That’s pretty much the only word that comes to mind when contemplating the level of talent Hockey Canada has assembled at its summer orientation camp in preparation for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.
The 45 players (Simon Gagne left early with a groin injury) who spent this week in Calgary will be split into two teams on Thursday night for the purpose of a Red and White scrimmage.
Ask any team other than Sweden or Russia heading to the Games and they’d happily take either Red or White as their entry and call it a day.
As such, some incredibly talented hockey players will be nothing more than highly knowledgeable fans when Canada goes for gold on home soil.
With the exception of the injured Ryan Getzlaf, it’s hard to imagine Team Canada won’t ultimately be comprised of 23 players who all took part in this week’s exercise in system building and team bonding.
But if somebody is to come from off the board thanks to a scorching start to the season, here is a starting lineup’s worth of names to consider.
Paul Kariya, LW He’ll be 35 in October, but the guy can still fly. Hip surgery limited him to 11 games with the Blues last year. It would be a bit of poetic justice if Kariya were to sneak onto this team, as he was denied a chance to play at the 1998 Games thanks to a Gary Suter cross-check on the eve of the event. What a thrill it would be for the Vancouver boy to go for his second Olympic gold in his hometown.
Mike Cammalleri, C Jeff Carter, Rick Nash and Eric Staal were the only Canadian NHLers with more goals than Cammalleri last year. He worked well on a line with Jarome Iginla in Calgary, so there’s a natural fit there, too. Cammalleri can be a streaky scorer, so if the new Hab gets hot, he’ll be worth a look.
Ryane Clowe, RW Power forwards tend to be late-bloomers, so there’s a chance this 6-foot-2, 225-pound Shark is just coming into his own with his 27th birthday set to hit right before the season. These Olympics will be played on North American-sized ice, which is an advantage for players of Clowe’s ilk. If he’s halfway to a 35-goal season by Christmas, Steve Yzerman & Co. will have to take a real close look at him.
Cam Barker, D The Hawks blueline is already represented by Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook at Canada’s camp, but Barker really came on last year, just when it seemed time to write off the third overall pick from 2004. At 23, he’s ready to hit the afterburners on his career. After potting 40 points in 68 games last year, there’s a good chance he’ll finish this year as a 6-foot-3, 220-pound blueliner with 50 points and the ability to run a power play. Those kinds of players don’t grow on trees – even in Canada.
Braydon Coburn, D Again, size is the real attraction here. The 6-foot-5, 220-pound Coburn has been developing steadily in Philly and when you combine his age (24) with the fact he’ll be studying under fellow big man Chris Pronger this season, his game is set for serious advancement – and it’s already very good.
Carey Price, G This may be the longest shot of all, but somehow the fact Price just turned 22 earlier this month always gets lost in talk of his play. He probably feels like he’s aging in dog years, thanks to the stress of playing in Montreal. But with new defensive-minded coach Jacques Martin guiding the Canadiens, Price may get a shot to rebuild his game after an up-and-mostly-down 2008-09. If he’s top three in goals-against average and save percentage early in the year, he’ll make a case for himself as Canada’s No. 3.
Ryan Dixon is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey’s Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog will appear regularly in the off-season and his column, Top Shelf, appears Wednesdays.
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