are big boys.
Just looking at the offensive line-up you may question who will be the scorer? You may question if Canada will get enough goals from these players! If the pre-tournament games were any indication, Canada will be able to score the goals this year. The first thirteen goals for Canada were scored by thirteen different players. You could saw we're scoring by committee, I guess.
The forwards this year aren't just scorers; they're body throwers too. They're smart, they're defensive, they're play-makers, they're two-way players, and they are the deepest and most versatile group of forwards we may have yet.
Many of the players sport records with their clubs and leagues, but as good as they look on paper with their teams, Team Canada is different and they're working with some hard-nosers this year.
This is the year when the starting goalie was still undetermined until about a day before the tounament started. There's Visentin and there's Roy. Who would you pick?
I'm leaning on Roy, but Visentin could easily go first. Roy is sporting the slightly better statistics, but Visentin has shown how good he can be on ice, and when the crunch comes down he can be a big goalie.
But the choice is yours and Coach Dave Cameron's on who is to start.
The line-ups starting with the defensive pairings.
Olsen - Ellis (C)
Cowen (A) - de Haan (A)
Després - Gudbranson
Barrie (the 7th defenceman)
Schwarts - Schenn - Leblanc
Foligno - Johansen - Kassian
Howden - Couturier - Hamilton
Eakin - Cizikas - Ashton
Connolly (the 13th forward)