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John Tavares, right, was cut from last year's Canadian world junior hockey team, but will lead the squad at the tournament later this month in the Czech Republic. ((Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press))

Craig Hartsburg wasted no time choosing hisCanadian junior hockey team.

The head coach released 13 players Thursday, leaving the three-time defending champions with 22 players for the world junior tournament that begins this month in the Czech Republic.

Hartsburg's announcement came a little earlier than expected.Training camp began a day later this year and the squad was chosen after two practices and twointrasquad games.

Star forwardJohn Tavares of the Oshawa Generals was selected to the team after being cut last year.Fellow high-profile prospect Angelo Esposito of the Quebec Remparts wasn't as fortunate and was cut for the third consecutive year.

Goaltender Leland Irving of the Everett Silvertips, who backed up Carey Price last year, and netminder Tyson Sexsmith of the Vancouver Giantswere also among the cuts.

Defencemen released from the team included Keaton Ellerby of the Moose Jaw Warriors, Ty Wishart of the Prince George Cougars, Andrew Bodnarchuk of the Halifax Mooseheads, Brendan Smith of the University of Wisconsin and Kevin Marshall of the Lewiston Maineiacs.

Other forwards sent home were Zach Hamill of the Everett Silvertips, Mathieu Perreault of the Acadie-Bathurst Titan, Dana Tyrell of the Prince George Cougars, Brett MacLean of the Oshawa Generals and Ryan White of the Calgary Hitmen.

The world junior tournament is a showcase for a country's players under the age of 19 and the majority of players on each team are 19.

The Canadian roster has 10 players 18 or under, including 17-year-old forwards Tavares of the Generals and Steve Stamkos of the Sarnia Sting. Four of the seven defencemen are 18.

Two goaltenders, seven defencemen and 13 forwards were selected to the team that departs Friday for Europe for a pre-competition camp.

Of the 22 players, 16 were members of the Canadian team that went 7-0-1 against Russia in the summer's Super Series.

Returning players

Calgary Hitmen defenceman Karl Alzner and Brad Marchand of the Val-d'Or Foreurs are the returning players from the squad that won gold at the 2007 world junior tournament in Sweden.

Jonathan Bernier of the Lewiston Maineiacs and Steve Mason of the London Knights will tend Canada's net.

Esposito said a groin injury that prevented him from playing in the Super Series was a strike against him coming to selection camp.

"It's very disappointing," Esposito said. "I worked hard, I did my best. My first game was really good and my second game was average and I'm happy with the way I played.

"It's part of life. You've just got to live and learn."

The only other player to be cut for three straight years was current Detroit Red Wing Daniel Cleary in the late 1990s.

Canada opens the tournament Dec. 26 in Pardubice, Czech Republic.

On the Team Canada roster are:

FORWARDS

  • John Tavares (Oshawa Generals, OHL)
  • Steve Stamkos (Sarnia Sting, OHL)
  • Zach Boychuk (Lethbridge Hurricanes, WHL)
  • Colton Gillies (Saskatoon Blades, WHL)
  • Brandon Sutter (Red Deer Rebels, WHL)
  • Kyle Turris (University of Wisconsin, NCAA)
  • Brad Marchand (Val-d'Or Foreurs, QMJHL)
  • Claude Giroux (Gatineau Olympiques, QMJHL)
  • Matt Halischuk (Kitchener Rangers, OHL)
  • Riley Holzapfel (Moose Jaw Warriors, WHL)
  • Stefan Legein (Niagara IceDogs, OHL)
  • Shawn Matthias (Belleville Bulls, OHL)
  • Wayne Simmonds (Owen Sound Attack, OHL)

DEFENCE

  • Thomas Hickey (Seattle Thunderbirds, WHL)
  • PK Subban (Belleville Bulls, OHL)
  • Luke Schenn (Kelowna Rockets, WHL)
  • Drew Doughty (Guelph Storm, OHL)
  • Karl Alzner (Calgary Hitmen, WHL)
  • Josh Godfrey (Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, OHL)
  • Logan Pyett (Regina Pats, WHL)

GOALTENDERS

  • Jonathan Bernier (Lewiston Maineiacs, QMJHL)
  • Steve Mason (London Knights, OHL)
With files from the Canadian Press