When the Canadian national junior hockey team selection camp begins Dec. 11 in Kitchener, Guelph Storm winger Daniel Paille may be one of a kind. With Paille, 19, the only sure-fire returnee from last year's silver-medal winning Canadian squad, the Buffalo Sabres prospect will be asked to take a leadership role. That's cool with the Welland native, whose road to the world junior championship in Finland began yesterday when he was named to the Ontario Hockey League team for a pair of exhibition/evaluation games against Russia next month.
"I want to be (one of the leaders)," said Paille, who will join 21 fellow OHLers for games against Russia Nov. 17 in London and Nov. 19 in Sarnia. "I think playing against the best guys in the world (last year) will help me. It showed me what I can do and what I need to do to improve."
The other eligible returnees are questionable. Swift Current Broncos defenceman Ian White, a Maple Leafs prospect, is nursing a broken ankle while centre Pierre-Marc Bouchard and goalie Marc-Andre Fleury are playing in the NHL with the Minnesota Wild and Pittsburgh Penguins, respectively.
Paille, sent back to Guelph from Buffalo before the Sabres' first exhibition game, was second on the Storm with 16 points entering last night's game against the Windsor Spitfires
"I think experience becomes invaluable at any international competition," said Canadian assistant coach Jim Hulton, who will coach the OHL team. "(Paille) is a terrific hockey player and an even better person."
Brampton Battalion coach Stan Butler and Kitchener Rangers coach Peter DeBoer will be Hulton's assistants.
Three OHLers playing in the NHL -- forwards Eric Staal of the Carolina Hurricanes, Nathan Horton of the Florida Panthers and Brent Burns of the Wild -- could be added to the OHL team if they are returned to the league.
As expected, St. Michael's Majors centre Tim Brent and Battalion winger Adam Henrich were included on the OHL roster. Battalion winger Wojtek Wolski also was selected, making him the only 1986-born player on the OHL team. The roster for the Russian team has not been finalized.
Big OHLers like the 6-foot-4 Henrich and 6-foot-2 Oshawa Generals forward Ben Eager will get serious looks.
"One element we lacked last year is the ability to win one-on-one battles," Hockey Canada director of scouting Blair Mackasey said. "As a team, we were as skilled as (gold-medal winning Russia), but they were stronger on the puck."