Sunday, December 25, 2011

WJC team by team preview: Canada

This year's World Junior Championship will mark the 11th time Canada has hosted and the 5th time in the last 10 years. The Maple Leafers will be out for their 5th gold medal on home ice. This marks our final team by team preview, the rest of the countries can be found by scrolling down on our blog.

Pool B - Edmonton
First Game vs. Finland December 26th, 1:30 pm

3 Keys to Success

1 - Ryan Murray - He's the youngest Canadian but he really could have been the team captain. Hockey Canada has a tradition of giving it to a returning player and Jaden Schwartz is a grade A leader, but Murray would have been just fine a selection and he's not even NHL property yet. He's born in 1993 and because of his late birthday he's not eligible until 2012. He'll likely go top 3 because of his ultra smooth play. He never panics and will have the best first pass in the tournament.

2 - Visentin or Wedgewood - Canada's starting goaltender over the past two years hasn't been the guy who's finished the tournament as the number one man. Jake Allen gave way to Martin Jones in 2010 and Olivier Roy watched Mark Visentin take over last year. Visentin is back this year but enters the tournament on the heels of as shaky final game. There are lots who wouldn't be surprised if Wedgewood finishes the tournament as Canada's pipe man.

3 - Brett Connolly - The word potential has been following Brett Connolly around like a shadow for years. Despite injuries he was a top 6 pick and he made the Tampa Bay Lightning this year. Steve Yzerman loaned him to team Canada and Connolly has the potential to dominate the tournament. Often times Connolly will leave you wanting more for 50 minutes then make 2 unbelievable plays that lead to goals and lead his team to victory. He was unfairly criticized by some media members for his hit on Quinton Howden in training camp and had more then a few people talk honestly with him. He can come across as aloof at times and his play can fool people into thinking he's lazy but he really is a good kid with tremendous skill. Both will have to be on display for Canada to be successful. Last year Connolly had just 3 points.

Wild Card

Devante Smith-Pelly might separate someones shoulder in this tournament. If his pre tournament play is any indication the Anaheim Ducks prospect will be a heat seeking missile starting Boxing Day. He skates hard and hurls his 209 pound frame at opponents with all the passion one Canadian kid could have. The only problem that might occur is if Smith-Pelly can't contain his physicality and ends up in the box. Every Canadian team has had a physical dynamo, from Jordan Tootoo to Steve Downie and Smith-Pelly could be the X factor for this year's bunch.

Expectaion: It's gold or bust every year for Canada

Prediction: Canada ends it's 2 year Silver medal run with a return to the top part of the podium. Gold Medal Winners

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