A Wealth of Riches
What’s Happening: The NHL is set to return to the Olympics (we think) in February. There was a growing sense that the NHL would pull out amid the latest COVID-19 development, but commissioner Gary Bettman last Friday said that the decision to go ultimately lies with the players. TSN’s and The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun told TSN radio that the sense he has is that the players overwhelmingly want to go.
With rosters set to be announced in early January, this is a good time to predict what those may look like. Today, we tackle Team Canada’s men’s team, which is looking for its fourth gold medal since 2002.
Never short on talent, the discussion around Team Canada will come down to what talented players don’t make the cut. With Sydney Crosby, Connor McDavid, and Alex Pietrangelo already being named by GM Doug Armstrong, 19 skaters and 3 goalies remain.
Pregame Skate’s Pick ‘Em
*denotes players currently injured
There’s no debate at the top of Canada’s lineup as there are clear locks to be on the team.
Forwards: Jonathan Huberdeau, Nathan MacKinnon, Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, *Brayden Point
Defensemen: Shea Theodore, Cale Makar
The remainder of the roster construction will come down to what kind of game head coach John Cooper and assistants Barry Trotz, Bruce Cassidy, and Peter DeBoer want to play. Do they want the most skilled roster? Do they want to have defensive responsibility and balance? How much emphasis will they place on experience?
The most likely candidates up front include:
Mark Scheifle - one of the best two-way forwards in the game
Steven Stamkos - now more one-dimensional, but can they leave him off?
Ryan O’Reilly - shut down center
*Mitch Marner - currently injured, but as close to a lock as there is in this group
In the conversation:
Depending on the management team’s answers to those team-construction questions above, the depth up front gets interesting. If they go with the most skill, players like Mathew Barzal and Mark Stone draw in. If they want experience, John Tavares gets a look. If they value instant chemistry for a short tournament, Zach Hyman makes it to play with MacDavid (ala Chris Kunitz with Crosby in 2010).
Other forwards worth considering include Sean Couturier, Claude Giroux, Tyler Seguin, Travis Konecny, Anthony Cirelli, and Taylor Hall.
The Back End:
Beyond Pietrangelo, Theodore, and Makar, there are a lot of philosophical decisions to make here. Going with those who have got you there before means choosing *Drew Doughty and Brent Burns, who are both having renaissance seasons. Giving young blood a chance would mean the likes of Darnell Nurse, Dougie Hamilton, Aaron Ekblad, and even Thomas Chabot draw in.
But what about defensive defensemen? Adam Pelech and Colton Paryko fit that mold. And we haven’t gotten to Morgan Rielly, Jakob Chychrun, and Josh Morrissey yet. A wealth of riches indeed.
Between the pipes:
For the first time in a long, long time, Team Canada doesn’t have a lock in goal. Carey Price is the obvious leading candidate, but he has yet to play a game this season. If they can’t bank on Price, it gets really interesting.
The list includes:
There’s talent there, but between past success and untapped potential, there are many unknowns.
The Projected Lineup
With all that said, here’s our best guess of what Team Canada will look like. Ultimately, it’s a balanced roster with an eye towards the future and looking past the old guard.
Hyman McDavid MacKinnon
Marchand Crosby Point
O’Reilly Bergeron Scheifele
Huberdeau Tavares Marner
*Extras: Mark Stone, Steven Stamkos
Left off: Mathew Barzal, Taylor Hall, Sean Couturier
*Extras: Ekblad, Chabot
Left off: Brent Burns, Josh Morrissey, Morgan Rielly, Bowen Bryam, Drew Doughty
Left off: *Carey Price, Mackenzie Blackwood
*Things could change before January 10, but taking Price right now is too big of a gamble. If Price is in, Fleury is likely out.