Every hockey-playing kid who grows up in Canada dreams of donning the Canadian colours to represent his country on the world stage.
Jesse Blacker and Brad Ross got the call, as both have been invited to Team Canada’s World Junior training camp.
Blacker, of the OHL’s Owen Sound Attack and a second-round pick of the Toronto Maple Leafs, will join teammates Joey Hishon and Garret Wilson to compete for spots on Team Canada’s 2011 WJC roster.
6’1", 190-pound Blacker has the talent to become a top-four defenceman on an NHL team. He has good vision, a nose for the net, above-average skating ability and can tee up the big hit when it’s there.
As Blacker has a couple of teammates projected to make the team, his chances of cracking the roster may be a little better as he has chemistry with Hishon and Wilson.
In 27 games this year, Blacker is a point-a-game player, with seven goals and 20 assists.
Ross, of the WHL's Portland Winter Hawks, was also drafted in the second round by Toronto. The rugged power forward has 13 goals and 13 assists in 29 games for Portland to go along with 79 penalty minutes.
Toughness is something Canadian players rarely lack, but in a short tournament, staying out of the penalty box against offensively gifted talent is a must and may hinder Ross’ chances of making the team.
On the other hand, his grit mixed with scoring talent—could hand him a spot on the fourth line in a checking role. All spots are up for grabs because there are no returnees from last year's team at the forward position.
Having these two players being invited to Canada’s WJC camp is a good sign for Toronto’s future. Hopefully it will instill and build confidence in these kids, which will in turn benefit the Leafs down the road.