Team Canada Hockey: Position-by-Position Breakdown of Preliminary Roster
Canada has not won an ice hockey gold medal at the Winter Olympics outside of North America since 1952.
This is the challenge that Hockey Canada has prepared for since its gold-medal triumph at the Vancouver games in 2010. On Monday, it released the roster for next month's Olympic camp.
As with every camp roster, there are several omissions that will have fans scratching their heads.
While it's possible for players not on the camp roster to make the final team, it's an unlikely outcome. The only player to make the 2010 squad after not getting an invite to the 2009 camp was Patrice Bergeron.
It should also be noted that the 2014 Sochi Games will be played on an Olympic-sized ice surface, which is larger than the NHL-sized rink Vancouver used in 2010. Players whose skill set fit this size of ice will have an advantage when it comes time to determine the final roster.
Let's take a position-by-position look at Canada's Olympic camp roster and make predictions on which players will travel to Sochi in seven months.
For the full roster, visit HockeyCanada.ca
Camp Invites: Corey Crawford (CHI), Roberto Luongo (VAN), Mike Smith (PHX), Carey Price (MTL) and Braden Holtby (WSH)
Notable Omissions: Cam Ward (CAR), Marc-Andre Fleury (PIT)
Projected Group: Luongo (starter), Crawford, Price
Position Breakdown: What the Canadians lack in elite talent they make up for in depth when it comes to the goaltender position. Ward's omission is a strange one despite his injury issues last season, but if Hockey Canada chooses Luongo, Crawford and Price, the team will be well-equipped for another gold medal.
Luongo was good-not-great at the 2010 Olympics and ended up leading the team to gold despite allowing the United States to tie the final game just seconds prior to the final horn. He's the only member of this group with prior Olympic experience, which makes him the likely starter in Sochi.
Camp Invites: Karl Alzner (WSH), Dan Boyle (SJS), Jay Bouwmeester (STL), Drew Doughty (LAK), Mike Green (WSH), Dan Hamhuis (VAN), Travis Hamonic (NYI), Duncan Keith (CHI), Kris Letang (PIT), Marc Methot (OTT), Dion Phaneuf (TOR), Alex Pietrangelo (STL), Brent Seabrook (CHI), Marc Staal (NYR), P.K. Subban (MTL), Marc-Edouard Vlasic (SJS), Shea Weber (NSH)
Notable Omissions: Francois Beauchemin (ANA), Mark Giordano (CGY)
Projected Group: Keith, Seabrook, Doughty, Weber, Subban, Pietrangelo, Letang
Position Breakdown: Canada won't have any problems finding incredible pairings for the Olympics. This is a stellar group of defensemen, with 2010 members Keith, Doughty and Weber near-locks to make the final roster. Seabrook should also make it because him and Keith form one of the NHL's best duos on the Blackhawks blue line, while Doughty and Weber would give Canada an amazing two-way combo for a second pairing.
Letang's remarkable skating ability and offensive skill set makes him a strong fit on an Olympic-sized rink, and the same can be said for reigning Norris Trophy winner P.K. Subban. Choosing the seventh defenseman will be difficult, but the best option is Pietrangelo given his scoring ability and impressive size.
Camp Invites: Taylor Hall (EDM), Andrew Ladd (WPG), Milan Lucic (BOS), James Neal (PIT), Chris Kunitz (PIT), Brad Marchand (BOS), Rick Nash (NYR), Patrick Sharp (CHI)
Notable Omissions: Patrick Marleau (SJS), Jamie Benn (DAL), Matt Moulson (NYI), Evander Kane (WPG)
Projected Group: Nash, Sharp, Hall
Position Breakdown: Nash and Hall are two offensive-minded power forwards with exceptional speed and skating ability, which makes them an ideal fit on an Olympic-sized sheet of ice. If the 2014 Olympics were being played on a smaller NHL-sized ice, like in 2002 and 2010, Lucic would probably make the team. But he's too slow to take a spot from faster, more offensively skilled wingers such as Nash, Hall and Sharp.
Camp Invites: Jordan Eberle (EDM), Corey Perry (ANA), Martin St. Louis (TBL)
Notable Omissions: Jarome Iginla (BOS), Tyler Seguin (DAL), Wayne Simmonds (PHI)
Projected Group: Perry, St. Louis
Position Breakdown: Right wing is probably going to be a position where a few centers will fill a couple roles. Perry is a premier power forward and St. Louis is the reigning scoring champ, which makes them near-locks for the final roster.
The other right wingers will likely be Stamkos and Giroux, who are two elite centers but also right-handed shots capable of scoring goals and creating chances from the wing. These two forwards are too talented to leave off the roster but probably won't beat out Toews, Crosby, Bergeron and Getzlaf for the top four center positions.
Camp Invites: Jonathan Toews (CHI), Patrice Bergeron (BOS), Sidney Crosby (PIT), Steven Stamkos (TBL), Claude Giroux (PHI), Eric and Jordan Staal (CAR), Mike Richards (LAK), Jeff Carter (LAK), Joe Thornton (SJS), Logan Couture (SJS), Ryan Getzlaf (ANA), Matt Duchene (COL), John Tavares (NYI)
Notable Omissions: Jason Spezza (OTT), Nazem Kadri (TOR), Sam Gagner (EDM)
Projected Group: Crosby, Toews, Bergeron, Stamkos, Giroux, Tavares, Getzlaf, Couture
Position Breakdown: The strongest and deepest position on the Canada roster is at center, where some of the world's best players will play a major role in the team's gold medal defense. The four most likely centers are Crosby, Toews, Bergeron and Getzlaf. These four players, especially Toews, Bergeron and Getzlaf, embody the toughness, faceoff ability and two-way skill set required to dominate at center during Olympic competition.
The other centers who make the team will likely fill a role on the wing. Tavares and Couture should play at left wing because they shoot left handed, while Stamkos and Giroux could see ice time at right wing.
Even though they don't need eight centers, leaving forwards of Tavares and Stamkos' caliber off the final roster would be a giant mistake. These players are capable of playing out of position and still making a positive impact on the team.
Nicholas Goss is an NHL Lead Writer at Bleacher Report. He was also a credentialed writer at the 2011 and 2013 Stanley Cup Final, as well as the 2013 NHL draft.
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