BROSSARD, Que. -- Aaron Ekblad says no one has a right to expect a spot on Canadas world junior roster, even those players returning for a second tour of duty. The first overall pick in this summers NHL entry draft said that a fourth-place finish at least years world junior championship means everyone vying for a spot on the Canadian squad to play on home soil later this year is on equal footing -- himself included. "Theres something left on the table," said Ekblad of the opportunity squandered in Malmo, Sweden that ended abruptly with a bronze medal game loss to Russia. "Obviously were coming into this with positivity, but we lost last year," added Ekblad, a defenceman for the Ontario Hockey Leagues Barrie Colts. "None of us, I think, have earned the right to say we deserve a spot again." Head Coach Benoit Groulx says thats exactly what he wants to hear. "Thats the attitude we like -- hes coming here as the first pick overall and hes first on every drill and hes probably the hardest working player on the ice," said Groulx, the Gatineau Olympiques coach who served as an assistant-coach for Canada in Sweden. Ekblad is among 39 players in suburban Montreal this week taking part in development camp that runs until Aug. 8. The Canadian players will play in exhibition games in Sherbrooke, Que. and at Concordia University in Montreal against teams from Russia and the Czech Republic. Groulx says he wants to see how players will adapt to what theyre being taught during practice and how theyll put those lessons to the test during games. Everyone will get a chance to play. "We want to be a team, we want to play as a team, we want four lines going hard, playing the same way," Groulx said. "This is our challenge and this is their challenge to be fitting on this team in a specific role." The coach said this week is just the first step in a very long process to decide on who will make up the Canadian squad that will play at the world junior championship in Montreal and Toronto at the end of the year. Ekblad is among a group of ten players at the camp who are back. The group also includes fellow first-round pick Sam Reinhart and young phenom Connor McDavid, the only draft-eligible player among them. Groulx had praise for all returnees who have been exhibiting leadership qualities since camp began Sunday night. "Theyre here, you can tell their ready and they dont take anything for granted," Groulx said. For McDavid in particular, its expected to a pressure-packed year. The Erie Otters forward is projected to be a top NHL draft pick in 2015. McDavid says hes got plenty of people around him keeping him grounded and helping him keep the focus on the task at hand. "At the end of the day, youre here for the world junior championship and nothing else," the soft-spoken McDavid said. "Youre not here for your draft stock or anything like that, youre just here to represent Team Canada and thats it." Canada hasnt won a gold medal in since 2009, when it won its last of five straight. The country hasnt had a medal since 2012 and has back-to-back fourth place finishes in the past two years. "Even to this day, I know a lot of the returning guys are disappointed and have the drive and fire to improve on last year," said Reinhart, a first-round pick of the Buffalo Sabres. "If we were all privileged enough to play, I know everyone is going to be motivated to get the best result possible." The 11-day tournament in Montreal and Toronto opens on Boxing Day and runs to Jan. 5, with the final at Air Canada Centre in Toronto. Its up in the air how many of the players at camp this week will still be eligible to play come December. Many, like Ekblad, expect to challenge for NHL spots. In the case of this years first overall pick, Ekblad made it clear he wants to secure an everyday spot on the Florida Panthers. But he assures that hell be ready and willing if he ends up suiting up for Canada. "We dont know whats going to happen with him (Ekblad) but one thing we know is that if hes with us at Christmas time, hell have the respect of his peers, which is key, and the respect of his coaches," Groulx said. NOTES: Thirty-nine players of the 41 players invited are expected on the ice this week. The exceptions are Tampa Bay Lightning prospect Jonathan Drouin, who isnt obliged to be here because it is his third invite. Vancouver Canucks prospect Jake Virtanen is present but is recovering from an injury and wont be on the ice. Tyler Bertuzzi didnt dress Monday due to illness. Kyle Higashioka Jersey . 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Id want to be good though! I couldnt play here if I wasnt very good. #83217388 / gettyimages.VANCOUVER -- The biggest knock against Gershon Koffie with the Vancouver Whitecaps has been his consistency. An imposing presence in midfield, the Ghanaian would be the best player on the pitch one game and virtually invisible the next. After starting the 2014 campaign on the bench, Koffie has finally begun to live up to expectations on a daily basis, and both he and the Whitecaps have one of the teams new acquisitions at least partly to thank. Toronto FC dealt Matias Laba to Vancouver right before the start of the season and the Argentine midfielder has slotted seamlessly into the centre of rookie head coach Carl Robinsons formation. The workhorse not only cleans up danger in front of the Whitecaps defence, he also allows Vancouvers attacking players to push forward -- with Koffie being one of the main beneficiaries thus far. The 22-year-old scored from 40 yards out after pouncing on a goalkeeping error in last weekends 2-2 draw with the Seattle Sounders, and had three other clear-cut chances, including a shot that rattled the crossbar in the games opening minutes. "Gersh has got incredible attributes. Hes got the physical strength. When he makes a tackle and he means it, no ones going to beat him. Hes really that powerful," Whitecaps assistant coach Martyn Pert said Thursday. "The consistency part of the game is still something that hes got to really work hard at, and hes getting there, thats four or five games on the spin now hes been very good. "Hes got to keep it going, keep the foot on the pedal and keep driving." Robinson favoured Nigel Reo-Coker in the centre of midfield at the start of the season, but after the Englishman was injured in an off-field incident the Whitecaps turned to Koffie. "I dont think I was disappointed to be on the bench, but that motivated me," said Koffie, whose goal against Seattle was his first of the season. "I have to embrace it because my fellow mates were doing well and it was a coachs decision." Koffie -- who has already played 93 games in his Major League Soccer career -- said Robinson has asked him to go forward more in his attack-minded system, and credits Laba with allowing him that freedom to roam. "Playing with Matias Laba gives me the license to go forward and get some chances,&quoot; said Koffie.dddddddddddd "I know hes there to work the defensive part and delay (opponents) before we can get back in (formation)." Labas tenacity has also rubbed off on his midfield counterpart, who tracked back on more than one occasion against Seattle to help out Vancouvers back line. "(Labas) a guy who sets the tone," said Koffie. "If you play next to him, he goes in for tackles (and) you have to do the same. If he goes in chasing the ball, you have to do the same, because you cant let him do the job (alone)." Also just 22, Laba was a casualty of Toronto FCs winter spending spree, with the club unable to retain the designated player it acquired last season. "I didnt expect it, but I think its for the best," Laba said through an interpreter. "Im very happy in Vancouver with a great coach and teammates." Although he often takes care of the less-glamorous tasks on the field, the Whitecaps have come to appreciate his tireless work. "Mati gives us a great dimension to build off of at the back," said Vancouver captain Jay DeMerit. "He lets the guys that are creative express themselves a little bit more, just by giving you a little bit more of a lockdown defensively." Added the selfless Laba: "Ive always played that way -- win balls, win tackles -- and quickly disperse (passes) so my teammates have more time on the ball." Pert has been in awe at how quickly Laba has adapted to his new surroundings. "Matis been incredible since hes come in and the fact he came in two weeks before the start of the season and every game he just never lets you down," said Pert. "Hes absolutely a top, top player. I couldnt speak highly enough of Mati. "He makes incredible tackles, he gets his foot on the ball, he plays it simple." Because of their youth, Laba and Koffie could be patrolling Vancouvers midfield for some time, and the pair are expected to start alongside each other once again when the Whitecaps (4-2-5) visit the Portland Timbers (3-3-7) on Sunday. "(Koffies) a great player and I think we work really well together," said Laba. "I can win balls and that opens space up for him to go forward and attack more. We compliment each other quite well." ' ' '