With the announcement that NHL players are indeed slated to play in the Olympics in February, we can certainly slot in Canada as the gold-medal favorite now. The Canadians have pretty much always been the favorite in best-on-best tournaments and even with a depleted lineup, the Canucks took gold at the most recent IIHF World Championship (Owen Power, still undrafted at the time, played a key role on defense).
But what is most exciting about these upcoming Olympics is the fact Canada will be bringing together several generational talents on the same team for the first time; Connor McDavid has never played on the same Team Canada as Sidney Crosby, but now they have their chance.
Canada will play in the same pool as the United States, Germany and China. One of those games will be hard-fought, one carries some intrigue and one will be a slaughter (you can guess which is which).
Let's take a look at what Canada's roster could look like come February.
Each team is permitted a roster of 22 skaters (14 forwards, eight defensemen) and 3 goaltenders.
Jonathan Huberdeau – Connor McDavid – Brayden Point
Brad Marchand – Sidney Crosby – Patrice Bergeron
Bo Horvat – Nathan MacKinnon – Mitch Marner
Sean Couturier – Ryan O'Reilly – Mark Stone
Matt Barzal, John Tavares
As always, Canada is blessed with a glut of elite centers, forcing top-tier pivots such as Point and Bergeron to the wings and Barzal and Tavares as extras. This is a tremendous advantage for the team when it comes to faceoffs and possession, the latter of which has become a staple of Canada's international squads during this current golden era.
Scoring will be no issue here, especially with McDavid and MacKinnon in the primes of their careers. If the team feels like it needs more offense, Steven Stamkos and his power play acumen could be subbed in for Horvat, but it likely won't be a problem.
Canada's forwards are charged with playing fast, with an unforgiving forecheck and constant pressure. It has served the program well and this group can execute that plan once again. The order of the top three lines is inconsequential – they're all loaded with scoring talent – but even the shutdown line of Couturier, O'Reilly and Stone would be the No. 1 trio on most other Olympic teams. Toss in the PK prowess of scoring wingers such as Marchand and Marner and you've got a group that can do everything and do it with precision.
Shea Theodore – Alex Pietrangelo
Jakob Chychrun – Cale Makar
Adam Pelech – Dougie Hamilton
Darnell Nurse – Mackenzie Weegar
Canada's blueline is a little more tricky to assemble based on the amount of left-handed and right-handed shooters available and some of the other high-end names available include Morgan Rielly, Aaron Ekblad, Kris Letang, Drew Doughty and Devon Toews. But the group of eight chosen here bring a variety of skills that will keep Canada's own zone safe while also transitioning the puck to those amazing forwards and chipping in some offense themselves from the point.
Theodore and Pietrangelo are a natural pairing as Vegas teammates, while the fast-rising Chychrun brings size and skill to a combo with Makar, the crown jewel of the bunch. Pelech's emergence as one of the NHL's best defensive D-men earns him a spot, while Weegar gets the nod over fellow Florida blueliner Ekblad, who has struggled with injuries (plus Weegar has been low-key excellent).
Carey Price, Marc-Andre Fleury, Darcy Kuemper
As long as he's healthy, Price has proven that he is still the most intimidating goalie in the world right now and when he has a superstar roster in front of him, he's practically unbeatable. Fleury is a great No. 2 based on his on-ice play and his dressing room likeability. Kuemper gets the nod thanks to his standout play at the worlds, where he was the goalie of record for Canada's gold medallists. That sort of experience is great, while his new role as Colorado's starter will have him in a winning mindset, too.
Should Canada go in a different direction, Jordan Binnington is the most obvious answer as he does have a Stanley Cup on his resume. If Carter Hart can rebound from his dreadful 2020-21 campaign, he'd be a good No. 3 in terms of getting experience for the future, since Price and Fleury are nearing the ends of their NHL careers.