core is pretty much set for Canada's entry at the IIHF World Hockey Championship.
Tampa Bay Lightning forward Teddy Purcell accepted an invitation to the tournament on Wednesday, bringing the total number of committed players to 17.
The team can carry as many as 22 into next month's event — and has the option to add up to three more midway through — but those players are likely to come from NHL teams eliminated from the first round of the playoffs. For now, Hockey Canada appears content with the group its built from teams that missed the post-season.
“We are extremely happy with the response we have received from players and are very pleased with the group that we have been able to assemble to date,” said Canadian general manager Kevin Lowe.
The biggest work remains on the blue-line, which currently features Jay Bouwmeester, Dion Phaneuf, P.K. Subban and Marc Methot. At least three defencemen will need to be added.
Otherwise, the roster features goalies Cam Ward and Devan Dubnyk along with 11 forwards, including Olympic champions Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. John Tavares, Jordan Eberle, Jeff Skinner, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Evander Kane, Andrew Ladd, Jamie Benn, Ryan O'Reilly and Purcell have also signed on.
History shows that filling out the final spots will be tough.
As Lowe learned with Steven Stamkos, players are often carrying minor injuries that keep them from accepting invites. The NHL's leading goal-scorer passed earlier this week because of a left shoulder problem he'd been playing through down the stretch — and those emerging from a playoff series are more likely to be hampered by an ailment.
In the meantime, Lowe will be looking to finalize other details.
Guy Boucher and Kirk Muller have each accepted as an assistant coaching job, but the search for a head coach continues. On Wednesday, Lindy Ruff passed on the chance to take that position.
It's always a tough job bringing the world championship team together in the days after the regular season ends but this Canadian entry looks strong. The group certainly shouldn't have much trouble scoring.
Purcell had an impressive second half playing on Tampa Bay's top line with Stamkos and Martin St. Louis. The native of St. John's, N.L., had the fifth-highest point total in the NHL after the all-star break and ended up with career bests in goals (24), assists (41) and points (65).
The Canadian team travels to Europe later this month for a pair of exhibition games before opening the world championship in Helsinki on May 4. It will be carrying high expectations.
“We are looking forward to getting together as a team in Zurich and going for gold in Helsinki,” said Lowe.
The tournament comes at a crucial time for Canada, which has dipped to fourth in the world rankings after consecutive quarter-final exits at the world championship. The groupings for the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia will be set once it wraps up.