The Canadian team expects to hit the world junior hockey championship with a bang. As in banging in the corners and in front of the net.
With almost all of the best skill players eligible for this year's tournament playing in the NHL, head coach Dave Cameron and the staff at Hockey Canada put the emphasis on size for a team the coach called "a bit of a lunch pail," although he hasted to add, "and that certainly is not a negative."
Nine players were cut Wednesday morning to get the roster down to 22 and the plan is to hit opening night in Buffalo on Dec. 26 with a team that is sound defensively and will fore-check hard to make up for any offensive shortcomings.
"In the best scenario, if you've got two equal guys and you want a bigger guy as opposed to a smaller guy, it gives you more options," Cameron said. "But we certainly didn't come out and say we're taking the best big guys. They earned this and we don't think we gave up anything in skill to go with the big guys."
The smallest players on the team are a pair of 5-foot-10 defencemen, returnee Ryan Ellis and Tyson Barrie and 5-foot-10 forward Jaden Schwartz. The biggest is 6-foot-5½ defenceman Jared Cowan, who weighs 227 pounds.
"We've got a lot of big boys on this team and that's always good for a good fore-check," Schwartz said. "We're big, strong and fast. This is a team that will put a lot of pressure on teams.
"We're going to work hard and if we make mistakes, we'll make aggressive mistakes."
Aside from scoring, the biggest question mark about the team, which is seeking to avenge an overtime loss in last year's gold-medal game to the United States, is goaltending. None of the four goaltenders invited to this week's selection camp had a particularly good showing.
Some thought Calvin Pickard of the Seattle Thunderbirds of the Western Hockey League had the best chance to be the No. 1 goaltender but he was cut Wednesday along with J.P. Anderson of Mississauga St. Michaels of the Ontario Hockey League.
When asked why Olivier Roy of Acadie-Bathhurst of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and Mark Visentin of the Niagara Falls Thunder of the OHL were the surviving goalies, Cameron said simply, "They were the best two."
All four players in the camp who played on last year's world junior team made the team again this year. They were Cowen, Ellis, defenceman Calvin de Haan (Oshawa, OHL) and forward Brayden Schenn (Brandon, WHL).
The other forwards on the team are Sean Couturier (Drummondville, QMJHL), Zack Kassian (Windsor, OHL), Casey Cizikas (Mississauga, OHL), Quinton Howden (Moose Jaw, WHL), Curtis Hamilton (Saskatoon, WHL), Marcus Foligno (Sudbury, OHL), Ryan Johansen (Portland, WHL), Louis Leblanc (Montreal, QMJHL), Cody Eakin (Swift Current, WHL), Carter Ashton (Tri-City, WHL) and Brett Connolly (Prince George, WHL).
The other defencemen are Simon Després (St. John, QMJHL), Dylan Olsen (University of Minnesota Duluth), Erik Gudbranson (Kingston, OHL) and Tyson Barrie (Kelowna, WHL).
The biggest surprise among the nine players cut was centre Riley Sheahan of the University of Notre Dame. He had three points against a university team in an exhibition game Tuesday night but could not dislodge Schenn, Couturier, who is projected as the first overall pick in the 2011 NHL entry draft, Johansen and Cizikas.
Also cut were defencemen Mark Pysyk (Edmonton, WHL), Ryan Murphy (Kitchener, OHL) and Ryan Murray (Everett, WHL) and forwards Brandon Pirri (Rockford, American Hockey League), Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (Red Deer, WHL) and Michael Bournival (Shawinigan, QMHL).