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Fargo U18 Preview: Canada

Canada always has to be one of the favorites to win the gold medal in any hockey competition they are in. This is traditionally their weakest event, however, since many of their top players are still in the midst of their CHL playoffs and are not released for this tournament. Their talent pool is deep enough, however, that they've still got a great chance at taking home of the gold medal in this tournament.

Canada barely escaped with a sloppy 6-5 penalty-filled win in overtime against Finland in their opening exhibition game. They got off to a very slow start in their second game against Slovakia, going down 2-0 early, before rebounding with a late second period rally and cruising to a 5-2 victory. They've got two wins heading into the tournament, but it's probably hard for them to feel really confident about either.

Key Players to Watch: #12 D Dylan Olsen, #16 F Landon Ferraro, #10 F Zach Kassian, #17 F John McFarland

More on individual players after the jump.

(Note: All skater rankings in parenthesis are from the NHL Central Scouting Mid-Term rankings, unless otherwise noted)

Goaltending could be a huge concern for the Canadians.Owen Sound goalie Scott Stajcer was considered a shoe-in for the starting spot, but for whatever reason he wasn't selected. Canada will have to choose between Michael Zador, who is ranked 8th among North American goalies, and unranked Bryce O'Hagan. Each got one exhibition game, and neither inspired much confidence. Zador especially let in a couple weak goals agianst Finland, and unlike other tournaments, this Canada team doesn't have the skill to overcome weak goaltending.

And for their skaters...

Dylan Olsen (23, Minnesota-Duluth commit): Coming into this tournament, Olsen was considered maybe a late first round pick. After this tournament, he should make a huge move up into at least the middle of the first round. He was far and away Canada's best defenseman, probably their best player, and maybe the most solid defenseman in the tournament. He scored a powerplay goal in each game, both on huge one-timers from the point. He's got great quickness and agility that allow him to make sharp turns and skate away from pressure. He's very physically mature and can throw his weight around. The good news for Duluth fans is that he's looking like the favorite for WCHA Rookie of the Year next season. The bad news is that he's probably only a 1-2 year player for the Bulldogs.

Zack Kassian(24): He was kind of quiet in the pre-camp tournament, but he's very skilled for a guy his size.I think teams will like that he's just not just a banger, and that he can also create plays for teammates.

Landon Ferraro(13): You don't hear this in hockey as much as basketball or football, but Ferraro is what you'd call a tweener. He plays like a power forward, but is only listed at 5'11" 165 lbs. on Team Canada's roster(The WHL gives him an extra inch and 5 lbs.) Ferraro is tougher and stronger than his size would indicate, but he's got some serious builking up to do to play that way at the NHL level. The skating and skills are there though.

Erik Gudbranson(2010 eligible): A very tall, lanky defenseman that is going to be a beast once he fills out. He doesn't move all that well laterally because of his size, but plays the defensive position very well.

Simon Despres(6): Despres is a very tough player to get a read on because he was very inconsistent. Some shifts he looks like a first round draft pick, and other shifts, he looks like a seventh round draft pick. Some team will really like him because of his size and upside, but I think he'd be a very risky pick.

John McFarland(2010 eligible): McFarland's stock has dropped a little the past year after he didn't reach the point per game mark in the OHL this season, but he looks like he could be a guy Canada counts on for offense in this tournament. He's not an exceptional skater or stickhandler, but he understands where to go in the offensive zone in order to score goals and has the talent to finish offf plays.

Ryan O'Reilly(35): O'Reilly is a pretty average skater, but makes up for it by being an exceptional stickhandler. He created a lot of offense for Canada even though he's not the fastest guy.

Curtis Hamilton(2010 eligible): A really big power forward that can skate pretty well and is very good down low around the net. He should be a very high draft pick next year.

Calvin de Haan(38): A pure offensive defenseman that has found a way to score a ton of points in the OHL. He doesn't blow you away in any one area, other than maybe his puck handling ability, but he always ends up with his name on the scoresheet and should in this tournament too since he's on Canada's top PP unit. One concern is that multiple times, he took unncessary risks with the puck when he was the last man back on defense.

Cody Eakin(52): Played on Canada's fourth line, but brought nice energy and a phyiscal presencen. Loves to throw his weight around.

Brett Connolly(2010): He needs another year or two to fill out, but he looks like he has the potential to be a very good player. Very good hands, and a pretty good skater. He's listed at 6'1" 162 lbs. Once he's up around 185-190 lbs., he'll be a force.

Ethan Werek(43): He had a nice end to the season at Kingston, but that didn't really carry over here. Very quiet in both games. If he's telling the truth about choosing between Kingston and BU this past season, he made the right choice, because he wouldn't have played at BU.

Stefan Elliott(22): He didn't make many mistakes, which is good for a defenseman, but he also didn't really show the ability to make plays that would justify going that high in the draft. It was just a pretty average performance.