We’re in the midst of a World Juniors tournament that has shattered the Connor Bedard hype-scale and yet I’m currently in the fetal position frantically wondering if I’ll ever see McDavid and Crosby play together at a best-on-best competition. No need to worry about me; it’s an annual tradition. To mark the occasion lets project what the Canadian roster could look like if something akin to the Olympics or World Cup of Hockey were being held today. To start, we’ll be theorizing who could occupy front offices and bench roles, then dissecting the depth chart at forward.
Doug Armstrong – General Manager
Steve Yzerman, Julien BriseBois and Joe Sakic – Assistant General Managers
Armstrong was originally selected as GM of the 2022 Canadian Olympic Team and while this whole exercise is hypothetical, stripping him of that role seems unrealistic. That being said, I’ll wager Yzerman and Sakic only join the front office under the condition they get to suit up as the extra forwards, I’m only half-kidding.
Jon Cooper – Head Coach
Jared Bednar, Peter DeBoer, Rod Brind’Amour and Bruce Cassidy – Assistant Coaches
This is likely one too many coaches but once again, it features the original 2022 Olympic choices and the addition of Brind’Amour; whose intensity seems perfect for a short tournament. When Canada’s dominance as a hockey nation is questioned the usual rebuttal is there’s enough depth for the ‘B’ team to win gold. Leaving the accuracy of that statement aside, how often is the ‘B’ teams potential coaching staff also mentioned? The chosen five are more than qualified but so are Cup winners like Barry Trotz, Darryl Sutter and Craig Berube. Even younger options like Jim Montgomery, Sheldon Keefe and Martin St. Louis are compelling. Frankly, any machination of these candidates would give Canada a robust staff behind the bench,
Connor McDavid, Sidney Crosby, Nathan MacKinnon, Mitch Marner, Brayden Point, Steven Stamkos, Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand
You counted right, that’s eight players who feel virtually irremovable from the exercise. This is the part where I’m supposed to provide a full breakdown of their NHL trophy cases but the list is so long it would be outdated before you’re done reading. I think that alone is enough endorsement for these guys.
Image Credit: Associated Press
Jonathan Huberdeau, John Tavares, Mark Stone
Huberdeau is the focal point here and not for the right reasons. The winger amassed 115 points (30G and 85A) in his 2021-22 campaign with Florida Panthers before heading to the Calgary Flames in a blockbuster trade this past summer. Fast-forward to present day and Huberdeau is comfortably under a point-per-game on his new squad (25P in 34GP). However the sample size is still small enough in comparison to an otherwise impressive track record; for that reason he still gets the nod for Canada. Tavares and Stone are two players with inconsistent health but steady production in recent seasons, boasting .92P/GP and .95P/PG since 2020-21 respectively. While it’s clear they aren’t slouches offensively, They feel like safe bets to occupy defensive roles in Canada’s bottom-6.
Forwards: Wild Cards
Bo Horvat, Ryan O’Reilly, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Mark Scheifele, Nick Suzuki, Mathew Barzal, Robert Thomas, Jordan Kyrou, Zach Hyman, Tom Wilson
Penciling in the locks and probable forwards leaves us with three vacancies to fill. If you fancy forwards closer to the Tavares and Stone mold there’s O’Reilly and Nugent-Hopkins. If you prefer an infusion of youth then choose from Barzal, Suzuki, Thomas and Kyrou who are rising stars. It should be mentioned that the latter half of those options are St. Louis Blues and history tells us national team GMs occasionally lean on the familiarity of their own players, would Doug Armstrong do the same? Horvat and Scheifele are perhaps the best finishers on this list and could replace an injured center or winger in a pinch. That leaves us with arguably the two most intriguing options in Hyman and Wilson. A couple of power forwards that, depending on which hockey circles you frequent, were legitimately in contention for spots on the aforementioned 2022 Canadian Olympic Team. Hyman in particular feels destined as the heir to Chris Kunitz; longtime wingman of Crosby and 2014 Olympic Gold Winner. I usually value speed over physicality, but Canada already has more than a few burners in their top-9 and on defense. As such, I keep returning to O’Rielly, Hyman, and Wilson as my wild card picks to round out the forward group.
Image Credit: TSN
The Depth Chart
|Left Wing||Centre||Right Wing|
|Zach Hyman||Connor McDavid ‘C’||Nathan MacKinnon|
|Steven Stamkos||Sidney Crosby ‘A’||Brayden Point|
|Jonathan Huberdeau||John Tavares||Mitch Marner|
|Brad Marchand||Patrice Bergeron ‘A’||Mark Stone|
|Ryan O’Reilly||Extra: Tom Wilson|
Stay tuned for a breakdown of Canada’s hypothetical D-pairings and goaltending soon.
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