The Christmas carols have been sung, the presents are wrapped, and there are thousands of people everywhere standing in line-ups just to catch the sales on the items that were kept off this year's Christmas wish list.
But many junior hockey players will be spending their Boxing Day in the Czech Republic, and will not return to their respected countries until 2008.
It’s that time of year again—the 2008 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships.
For the fourth year in a row, Team Canada stands out as a dominant force in the tournament, as they strive for their fourth gold medal in as many years. After announcing their 22-man roster, the Canadians seem pretty confident in repeating once again.
|Zack Boychuk||Colton Gillies||Claude Giroux|
|Matthew Halischuk||Riley Holzapfel||Stefan Legein (A)|
|Brad Marchand (A)||Shawn Matthias||Wayne Simmonds|
|Steven Stamkos||Brandon Sutter (A)||John Tavares|
|Karl Alzner (C)||Drew Doughty|
|Josh Godfrey||Thomas Hickey|
|Logan Pyett (A)||Luke Schenn|
37 players were invited to this year’s selection camp in Calgary, Alberta. Even though they all wanted to represent Canada, they knew there would be some major cuts made.
Even after an incredible season last year with the Quebec Remparts, and after being drafted by the Pittsburgh Penguins 20th overall in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, Angelo Esposito was still cut for the third year in a row.
The positive outlook on Esposito's cut is that he has a chance to be welcomed back to next year’s junior camp.
NHL forward Dan Cleary, just like Esposito, was also cut from the junior team on three separate occurrences. Yet, Clearly seems to be doing just fine, and has been a big part of the Detroit Red Wings's success in recent years.
Another surprising cut was that of Leland Irving, who was on the roster of last year's gold medal team. Irving was drafted by the Calgary Flames in the first round of the 2006 entry draft and is currently playing for the Everett Silvertips in the WHL.
Although some big name players were let go from the Canadian national team, there were some highly-rated players that did make the squad.
One of these is defensemen Karl Alzner, who is currently playing with the Calgary Hitmen in the WHL, after being drafted fifth overall by the Washington Capitals. He is one of only two players returning from last year’s medal-winning team. This year ,Canadian head coach Craig Hartsburg gave him the honour of being this year's “Captain Canada.”
Steven Stamkos is another highly-rated player making the cut. Stamkos currently plays for the Sarnia Sting of the OHL, leading his team with 30 goals and 21 assists. Stamkos will be under a keen watch throughout the tournament, as he is said to be the player that will go first in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft.
Jonathan Tavares isn’t even eligible to be drafted until 2009, yet he already has quite a few scouts that will be watching him in Canada’s run for gold. Tavares is said to be the favorite to go number one the year after Stamkos.
So far, no number-one goaltender has been named for the tournament—unlike last year, when Carey Price stole the show and eventually became the MVP of the IIHF tournament.
This year, Canada seems to stand strong with two experienced goaltenders in Bernier and Mason. Both hope to see some big ice time, as they look to make Canada proud and bring home the gold once again.