Taylor Hall, an 18-year-old forward from the OHL's Windsor Spitfires, got a polite invitation to join Canada's junior hockey team yesterday morning.
"I woke up at 9 o'clock and realized at that point I probably made the team," Hall said after the official announcement of the national team's 22-player roster.
"I got a knock on my door, telling me to come down and join the team for breakfast."
Hall, who turned 18 in November, is the youngest member of the squad and the only player eligible for the upcoming NHL draft - during which he could be the first player selected.
There are six returning members from the team that won gold last year in Ottawa - forwards Jordan Eberle, Patrice Cormier and Stefan Della Rovere, and defencemen Alex Pietrangelo, Ryan Ellis and Colten Teubert.
"To get a second chance at this is pretty exciting," said Eberle, who plays for the WHL's Regina Pats.
"We've got a mix of everything, like every Canada team. We've got some guys who can play physical, we've got some speed, some skill, guys who like to play roles. That's the biggest thing with us: Every guy on this team has played huge roles with their club team, it's just a matter of finding guys to play different roles and adapting to it. That's why we do so well all the time."
During the four-day selection camp held at Regina's Brandt Centre, Hall showed impressive offensive skills while skating on a line with Windsor teammates Adam Henrique and Greg Nemisz. (Ellis is the fourth member of the reigning Memorial Cup champions to make the Canadian roster.)
Head coach Willie Desjardins, with help from his assistants and Hockey Canada, selected 13 forwards, seven defencemen and two goalies in a quest to win a sixth consecutive gold medal.
Canada begins defence of its International Ice Hockey Federation junior title Dec. 26 in Saskatoon, with a round-robin game against Latvia.
"We have a number of guys who can play with different people, size and skill on the back end that we can interchange a little," Desjardins said. "We have a lot of different things we can use: Guys who have played together before, so there's chemistry; we have leaders. Overall, it's a versatile group."
All but one of the players come directly from junior leagues - eight from WHL teams, seven from the OHL and six from the QMJHL.
Pietrangelo is on loan from the NHL's St. Louis Blues and is expected to assume the junior squad's captaincy.
"Making the team is a relief," he said. "Now, we can get things going. We want a gold medal.
"We had a lot of skill up front last year. We've got a lot of hard workers this year, good depth, good defence. We're a pretty well-balanced team, a pretty good two-way team, that's the best way to look at it."
Of the team's two goaltenders, Jake Allen of the QMJHL's Montreal Juniors, who backstopped Canada to an under-18 championship last year, is the odds-on favourite to be the starter, while Martin Jones of the Calgary Hitmen, a free-agent signing by the NHL's Los Angeles Kings, likely backs up.
"They won't announce [the starter]until the opening game of the tournament, I'm sure," Allen said. "There are still three exhibition games left, so we'll see how they go."
The players released yesterday were forwards Philippe Cornet, Cody Eakin, Scott Glennie and Louis Leblanc, defencemen Tyler Cuma, Dylan Olsen and Shawn Lalonde, and goalies Matt Hackett and Olivier Roy.
Canada has two exhibition games scheduled in Regina and one in Calgary. Before that, the players are scheduled to spend a few days in team-building mode at the RCMP training depot in Regina.
Special to The Globe and Mail
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