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Olympics look-ahead: Canada

Ed. Note: Over the last week we have been taking an early look at the major competitors for February’s Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, and how it affects members of the Predators organization. Today we continue with Team Canada…

Potential depth chart:

Team Canada
Forwards
John Tavares Sidney Crosby Claude Giroux
Matt Duchene Steven Stamkos Martin St. Louis
Rick Nash Ryan Getzlaf Corey Perry
Taylor Hall Jonathan Toews Jeff Carter
James Neal Patrice Bergeron Jordan Eberle
Mike Richards Eric Staal Patrick Sharp
Defense Goalie
Drew Doughty Shea Weber Roberto Luongo
Duncan Keith Kris Letang Carey Price
Alex Pietrangelo P.K. Subban Corey Crawford
Dion Phaneuf Brent Seabrook Mike Smith
Jay Bouwmeester Dan Boyle

Note: Depth chart above only includes player on Olympic Camp invite roster, which can be seen here.

Forwards

Canada truly shines at the center position with Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews and Steven Stamkos up the middle, not to mention Matt Duchene, John Tavares, Ryan Getzlaf, Jeff Carter and Patrice Bergeron. The 2014 roster will look significantly different than the 2010 roster that narrowly edged the United States in overtime to take home top honors. Dany Heatley and Patrick Marleau weren’t even invited to the summer camp, whereas Eric Staal and Joe Thornton will have an extremely difficult time making the team this go around with so many strong centers vying for so few positions, even if one or two centermen make the jump to wing for the tournament. Veteran wingers, 2013 Pittsburgh Penguin trade deadline acquisitions and 2010 Olympic teammates Brenden Morrow and Jarome Iginla were not invited to the summer orientation camp for Canada.

If the long list of centers isn’t impressive enough, one only needs to look at some of the projected Team Canada wingers to see how impressive up front this squad should be. Claude Giroux, Corey Perry, Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall, Rick Nash and James Neal will all be vying for spots on the roster.

There are always notable omissions from most camp rosters, but this is to be expected especially when it comes to Canada. There are just too many very talented players at forward that would garner top line minutes on any other team. Of particular note is Dallas Stars center Jamie Benn who was not invited after four strong seasons of play in the NHL. Benn has said that he plans on having the kind of first half of season that will make Team Canada take notice so he doesn’t get left off the final roster for Sochi. But with such strength already at the center position, will there be room for Benn even with a solid first half of season?

Nashville doesn’t have any forwards that would even garner a look at training camp, let alone have any shot at making the final roster, but the same obviously cannot be said for defense.

Defensemen

Canada’s defense is equally as impressive as its list of forwards, with Predators captain Shea Weber expected to play top minutes. With the likes of Weber, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, PK Subban, Alex Petriangelo, Kris Letang, Marc Staal, Dan Boyle, Jay Bouwmeester, Dion Phaneuf, and Drew Doughty (among other elite NHL blueliners) all vying for a shot to put on the maple leaf, it will be a difficult task for opposing teams to amass large amounts of shots on goal. Much like Sweden’s defense corps, Canada should find balance on the blue line with a strong mix of puck movers who can all hold their own defensively.

Barring injury, Weber is a lock for Team Canada. In 2010, the British Columbia native collected two goals and four assists for six points in seven contests for the gold medal winning squad, one of his shots that resulted in a goal actually went through the net. Weber also finished that tournament second on the team in ice time, and he was even named to the All-Star team for the Olympic tournament.

Goaltenders

If you could say that Canada is weak at a position, it would be goaltending, despite having Roberto Luongo, Carey Price, and Corey Crawford vying for the starter’s position. Luongo took Canada to the gold medal game in 2010.  Whoever wins the starting position in goal will probably be the player who has the best first half of a season which could positively effect Vancouver, Montreal and Chicago among a couple other netminders hoping to have a shot to even just make the squad.

A lot was made of Toronto’s James Reimer not being invited to the summer camp after taking the Maple Leafs to a Game 7 in their playoff series against Boston. Even if Reimer beats out Jonathan Bernier for the top spot in Toronto and has a solid first half season, Luongo, Price or Crawford would really have to falter to lose a position in favor of Reimer. Realistically, it would be Mike Smith of the Phoenix Coyotes who could play his way onto the team knocking out one of the three bigger names.

Team outlook:

The Canadians are considered one of the favorites for the upcoming Winter Games. After winning gold in Vancouver in 2010, they will want to defend their title and should make it far in the tournament.

 
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