Tough call for Team Canada coaches
Selecting final roster for 2009 Ottawa WJC no easy call for Groulx and Co.
But already, the 44 players at Team Canada's summer development camp are very much aware of what will be expected of the group chosen to wear the red maple leaf at the 2009 IIHF World Junior Championship in Ottawa.
"For everybody, being in Canada, there's a lot of pressure to win gold," forward John Tavares, who helped Canada win a fourth straight junior gold last January in the Czech Republic, said Monday at the University of Ottawa Sports Complex, where the summer camp is being held. "And every year, rightfully so, we don't expect anything less than gold.
"Being at home, the expectations are even higher because we've got the home-ice advantage and the home crowd support."
Tavares is among 10 returning players from the last year's golden bunch, though three of them (Steven Stamkos, Zach Boychuk and Thomas Hickey) aren't on the ice in Ottawa this week. But beyond them, there's a wealth of talent on display for Groulx and his two assistants, Dave Cameron and Willie Desjardins.
Picking a final roster won't be an easy chore, without a doubt.
"The difference between them is very small," said Groulx, also the head coach of the Gatineau Olympiques. "This is only a starting point, being invited and having this camp. They're going to have to prove themselves (again) at Christmas, when there is another camp (the final selection camp before the Dec. 26-Jan. 5 tournament at Scotiabank Place and the Ottawa Civic Centre).
"It's a starting point here but at the same time, this camp is giving us a good idea (about) how do they compete. It's something that's very important. We like guys who compete hard and we want guys who are able to skate."
Even a big talent like Tavares, widely touted as perhaps the No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft in Montreal, knows his past successes at the WJC don't guarantee anything when the final roster decisions are made in December.
"There's so much talent in Canada," said Tavares, a two-time 100-point man with the Ontario Hockey League's Oshawa Generals. "There's a lot of guys not even here that could surprise and maybe be here at the Christmas camp. We've got a lot of good guys and it's going to be tough for the coaches to select the team."
The summer camp wraps up with a third Red vs. White game on Tuesday night at the University of Ottawa complex. Tickets are $10 for that 6 p.m. contest, which will be a rubber match of sorts.
Monday night, the White edged the Red 4-3, with Ottawa Senators prospect Louie Caporusso scoring once for the victorious side. The Red prevailed 4-1 on Sunday evening.
For more information on the 2009 WJC. log on to www.hockeycanada.ca/ottawa2009.