ST. JOHN'S, N.L. – Louis Leblanc was crushed when he was cut from Canada's team for the IIHF World Junior Championship last year and it's clear he doesn't want that to happen again.
The Montreal Canadiens' 2009 first-round draft pick scored two goals and was dangerous on nearly every shift while leading Team White to a 6-3 victory over Team Red in an intra-squad game at the Canadian junior team development camp on Friday night.
“I still have a bad taste in my mouth from being cut from camp last year,” said Leblanc. “I came here ready and when the puck dropped I think our line was ready with (Sean) Couturier and (Quinton) Howden.
“Things were clicking and I think we got the job done.”
Brayden Schenn also had two goals while Casey Cizikas and Leblanc's linemate Sean Couturier got one each for the Whites, who outshot Red 38-36.
Defenceman Stefan Elliott and forward Carter Ashton scored in the first period and winger Zack Kassian got one in the third for Red.
Leblanc left Harvard University to join the Montreal Juniors of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League this summer in order to play more games and play in his home town. One of the 19-year-old's top priorities is to make the world junior team.
“I think I'm ready to make the commitment and play a lot of games and focus on hockey for a year and see where I am the year after,” he said.
Tyler Seguin, the second overall draft pick of the Boston Bruins, was held off the scoresheet. The skill and explosive skating of the Plymouth Whalers' star was evident, but Seguin was not sharp around the net.
“It's the first time I played in a game since the (Boston) development camp after the draft, so I'm kind of using this to get back into hockey shape,” said Seguin. “It's going to be a little tough going out there after not playing as much hockey as some other guys.
“I feel strong out there. I've been working out a lot for the last month and half and from now on, I'll work out and skate for another month and half.”
After his low shot was stopped by Jean-Francois Berube after breaking in alone down the right side, a fan yelled out “Taylor Hall would have scored from there” – a reference to Edmonton's No. 1 overall pick.
An announced crowd of 2,346 turned out at Mile One Centre, several wearing Bruins jerseys.
The teams will play a second Red-White game Saturday night.
There was only one power play in the game as Ashton was sent off for roughing and it produced a goal for Couturier, tabbed as a potential first overall pick in the 2011 NHL draft. He also had an assist.
A skirmish broke out late in the game when White defenceman Erik Gusbranson was speared in the groin and went after Kassian.
Coach Dave Cameron was not amused.
“I thought it was a spear that started it – I've got no time for that,” said Cameron. “The competitiveness I love.
“You're not going to win this tournament if you're undisciplined. It's just too close with too many teams. So hopefully it's a learning experience for our team.”
White jumped to an early 2-0 lead as Cizikas got around defenceman Brock Beukeboom, went in alone and, after his first shot was stopped, scored from a scramble in front of Mark Visentin only 45 seconds into the game.
Visentin left a big rebound and was slow to cover his right side as Leblanc shot in his own rebound at 5:05.
Elliot fired a wrist shot to the top corner past Calvin Pickard through traffic at 11:11 to put Red on the board and Ashton tied it at 14:38, scoring from the side of the net after a long moment of intense pressure in the White zone.
Leblanc put White ahead at 18:02 as he was sent in on a two-on-one by Couturier and put a wrist shot in off Visentin's glove.
Scott Glennie created traffic in front and his Brandon Wheat Kings teammate Schenn sneaked in to lift in a White goal 6:04 into the middle frame.
Neil Manning partially fanned on a point shot and the puck fooled Berube as it went in off Schenn's leg. Couturier's power-play goal gave White a commanding lead.
Kassian backhanded a shot into an open side through a pile-up in front of Olivier Roy's crease in the third period to make it a little closer.
But while White dominated, Cameron said the teams won't be changed for the second intra-squad game.
“Team White was the better team, but now it's a challenge for Team Red to come back,” he said. “You don't want to take that challenge away from them.
“The easiest thing now would be to even it up, but no, this is a team sport. Let's see how they respond.”
Both teams changed goalies midway through the second frame, with Berube replacing Visentin and Roy in for Pickard.
The Red team was stacked at centre with Seguin, fourth overall pick Ryan Johansen (Columbus), who had two assists, and seventh overall pick Jeffrey Skinner (Carolina).
But White had Schenn, the only healthy returnee from last year's world juniors, and Couturier down the middle. White also had No. 3 pick Gudbranson (Florida) on defence.
(Nathan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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