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The Magnificent Seven - Canada's OHLers Contribute at World Juniors

By JEFF BLAY
IN THE O STAFF

And then there were seven... Out of the many OHL players named to the Canada World Junior Selection Camp, seven would make it through the final cuts.

Canada captain Ryan Ellis was just about the only sure-shot, while Zack Kassian, Marcus Folingo, Casey Cizikas, Erik Gudbranson, Calvin de Haan, and Mark Visentin also made the team and have all done their part to bring Canada past the U.S. and into the gold medal game against Russia.

Ellis has been his usual self - contributing well offensively and jumping up into the rush, while also playing a key leadership role and remaining sound defensively. As it is Ellis' third trip back to the World Juniors, there could be no better-suited captain. While Ellis has done his part, it should not take away from the rest of the OHLers that have played some outstanding hockey for Canada for what really is a hard-working blue-collar team.

Let's break it down:

Zack Kassian - Although Kassian served a two game suspension after what the IIHF deemed as a suspendable headshot, his importance to the teams grit, power play and secondary scoring should not be overlooked. The Buffalo Sabres draft pick fit in well with his fellow line-mates, and as a teammate of U.S. goalie Jack Campbell, he knew enough about his Windsor Spitfires tender to beat him on a breakaway in the semi-final. There's no doubt that when Kassian is playing, Canada is complete.

Marcus Folingo - He and Kassian are the teams bash brothers. While Kassian slowed down his physical game a bit after his suspension, Folingo never let up as he was by far one of the tournaments most effective physical threats. His big body also helped out while parked in front of the opposing net, and I believe Folingo is this year's version of Stefan Della Rovere. Sabres fans should be very excited about this player, as he will add the grit and toughness that I think the Sabres lack.

Casey Cizikas - At first I was a bit skeptical about Cizikas because of his connection with his OHL coach and Team Canada head coach Dave Cameron, but within the first couple games my worries were laid to rest and full credit can be awarded to Cameron for this pick. Game after game, Cizikas was one of Canada's hardest working forwards. He created many great chances shift after shift, and went above and beyond his penalty killer/ checking line expectations, which Cameron acknowledged by often making Cizikas' line the first line on the ice for Canada. Very impressed by this kids play.

Erik Gudbranson - I was surprised when this kid didn't stay up with the Florida Panthers, but the experience at the World Juniors will definitely make him NHL-ready for next season. Gudbranson played well this tournament, being a stand-up defenseman who can still contribute from the point as we saw with his 3 goals over the course of the tourny - a number that matches his goal-scoring total for the entire first half of the OHL season with Kingston.

Calvin de Haan - Although I previously mentioned that Ellis was the only sure-shot, this guy was just as much of a sure thing. His experience defensively, his size, strength, and ability to shoot the puck are just a few qualities that make de Haan a valuable defender not only for Canada but for the Oshawa Generals.  De Haan went through a bit of a scare with a minor injury in the Canada vs. Czech game, but you can be sure that he will see lots of ice time both while even strength and on the penalty kill in the gold medal game.

Mark Visentin and defenseman Calvin de Haan
Mark Visentin - Last but certainly not least come the great success story of Niagara IceDogs goaltender Mark Visentin. He went into camp not knowing what to expect. Then, when coach Cameron chose Visentin over his own Mississauga Majors goalie JP Anderson, you knew this kid was something special. Although he initially was deemed the back-up goalie to Olivier Roy, he quickly took the starting position over. After a poor game from Roy in Canada's loss to Sweden, Visentin got the nod in their next game against the Swiss. He started off shaky, letting in a fluky goal from behind the net just minutes into the first period of the game, but after the goal, it was lights out. Visentin played a solid game in net vs. the U.S. earning him the player of the game for Canada and the starting spot in the gold medal game.

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