Sunday, December 13, 2009

Ebs Knows What It Takes To Wear The Maple Leaf

(From the Canadian Press)

REGINA -- The excitement and sense of anticipation was evident as players vying for spots on Canada's team for the world junior hockey championship arrived in small groups from across the country yesterday.

Beginning today, the 35 players will be battling one another at a selection camp to make the 22-man roster for the world juniors that begin Dec. 26 in Regina and Saskatoon.

"It's amazing how bad guys want to make this team," said Edmonton Oilers draft pick Jordan Eberle of the Regina Pats, one of six players returning from last year's tournament in Ottawa.

"The camp last year was the most competitive I've ever been involved with.

"But it's amazing how quickly things turn around. One moment, you're trying to kill one another and take each other's spots and the next day, you make the team and they're your best friends."

The camp begins with workouts followed by intrasquad games today and tomorrow and an exhibition game against a team of university players on Tuesday night.

The 22-man roster is to be announced on Wednesday.

Canada will be gunning for a sixth consecutive gold medal.

Eberle and his Regina teammate, defenceman Colten Teubert, were the only players who didn't have to travel to camp.

They will both be looking to make the team for a second straight year, along with Windsor Spitfires defenceman Ryan Ellis, St. Louis Blues rookie rearguard Alex Pietrangelo and forwards Patrice Cormier of the Rimouski Oceanic and Stefan Della Rovere of the Barrie Colts.

Eberle said it will help to have already been through a camp a year ago.

"It makes you a better player, with the transition you need to step it up and make this team," he said.

"This year, I know what to expect. I think I bring a lot more leadership.

"The guys look up to guys who are coming back, that they know what it takes to win games.

"And I'm excited to do it in my hometown this year."

As in the past, Canada will be missing some of its most gifted players who remain eligible for the tournament but who have been kept by their NHL clubs.

They include John Tavares of the New York Islanders, Steven Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Matt Duchene and Ryan O'Reilly of the Colorado Avalanche, Evander Kane of the Atlanta Thrashers and Michael Del Zotto of the New York Rangers.

Pietrangelo played nine games this season for the Blues, but they elected to make him available to the Canadian team.

"It's scary to think of what this team could be," Pietrangelo said as he arrived at Regina's airport.

"But there are other guys that are going to fill the spots just as well as they can."

They include forward Nazem Kadri, taken seventh overall by Toronto in June, defenceman Jared Cowen, who went ninth to Ottawa, and forward Louis Leblanc, taken 18th by Montreal.

Ellis and Hall are joined by their Memorial Cup champion teammates Adam Henrique and Greg Nemisz, a Calgary Flames first-rounder from 2008.

One of the tightest competitions will be in goal, where two will make the team between Jake Allen of the Montreal Juniors, Matt Hackett of Plymouth, Martin Jones of the Calgary Hitmen and Olivier Roy of the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles.

Eberle said the camp flies by and there's not much time to show coach Willie Desjardins and his staff what players can do.

"I know everyone coming in is a key player on his team and they play in all the key situations, like power play and penalty kill," he said. "When you come into something like this, you need to find a role for yourself, whether you play a physical game, a goal-scorer, or a shutdown guy.

"I know the coaches want guys who will play their role and don't care about themselves and are more interested in the team."

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