As Many As Five Canadiens Hopefuls Vying For Spots On World Junior Teams

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Translated from an article by Mattias Brunet in Monday's La Presse

Much was made of the fact last week when Louis Leblanc, the Canadiens first choice in the 2009 Entry Draft was invited to the Canadian World Junior camp for the upcoming tournament.

On a more discreet note, barely a rumble was caused be the announcement that the Canadiens' second choice in 2008, Danny Kristo, received the same from the American junior squad.

While Leblanc is far from guaranteed a spot on the team, it is said that his chances are good. In regards to Kristo, who played for the American juniors in last season's tournament, there is little doubt. He will definitely be on the team and according to Habs head scout Trevor Timmins, "there are chances he could be named captain."

Coach of the American team, Dean Blais noted at the term of the team's development camp in June that Kristo would be given serious consideration for the role.

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Last season, Kristo caused a bit of a surprise, makinh the clun while still playing high school hockey. He was the only such player on the team to do so.

His progress as a player this year has been nothing short of stunning. Playing for the North Dakota Fighting Sioux, who play in the top NCAA division, and despite his rookie status, he leads the team in scoring with 14 points in 16 games.

Kristo might not be a large specimen at 5' 11'' and 180 pounds, but he is hyper fast, energetic and a constant threat around opposing goals.

"I watched him play in this weekend's Subway Classic, and he was named tournament MVP," states Timmins. "He plays the point on the first unit of the power play at North Dakota. He's a excellent skater with a strong shot who plays with a lot of energy and heart, but it is his defensive game that has most impressed. His play without the puck is at a level I did not foresee at this stage of his career."

The Canadiens' prospect, who was selected late in the second round, was also named the WCHA division rookie of the week for the past seven days. If, as predicted, he does make the U.S. squad, he'll become the ninth player from North Dakota University to play in the World Juniors following players such as Jonathan Toews, Zach Parise, Drew Stafford, James Patrick and Brian Lee.

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Among other Canadiens prospect hopefuls vying for a place in the tournament will be Russian Maxim Trunev, a fifth round pick in 2008. Despite his yound age, Trunev plays a regular role with Cherepovets of the KHL, having scored two goals and an assist in 23 games.

"Trunev has a good shot at making it, but during the last team tournament in November, he bowed out due to an injury," recalled Timmins.

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Another Russian talent belonging to the team is Alexander Avtsin, a fourth round pick in 2009. Avtsin is alsoplaying in the KHL, but has not been invited. Timmins finds the scenario a bit strange.

The Finnish team could see two Canadiens' prospects make the grade. Joonas Nattinen, a 6' 3'' center drafted by Montreal in the third round this past June played in last year's tournament, counting three points in six games. He's said to be a slam dunk for this season's edition, and is currently playing in the Finnish Elite League.

"He's having a strong season, although he suffered a concussions this past week," says Timmins.

Petteri Simila, a 6' 6'' goalie drafted with the very last pick in 2009 may join Nattinen.

"Scouts for the Finnish nationals were in Niagara Falls recently, taking a look at him," notes the Canadiens' head scout. "We'll see what their decision is."

At last season's WJC, the Canadiens were represented by four players, P.K. Subban for Canada), Kristo et Ryan McDonagh with the U.S. team and Nichlas Torp with Sweden. The right to Torp, a sixth round pick of the Canadiens in 2007, still belong to the organization. He's currently playing in the Swedish Elite League.

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