BY BILL BEACON REGINA
Crunch time looms for the 31 players left at the selection camp for Canada's world junior championship team.
But it is looking very much like goaltender Jake Allen of the Montreal Juniors, defenceman Marco Scandella of the Val-d'Or Foreurs, forward Brandon McMillan of the Kelowna Rockets and five of the six players returning from last year's national squad will make the team.
Those players were left out of the lineup for the final exhibition game of the camp last night against a team of Canadian Interuniversity Sport players, which suggests team bosses only want another look at the rest of the group.
Four players were cut yesterday and another nine cuts are expected today to get the roster down to the 22 who will play at the world juniors Dec. 26 to Jan. 5 in Regina and Saskatoon.
Today's cuts will likely include right winger Scott Glennie of the Brandon Wheat Kings, who suffered a concussion early in the third period of an intrasquad game last Monday. Glennie hit his head on the boards after a check from Tyler Cuma of the Ottawa 67s. The Winnipeg native and eighth-overall pick of the NHL's Dallas Stars came back and tried to play, but was taken to hospital for tests.
"He's going to be out for a little while," Canada head coach Willie Desjardins said. "We're going to get it evaluated to make a decision on where he's at."
The only returning player not excused from the exhibition game was defenceman Colten Teubert of the Regina Pats. Rearguards Ryan Ellis of the Windsor Spitfires and Alex Pietrangelo of the St. Louis Blues and forwards Patrice Cormier of the Rimouski Océanic, Stefan Della Rovere of the Barrie Colts and Jordan Eberle of the Pats all got the night off.
McMillan, a stocky 5-foot-11 left winger, wore the smile of one who had the team all-but made.
"I was pretty confident," he said. "I know I have the abilities to play on this team.
"I've gone to the Memorial Cup. I've won the world under-18s. I've got a lot of experience other guys don't have, so I came to camp with that kind of attitude."
McMillan's Rockets lost in the Memorial Cup final in May to the Spitfires, who are likely to have four players on Canada's team - Ellis plus a complete forward line of left winger Taylor Hall, centre Adam Henrique and right-winger Greg Nemisz.
McMillan is a strong defensive player, but he can also burn defences with his legs, as he did in scoring the opening goal of yesterday's intrasquad game. "I'm not an overly offensive guy, so I've got to be very good in the defensive zone, and when I chip in offensively, I can do it by using my speed," he said.
Left wing may be the team's strongest position, with Gabriel Bourque of the Baie-Comeau Drakkar a good bet to make it along with McMillan, Hall and Della Rovere.
The stocky 5-foot-9 Bourque has been solid from the start of camp, but he impressed team scout Al Murray long before that.
"He brings a tremendous amount of passion every shift he plays," Murray said. "I don't ever remember going to watch Gabriel play that he hasn't put in a top end performance.
"He's a skill player who plays physical and has a lot of speed. With the type of team our coaches want to put together, he fits in perfectly."
Bourque, a fifth-round NHL pick of the Nashville Predators, skated with different linemates in two intrasquad games, but the possibility exists that he could be on an all-Quebec line with two Océanic players - rugged centre Cormier and Jordan Caron.
"I've never played with them but I'd like that," he said. "Cormier's the same as me - he hits and plays hard. And Caron puts the puck in the net. That could be a good line."
If Eberle, Caron and Nemisz make it on right wing, it will be a battle for the fourth spot between high-scoring Brandon Kozun of the Calgary Hitmen and converted centre Louis Leblanc of Harvard University.
The 5-foot-7, 156-pound Kozun leads the WHL with 63 points - three more than Eberle. He has yet to find the mark in camp, but believes it will come. "I've been a little snake-bit," he sad. "I've created a lot of offence, but the puck doesn't seem to go in."
Kozun was born in Los Angeles, holds dual citizenship and could likely have had an easier time making the United States squad, but elected to take his chances in the more talent-rich Canadian system.
"It comes from the fact that I've lived in Canada the last 12 years and I kind of feel I'm at home in Canada," the Los Angeles Kings draft pick said.
Centre is a tighter battle. After Cormier and Henrique, Schenn is a strong bet, while Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Nazem Kadri's speed and skill from the London Knights can't be overlooked.
There are 13 spots for forwards, seven on defence, where Jared Cowen of the Spokane Chiefs is a strong candidate, and two goaltenders.
The Canadian Press