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Canadian Press
Dec 12, 2006, 6:34 PM EST

CALGARY (CP) - Andrew Cogliano is preparing to play a leading role on Canada's junior men's hockey team.

The 19-year-old from Woodbridge, Ont., rode a learning curve at the 2006 world junior hockey championship in Vancouver. Cogliano is a fleet-footed forward who can really dangle, but had to conform to coach Brent Sutter's defensive style of game.

Cogliano was a standout in pre-tournament camp and exhibition games, but spent much of his first world junior championship trying to find a way to produce while meeting Sutter's exacting defensive standards at the same time.

The University of Michigan forward found a way to do both in the medal round, when he scored a goal in the semifinal and contributed two assists in Canada's gold-medal victory.

Cogliano, a five-foot-nine, 186-pound Edmonton Oilers draft pick, is auditioning for the job of centring Canada's top forward line at the 2007 world junior hockey championship in Sweden.

He's been lobbying for it with his play early at selection camp this week as well as at summer camp in August by demonstrating to head coach Craig Hartsburg that he can play as smart without the puck as with it.

"Coach Hartsburg looks at me as one of the top offensive guys and I think he's going to give me opportunities," Cogliano said. "I think he has a lot of faith in me right now and I think he's looking at me to have a really good camp."

Hartsburg, who was Sutter's assistant in Vancouver, isn't about to let any forward off the hook playing defence whether he be a checker or a scorer.

But he said Cogliano was among the best players at the summer camp.

"From the summer until now, I see a guy that wants to do more, take charge more and be more assertive which is good," Hartsburg said. "I see a kid this year who is ready to take another step forward."

Cogliano is one of six forwards eligible to play for Canada for a second straight year and defend the gold medal starting Dec. 26 in Leksand against the host country.

Another veteran, Jonathan Toews, is also a candidate to be the country's top centre. The North Dakota sophomore has looked strong to open selection camp whether he had Angelo Esposito and Steve Downie, or John Tavares and Dan Bertram, on his wings.

London Knights goaltender Steve Mason got on the ice for the first time at selection camp Tuesday morning.

He was put through drills by goalie coach Corey Hirsch to gauge his fitness because concussion-like symptoms have kept him from full practice. Hartsburg was awaiting clearance from doctors before inserting Mason into a training group.

Medicine Hat Tigers defencemen Kris Russell remained sidelined with a sore groin.

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