With Hockey Canada set to name its selection roster for the 2013 World Junior Hockey Championship on Monday, TSN Hockey Insider Bob McKenzie offers up a preview of what to expect as selection camp gets under way on Dec. 10.
In Part 1 of his analysis, he looks at Canada's blue line.
Hockey Canada is obviously disappointed that Ryan Murray - the second overall pick to Columbus in the 2012 NHL Draft - won't be available for the 2013 World Junior Hockey Championship because of his shoulder injury, but no one is about to feel sorry for Team Canada.
Team Sweden, for example, are not expected to have elite defencemen Oscar Klefbom or Jonas Brodin because of injury.
And Canada's blue line prospects - if all players are made available - remain strong and deep.
The first pairing likely would have been returnees Murray and Bruins first-rounder Dougie Hamilton of the Niagara IceDogs. But with Murray sidelined, it's easy to envision Toronto Maple Leafs first-rounder Morgan Rielly sliding onto the top pair with Hamilton.
Rielly has been playing at a high level all season and was a standout in the summer series against Russia.
Pittsburgh Penguins prospect Scott Harrington from the OHL's London Knights is another returnee and therefore a lock to be on the team. Based on his summer performance in games against Russia, Detroit prospect Xavier Ouellet of Blainville-Boisbriand in the QMJHL would be a natural fit alongside Harrington on a defence-first shutdown pair.
Carolina Hurricanes first-rounder Ryan Murphy - an offensive and power play specialist who plays for Team Canada head coach Steve Spott in Kitchener, figures to be one of the seven blueliners.
If so, between Rielly, Hamilton, Harrington, Ouellet and Murphy, there may only be two spots up for grabs and a plethora of big names to fill them.
There's New York Islanders first-rounder Griffin Reinhart of the Edmonton Oil Kings; Minnesota Wild first-rounder Matt Dumba of Red Deer; Pittsburgh first-rounder Derrick Pouliot of Portland, as well as Winterhawk teammate Tyler Wotherspoon (a Calgary Flames prospect); Islander prospect Adam Pelech of Erie; and Vancouver prospect Frank Corrado of Sudbury.
You could easily expand that group to include Tampa first rounder Slater Koekkoek of Peterborough, Toronto first-rounder Stuart Percy of Mississauga, Ottawa Senators first-rounder Cody Ceci of the 67s, 2013 draft-eligible defenceman Ryan Pulock of Brandon and Avalanche first-rounder Duncan Siemens of Saskatoon.
The competition just to be one of the 10 to 12 invited blueliners may be as tough as being one of the seven to be named to the team - which is to suggest defence is clearly a strength for Team Canada.