Expect a visit from the cream of Canadian junior hockey crop next week. Team Canadas National Development camp is hitting the ice at Meadow Park Sports Centre in preparation for the World Junior Championships in December.
The camp, running from August 10-14, will include numerous practice sessions and intrasquad games, all of which are open to the public and free of charge.
Forty-four players will be in attendance, competing for one of the 22 final roster spots. The camp should be highly competitive judging by the kind of talent that will be present. As an example of how deep the talent pool runs, eleven of this years thirty first-round picks are attending the camp and another seven players are first rounders from the 2004 entry draft.
There are only two players returning from last years gold medal winning team, Cam Barker and Sidney Crosby. Barker played for the Medicine Hat Tigers of the WHL last season and is Chicago Blackhawks property, having been drafted in the 2004 entry draft third overall. The talented defenseman played only a few games in Team Canada jersey last year after coming down with Mononucleosis. However, this year should provide him with the opportunity to lead what will be a young defensive corps, into the charge.
Crosby was recently drafted first overall by the Pittsburgh Penguins among the fanfare that heralded the end to the NHL lockout. The Penguins won the right to draft Crosby in a weighted lottery that saw all 30 teams with the opportunity to draft the player considered the best junior prospect since Eric Lindros. The five-foot-ten 190 pound centrewill certainly take a crack at the Penguins roster in the fall, so it remains to be seen if he will be present to represent Canada in Vancouver.
Vancouver Canucks first round pick, Luc Bourdon, will also be in attendance. Bourdon, a Shippagan, New Brunswick native, impressed the Canucks with his physical play, smooth skating, and ability to put the puck in the net. At six-foot-two and 200 pounds, he should have a good chance at landing a final roster spot, but will face a strong defensive field including notables such as Michael Funk, Marc Staal, Ryan Parent, Brendan Mikkelson and Mark Fistric.
Fistric and Gilbert Brule will be representing the Vancouver Giants at the camp this year. Fistric spent most of last season off the ice with two broken jaws. However, the big six-foot-three, 225 pound defenseman, who was drafted in the first round by the Dallas Stars in the 2004 entry draft, should also have a shot at the final roster for his physical play.
Brule, the WHL and CHL scholastic player of the year award recipient, was recently drafted by the Columbus Blue Jackets. The hometown Vancouver boy has the folks in Ohio excited with his gritty, intense game and goal scoring ability. The feisty centre may be considered on the smallish side at five-foot-ten, but he hits like a much bigger player. If Columbus doesnt put him on the ice in the fall, he should also be a good bet for the final roster in December.