The 2014 Canadian Olympic hockey team has a star-studded roster that is sure to fight hard in defense of its gold medal at the 2010 games in Vancouver.
This roster is so talented that it's almost unfair. It is packed with NHL stars that are considered some of the best in the world. The fact that Martin St. Louis of the Tampa Bay Lightning was not initially on the roster speaks to its depth.
Many were upset that the 16-year NHL veteran wasn't included for the second straight Olympics. When it was announced that Steven Stamkos would miss the tournament, Team Canada and Tampa Bay general manager Steve Yzerman brought St. Louis into the fold.
With that said, there are plenty of players on this team that will be able to steal the show. Here's predicting which ones will be Canada's top performers.
Sidney Crosby, Forward
The main focus of all of Canada's opponents at Sochi, Sidney Crosby needs to be accounted for at all times. While not the best pure goal scorer in the NHL—that title belongs to Stamkos—Crosby is the best all-around player with the best instincts and fundamentals.
Crosby has an advantage over most of his Canadian teammates in this tournament because he was also on the 2010 Vancouver squad. This gives him the experience necessary to succeed once again on the big stage.
Crosby, of course, scored the "golden goal" in Vancouver that propelled Canada to the top of the podium.
Currently leading the NHL with 78 points, Crosby is having yet another fantastic season. Those 78 points include his NHL-leading 50 assists. The Pittsburgh Penguins superstar will look to both set up his teammates for success as well as look to score when the opportunities present themselves in Sochi.
While how many points he scores will ultimately depend on how far this team goes in the tournament, Crosby will undoubtedly be the team's top point-getter.
Patrick Sharp, Forward
Patrick Sharp is putting up stellar numbers for the Chicago Blackhawks this season. He's sixth in the NHL with 28 goals and ninth overall with 58 points.
Sharp will more than likely play on the second line with Blackhawks teammate Jonathan Toews. Playing with his usual center should help him to get more comfortable on the international stage. Toews also played on the 2010 team and his calming presence will work wonders for Sharp.
This line will be counted on defensively quite a bit, but don't underestimate its scoring potential. If Sharp's standing the NHL isn't enough for you, just check out his exploits on Jan. 3 against the New Jersey Devils. His skills are strong enough to score against any competition.
While Crosby will be busy dishing out assists and racking up points, Sharp will be busy finding the back of the net. He will be Team Canada's top goal scorer come the end of the tournament.
Roberto Luongo, Goaltender
Roberto Luongo led Team Canada to gold in 2010 and will look to do exactly the same in 2014. While the aging goalie will face stiff competition from Carey Price and Mike Smith, he deserves to be the one that starts in net.
He is having another fine season, though his Vancouver Canucks have lost the last five times he was in goal. The 17 goals he has allowed over those five games are not a good indicator of the type of goalie that Luongo is. He is elite and each of Canada's international competitors knows it will not be easy getting the puck past him.
Luongo told David Ebner of The Globe and Mail what he's looking forward to in what could end up being his final Olympics:
It’s always an honour. The Olympics is unique and special, it comes every four years. Who knows if there will be NHL players involved in another Olympics. I’m 34 so I’m not getting any younger. In reality, this is probably my last one, so I just want to go out there and really enjoy it. And not just play hockey, the whole experience, being in the village with other athletes, and sharing in Olympics stuff that is unique.
With this likely being his final Olympic tournament, look for Luongo to be a wall in net for Team Canada.
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