Hockey Canada invited 47 players to its Olympic orientation camp in Calgary. Here are 10 who didn’t make it but have a chance to be on the final roster in Sochi:
1. Brian Campbell
What do defencemen Shea Weber, P.K. Subban, Drew Doughty, Kris Letang, Brent Seabrook and Alex Pietrangelo all have in common? They’re all right-handed shots. That means, in addition to Duncan Keith, there’s a major need for lefties on the blue-line. Maybe Jay Bouwmeester, Marc Staal, Dion Phaneuf or Dan Hamhuis will be enough competition, but why not add Campbell to the mix? The 34-year-old played at the most recent world championships, and the 2011-12 Lady Byng winner could fit in well given that Olympic hockey values skill over physicality. The bigger ice won’t be a conditioning issue, since no Canadian-born defenceman played more minutes last season than Campbell, who averaged 26:25 a game.
2. Cam Ward
Goaltending is Canada’s biggest question mark, so it stands to reason that it’s the position with the most competition. General manager Steve Yzerman could pick three from camp invitees Roberto Luongo, Carey Price, Corey Crawford, Braden Holtby and Mike Smith, or Ward could push his way into the discussion with a strong start this season. The Carolina Hurricanes’ starting goalie won the Conn Smythe Trophy in 2006, so there’s evidence he can put together a few weeks of brilliant play. A March knee injury that ended Ward’s season is the biggest uncertainty surrounding him.
3. Francois Beauchemin
Another left-handed defenceman, Beauchemin finished fourth in Norris Trophy voting last season and for good reason. He’s a legitimate two-way, No. 1 NHL defenceman who can eat up minutes but also thrive in a smaller role. Beauchemin has only represented Canada once internationally (at the 2010 world championships), but he has proved durable over the past two seasons and isn’t a player who makes a lot of noticeable mistakes. He’s 33, but if the roster is full of younger players, it might not hurt to have another veteran around.
4. Jason Spezza
It’s hard to pick 14 forwards from the 25 going to Calgary, but if there’s one guy who could parlay a hot start to the season in to Olympic consideration, it’s Spezza. With Daniel Alfredsson gone to the Detroit Red Wings, the Ottawa Senators will be counting more on Spezza, who missed a majority of 2013 with a back injury and played through a knee problem in the playoffs. Spezza was a point-a-game player for Canada at the 2011 and 2009 world championships and has the offensive talent to stand out in a crowded group.
5. Jarome Iginla
Maybe this is a nostalgia pick more than anything, as it was Iginla who set up Sidney Crosby for the winning goal in 2010, as the former Flames captain is definitely past his prime. But Iginla put up points for the Pittsburgh Penguins late in the regular season and playoffs and could be invigorated with the Boston Bruins. Martin St. Louis could make more sense as a veteran scorer, but don’t count Iginla out if he shows he still has his legs early on in Boston. Plus, he’s a right-winger and Canada doesn’t have many of those.
6. Marc-Andre Fleury
Fleury might not be the best goaltender on his own team, but he has won a Stanley Cup and would certainly be given a hard look if his first three months of the season are better than those of Luongo and Price. Fleury would be a high-risk, high-reward pick, given that he hasn’t had a playoff save percentage above .900 since 2009 but has never dipped below that point or had a goals-against average higher than 2.67 in the past six seasons. If he gets hot, his pedigree makes Fleury more likely to get a shot than Smith or Holtby.
7. Pascal Dupuis
Some players look better because they play with stars. Dupuis could be one of those, though that’s not a reason to keep him off Team Canada’s roster. Yzerman said he’s not building an all-star team, and with the need for a few natural right-wingers, Dupuis brings with him the experience of playing with Crosby. Plus-minus is a flawed stat, but no Canadian forward was better than Dupuis’ plus-31 last season, at least some evidence that he isn’t a liability when playing alongside stars.
8. Justin Schultz
What Schultz has going for him: youth and plenty of buzz that he could hang in the NHL as a 23-year-old rookie. What Schultz doesn’t have going for him: He shoots right-handed. There’s no lack of righty defencemen at Team Canada’s camp, so it would take a breakout start to catch Yzerman’s attention. Teams lined up last year to court Schultz, an Anaheim Ducks second-round pick who was more than a point-a-game player in the AHL before putting up 27 for the Edmonton Oilers last season.
9. Derick Brassard
Brassard doesn’t have a long history of NHL success, but this is a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately kind of business. Brassard was a point-a-game playoff performer for the New York Rangers, on par with San Jose Sharks forward Logan Couture, who will be at the camp. The 25-year-old would likely have to maintain a top-six role with the Rangers and keep up that scoring pace early in the season to warrant consideration, especially given Canada’s depth at centre.
10. P.A. Parenteau
Like Dupuis, Parenteau broke out thanks to the contributions of a star centre. But in his first season with the Colorado Avalanche, Parenteau had 43 points in 48 games without the aid of John Tavares. He’s a dark-horse pick, but given that a lack of goals was Canada’s biggest downfall on the international ice surface in Turin in 2010, Parenteau could be a specialty 14th forward in Sochi if the offence needs a spark.
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