Canada's holding back Tavares
26.12.2007. Feschuk, Dave. Toronto Star

John Tavares is the most talked-about hockey  player sinceSidney Crosby, a record-setting scorer with the OHL's Oshawa Generals, a must-see gem. But in the old-school machine known as Hockey  Canada, the same organization that told a teenager named Crosby that he wasn't ready to represent his country at the 2006 Olympics, maybe Tavares is still just a number. He's 17. The world junior championship is traditionally a 19-year-old's tournament.

So forget, at least for the coming two weeks, that Tavares, if he was eligible for the 2008 NHL draft, might well be the first overall selection. Starting today, when Canada commences its title defence in Pardubice, Czech Republic, he is expected to be a Team Canada fourth-liner. "He's going to be a role player on our team and certainly not play as much as he's normally used to playing," Craig Hartsburg, the Team Canada coach, says. "He has a gift we want to try and take advantage of, and that's on the power play ... he's going to learn as he goes and hopefully he gets better as he goes."

Whether or not Tavares gets enough ice time to learn as he goes is another matter. Hartsburg, who cut Tavares from last year's gold-medal-winning squad - then called Tavares's post-release ransacking of the OHL "almost embarrassing" - has clearly defined ideas about how to use his roster. And perhaps on a team as inexperienced as this one - with only two returning players from the team that won Canada's third straight gold medal last year in Sweden - limiting a 17-year-old's minutes makes sense.

"This is a young team here," Hartsburg said. "It's a crash course to get them all on the same page."

The crash course has already yielded some knowledge. Jonathan Bernier, the Quebec-league goalie, has been named the starter for today's opener, although Hartsburg has said that Steve Mason, the Oakville native who plays for the London Knights, will get a turn in net. Whoever's in goal, he'll be backing up a neophyte backline.

"It's a younger defence with a little less experience than we had last year," Hartsburg said. "But I think we've got a little bit more speed and a little bit more versatility than we had last year."

Some of that speed comes from Steven Stamkos, the other 17-year-old from the GTA. Stamkos, the Unionville-bred centreman for the Sarnia Sting, is the front-runner to be the top pick in this June's draft. (Tavares, who is about seven months younger than Stamkos and born five days past the eligibility deadline for the 2008 NHL entry draft, will have to wait until 2009 or, perhaps, hop Aeroflot to play for the NHL's soon-to-be competitor overseas.) Why the fuss about Stamkos? Every casual fan's pre-tournament homework should be to type his surname into the YouTube search feature and observe the trick-shot mastery.

"He's probably going to play a little bit more five-on-five than John," Hartsburg said of Stamkos.

Speed is an asset Hartsburg hopes might trump youth. And maybe dressing-room familiarity won't hurt, either. Stamkos and Tavares are among the 16 players on the 22-man world junior roster who spent the latter part of their summer vacations pounding the Russians during the so-called Super Series, in which Canada went 7-0-1. Still, Hartsburg is either averse to putting pressure on his youngest players or he's sincere in planning to bury Tavares on the bench.

"We don't want to put (Tavares) in a situation where he's in over his head," the coach said. "We don't expect him to carry our team. We don't expect him to be a 25-minute player. But we do know there are certain areas he can help us in."World Junior Hockey

За 3 место. США - Россия. Голы россиян.
Финал. Швеция - Канада
Финал. Интервью с Марчандом.
Подгруппа А
Канада, Швеция, Чехия, Словакия, Дания
Подгруппа В
Россия, США, Финляндия, Швейцария, Казахстан
За 7-10 места
Слования, Казахстан, Швейцария, Дания

1/4 финала
Канада - Финляндия
Россия - Чехия
1/2 финала
Швеция - Россия
США - Канада
Чехия - Финляндия
США - Россия
Канада - Швеция
Первая страничка турнира
Статистика турнира
Молодежные чемпионаты мира (до 20 лет) 2008 года.
Первая страничка
Дивизион I. Группа А
Дивизион I. Группа B
Дивизион II. Группа А
Дивизион II. Группа B
Дивизион III