With the May 27th deadline not far away, time is running out to speculate who will make up Canada’s roster for the World Cup of Hockey in September.
Sixteen of the 23 roster spots have already been spoken for of course, those were announced on March 2nd. That was nearly three months ago, and a number of roster hopefuls have made a good impression in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and at the World Hockey Championships.
Here’s a list of decisions that GM Doug Armstrong and the rest of Team Canada’s management team will have to make.
With three goaltenders already named, Canada is set in goal:
The question that remains for Team Canada is who their starter will be. Carey Price is the best of the three, but hasn’t played since November 25th when he suffered an MCL sprain. If he’s healthy, will he be rusty?
Brayden Holtby is a Vezina Trophy nominee, and a good bet to see the net at some point in the tournament. His team was eliminated in the second round of the playoffs this year, but you couldn’t hang that on him. Holtby had a .942 save percentage in 12 playoff games, which leads all goaltenders that played more than five games played this postseason.
Corey Crawford didn’t have a good playoffs. He had a save percentage of .907 and the Hawks were dispatched in the first round. He’s the best bet to watch games from the press box as the team’s third goalie.
Expect Price (if he’s healthy) and Holtby to share the net, with a starter named before the elimination round.
A big part of who Canada selects to play defence will likely once again come down to which side of the ice players are most comfortable with. You may recall that one of the main reasons why Dan Hamhuis made the Olympic team in 2014 was because he was a left-side defenceman and Canada is loaded with righties. That’s the case again this year.
Four of seven defencemen were named back in March:
Drew Doughty and Shea Weber are both right-handed, while Duncan Keith and Marc-Edouard Vlasic play the left side. That likely leaves a spot two right-shot d-men and one leftie.
Here are the top candidates:
I don’t know how you keep Brent Burns off this team. He had 75 points this season, which led all Canadian defencemen and is one of the highest scoring seasons by a defenceman in the last 20 years. His 18 playoff points are double the next closest d-man. His play also holds up as far as the advanced stats are concerned, given that his even strength Corsi is better than three of the four d-men already named to the team.
To fill in the last two spots, my money is on Alex Pietrangelo and Mark Giordano. I love Subban, but I think Team Canada will want ‘safe’ players to fill out the last two spots. Pietrangelo is a good bet to get the right-shot spot ahead of Subban and Calgary’s Mark Giordano is the top candidate to be selected for the remaining leftie spot.
Up front, Canada seemingly has an unlimited list of options.
Does Armstrong lean towards specialized players, such as players that excel on the penalty kill? How willing is he to pick centres to play on the wing?
Here are the players already named:
Here are the top candidates to fill those spots:
I will be shocked if Corey Perry and Taylor Hall aren’t named to the team. The pair were the second and third highest scoring Canadian wingers in the NHL this year, trailing only Jamie Benn. They’re both in Russia right now, playing prominent roles for Team Canada at the World Championships where they each have 8 points in 7 games.
Perry brings a lot of grit and experience, in addition to his chemistry with Ducks teammate Ryan Getzlaf. Say what you want about the Oilers’ struggles, Hall is a dynamic player that would help any team.
Rick Nash is a national team staple, but I think he gets passed over after a lacklustre season where he put up 36 points in 60 games.
One of the remaining centres could make the team, but they will have to play on the wing. And that’s what I think will happen with Logan Couture, while Claude Giroux earns a spot as the 13th forward after being passed over in 2014.
Here’s my best guess at how Canada will look come September.
Until then, speculate away!