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Hay gets first look at Canada WJC hopefuls

Don Hay hopes the players chosen to represent Canada at the 2012 World Junior Championship are in some way similar to those he helped lead to a gold medal at the 1995 tournament in Red Deer, Alta.

That team, which went 7-0-0 and outscored its opponents 49-22, included as part of its 22-man roster Bryan McCabe, Ed Jovanovski and Wade Redden on defense and Jason Allison, Jeff Friesen, Ryan Smyth and Alexandre Daigle at forward.

Hay will coach Canada's national junior team for the first time since winning that gold medal 17 years ago. The process of picking the players that will make up this year's World Junior Championship team starts this week, when Hockey Canada hosts a national junior team summer development camp in Edmonton and Fort McMurray, Alta, from Aug. 3-7.

The 2012 World Junior Championship will be played in Edmonton and Calgary from Dec. 26 to Jan. 5, 2012.

"Hopefully, the players will be comparable to those players in '95," Hay said. "I think as a coach, you never know if another opportunity will come around like this. It's great to be able to get an opportunity to coach this team again. I feel it's the right time to get back into it since the players are as good as they were in '95. The game has changed, but hasn't changed that much … the speed and competiveness is still there."

There will be two scrimmages, Saturday at Rexall Place in Edmonton, and Sunday at the Casman Centre, Fort McMurray. The 47-player camp roster includes four goalies, 17 defensemen and 26 forwards.

"I think players need to skate hard and compete hard at a high level," Hay said. "I'm looking for a high hockey IQ. It's a short tournament and there's really no time for teaching, so you have to play smart and pick up different aspects that the coaching staff throws at them. You want them to compete and execute, but we all know it comes down to winning."

Seven returning players from Canada's silver medal-winning 2011 WJC team highlight the roster -- forwards Brett Connolly, Sean Couturier, Quinton Howden, Ryan Johansen and Jaden Schwartz, defenseman Erik Gudbranson and goaltender Mark Visentin.

"Last year's team was pretty much a blue-collar team that was big, hard-working and fit the bill of (coach) Dave Cameron's type of coaching," Hockey Canada head scout Kevin Prendergast said. "What I think we're going to have this year, we're going to be a lot smaller, but we're also going to be a lot more skilled."

Russia proved small and skilled could work last year en route to rallying from a 3-0 third-period deficit against Canada in the gold-medal game to a 5-3 victory.

Among the players attending the camp, 20 were selected during the 2011 Entry Draft, including 14 in the first round -- Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (Oilers,  No. 1), Jonathan Huberdeau (Panthers, No. 3), Ryan Strome (No. 5, Islanders), Mark Scheifele (Jets, No. 7), Sean Couturier (Flyers, No. 8), Dougie Hamilton (Bruins, No. 9), Duncan Siemens (Avalanche, No. 11), Ryan Murphy (Hurricanes, No. 12), Nathan Beaulieu (Canadiens, No. 17), Joe Morrow (Penguins, No. 23), Matt Puempel (Senators, No. 24), Stuart Percy (Maple Leafs, No. 25) and Phillip Danault (Blackhawks, No. 26).

There also will be four defensemen eligible for the 2012 Entry Draft at the camp -- Cody Ceci of the Ottawa 67's, Martin Lefebvre of the Quebec Remparts, Ryan Murray of the Everett Silvertips and Matthew Petgrave of Owen Sound Attack. Lefebvre and Petgrave were eligible for last month's draft but weren't selected.

"I think you have to look for the best players available," Hay said. "We have no control over if they'll make their NHL teams, so you have to invite the best to return to your camp in December. You're always hoping to have your best players."

Following summer camp, all potential candidates will continue to be monitored throughout the season before a final selection camp is held in December and subsequent final roster.

Hay, coach of the Western Hockey League's Vancouver Giants, will be assisted on Canada's bench by George Burnett (Belleville Bulls) and Ryan Huska (Kelowna Rockets), and goalie coach Ron Tugnutt (Peterborough Petes).

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale