OTTAWA - Almost half of the Canadian junior hockey team's roster is made up of players under the age of 18.
The 2009 world junior hockey championship, hosted by Ottawa starting Dec. 26, is considered a showcase of the world's best 19-year-old hockey players.
But there are five 17-year-olds and 13 players aged 18 on the 38-player roster announced Wednesday by Hockey Canada.
Those youngsters have to outplay the 19-year-olds for jobs on the team at selection camp Dec. 11-15 in Ottawa.
Of the four goaltenders, 14 defencemen and 20 forwards invited, head coach Pat Quinn is expected to choose two goalies, seven defenceman and 13 forwards to open defence of the gold medal Dec. 26 against the Czech Republic.
Canada has won the gold medal at the world junior championship four consecutive years.
Forward Taylor Hall of the Windsor Spitfires, his teammate and defenceman Ryan Ellis, Vancouver forward Evander Kane, Saskatoon forward Braydon Schenn and Matt Duchene of the Brampton Battalion are the 17-year-olds invited.
Oshawa forward John Tavares, who played for Canada as a 17-year-old on the 2008 edition of the junior team, was virtually assured a place on the camp roster and the team because of his talent and experience. He is the projected No. 1 pick for the 2009 NHL entry draft.
Montreal Junior's Jake Allen, Chet Pickard of the Tri-City Americans, Tyson Sexsmith of the Vancouver Giants and Dustin Tokarski of the Spokane Chiefs are the four goaltenders on the roster.
Four players are out of the U.S. college ranks: Wisconsin defencemen Cody Goloubef and Brendan Smith, Cornell forward Riley Nash and Denver forward Patrick Wiercioch.
The Western Hockey League led selections with 18, followed by the Ontario Hockey League with 11, the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League with five and four out of U.S. colleges.
The highest NHL draft picks on the list are defencemen Thomas Hickey and Alex Pietrangelo, who went fourth overall in 2007 and 2008 to Los Angeles and St. Louis respectively.