Kassian lights lamp as Canadian cutdown nears

Written By Kris Baker on Monday, December 13, 2010 | 12/13/2010

Windsor Spitfires forward Zack Kassian scored an even strength goal Monday as Team White toppled Team Red 7-5 in the final intrasquad scrimmage at Canada's National Junior Selection Camp. The 6'3 Kassian, again skating on a line with Michael Bournival (MTL) and Sean Couturier ('11), finished a play started by Spits teammate Ryan Ellis to tie to game 2-2 at :51 of the second period.

Red's Marcus Foligno posted a primary assist in the first period to give him two goals and an assist in the two camp contests, while 2009 third-rounder Brayden McNabb earned an assist on a first period power play for Team White. McNabb, the 6'4 captain of the WHL's Kootenay Ice, was tabbed for the exhibition shootout at the end of the game but was stopped by Coyotes prodspect Mark Visentin.

Edmonton Oil Kings captain Mark Pysyk skated for Red, earning a hooking minor early in the third period that was killed off.

Selection camp action closes Tuesday when Canada ices a roster against a team comprised of CIS players.

It's going to be difficult keeping Sudbury captain Foligno off the National Junior Team roster. An underdog entering camp, the 6'3 grinder has used his body in all three zones while executing quite well offensively on a line with Riley Sheahan (DET) and Curtis Hamilton (EDM). Canadian coach Dave Cameron called Foligno "the biggest surprise of camp" heading into Monday's game.

Along with Foligno, Kassian has maintained an inside track heading into final cutdown. One of the biggest players in camp, the Spits top point-getter is expected to be a physical scoring line leader when the tournament begins on the 26th. Wearing the maple leaf sweater would complete a nice turnaround for the 2009 first-rounder after failing to receive a selection camp invite a year ago.

The Sabres two camp rearguards, Pysyk and McNabb, remain in a pool of players fighting for what appears to be the #6 and #7 spots behind incumbents Ryan Ellis (NSH), Jared Cowen (OTT), Calvin de Haan (NYI), and first-rounders Erik Gudbranson (FLA) and Dylan Olsen (CHI). I like McNabb's blend of size, experience, and two-way competence as deciding factors if smaller players like Tyson Barrie (COL) and 17-year olds Ryan Murphy and Ryan Murray can't jump up and take a job, but there are no guarantees.

With the slick skating Pysyk looking more like a no-brainer for 2012 consideration when the tourney hits his home turf of Edmonton/Calgary, I'm looking at McNabb versus 6'4 Simon Despres (PIT) for at least one of those bottom spots. Both could be plenty effective in a limited role, and could provide a more physical dimension than Jesse Blacker (TOR), an experienced OHLer who was a +46 two seasons ago as a member of the Memorial Cup winning Spitfires.

We'll see what happens.

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