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Meet the Enemy--Canada's U-18 Roster

Hockey Canada released their U-18 Championships roster over the weekend. It doesn't quite have the star power they could have had, but it's still a very, very solid team. There's nobody going the college route on this year's Canada team, though the only serious candidate was Jaden Schwartz, whose Tri-City Storm team clinched a playoff spot on Saturday night, making him unavailable. (Someone can correct me if I'm wrong, but this roster was released on Sunday, instead of Saturday as originally scheduled. Perhaps they were waiting to see on Schwartz?)

In goal, Calvin Pickard has been talked about all year as a potential first/second round pick. That would seem to be a significant upgrade over 5th round pick Michael Zador and undrafted Bryce O'Hagan last year.(Not that goaltending was a significant downfall for Canada last year). People have argued back and forth between Pickard and Jack Campbell as the top draft eligible goalie this year. Campbell seems to have the slight edge from some people based on what he's accomplished in high-level international play, but this may be Pickard's chance to match him.

On defense, Erik Gudbranson returns from last year's team, and should be the top defenseman. He's in a group along with Cam Fowler, Brandon Gormley,and possibly Derek Forbort that is sort of fighting for the tag of 'best defenseman in this year's draft', to give you an idea of how talented he is. Stephen Silas and Brock Beukeboom are rock-solid late first/early second round draft types. Ryan Murray is a late '93 birthdate, making him the only '93 on Canada's roster, and not eligible until the 2012 draft.

A lot of attention will be placed on forward Brett Connolly. He's a potential top 10, maybe top 5 pick, but he's missed a large chunk of this year due to injury. More might be made of his performance here because teams probably have a good 40 to 50 fewer viewings of him this year than somebody else in the top 10 of the draft.

Overall, it's not a huge group of forwards. Steven Shipley is the only forward over 200 lbs. But it looks like a pretty speedy, hard-nosed group, which could be very tough to contend with. The size of the US defense against the speed of the Canadian forwards should be a good match-up to watch.