With the 2016 World Cup of Hockey set to be unveiled, it’s time to speculate on Team Canada’s roster. You know you want to.
Admit it – you missed this game. It’s been more than a year since Canadians have done what they love to do most over a couple beers: play Steve Yzerman and build a national team roster for the next best-on-best tournament.
With the World Cup of Hockey announcement dropping this all-star weekend, giving the NHL a nice new revenue stream, we can finally start projecting Team Canada again. Let’s get down to business on a 25-man roster, alphabetized by position, keeping in mind it’s for summer 2016, meaning some vets age out and some youngsters age in.
Every regular season, Fleury reminds us he has plenty of fight left in him as a No. 1 NHL netminder. He likely won’t have to play at all in the World Cup, but he can hold the fort thanks to the elite defense in front of him, even if he has shaky moments.
Bring him along as a likable cheerleader. He’s also a gold medallist. He’ll be 37 by summer 2016, so he’s mere insurance.
Only health or a desire not to play can stop Price from reclaiming the starter’s mantle. He was practically unbeatable during Canada’s 2014 Sochi gold medal run, posting a hilarious 0.59 goals-against average and .972 save percentage. The No. 1 job is his by a mile.
On the bubble: Jonathan Bernier, Corey Crawford, Brian Elliott, Braden Holtby
How scary is it to think Doughty will be even better by 2016? He’ll only be 26 and just commencing his prime as the sport’s best all-around defenseman.
Giordano gets a long-overdue welcome to the squad, though he’ll likely be the No. 7 or 8 guy on this team. Great two-way ability.
The future Hall of Famer (yep, it’s time to put him in that category) will undoubtedly log major minutes in Canada’s top four.
Who knows if he’ll be healthy by summer 2016? Either way, he’s a fine injury replacement if one of Canada’s better puck-movers goes down.
Hailing from the same draft class as Doughty, Pietrangelo still has room to improve by next summer. He has the size, reach and skating to play in any situation on any pairing.
Here’s hoping we get a bigger taste of P.K. on the world stage this time. Shea Weber can boom on the first power play unit, and Subban can do the same on the second.
Has Vlasic not been as good this season, or has he just returned to excelling under the radar, which he did before Sochi put him firmly on the radar? His defense-by-positioning approach makes him akin to a cover corner in football.
The big fella joins Doughty and Keith in the slam-dunk tier. Weber will be a pillar once again. He seems to play even better on the world stage. Or is it just that we get to see him more and are reminded of how good he is?
On the bubble: Jay Bouwmeester, Brent Burns, Brent Seabrook
Sochi marked Benn’s coming out party. He hasn’t been as dominant so far in 2014-15, but slot him back with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry and enjoy the power forward magic.
The best two-way player on the planet will do whatever Canada needs him to. He can operate in a shutdown role up the middle or from the wing.
A late addition to my roster. We’ve seen the way he can elevate his game and fill the net when he has world-class linemates.
He’s a coach’s pet, capable of scoring 30 goals but remaining defensively responsible in the process, and he would’ve made Canada last year if not for an injury.
Obviously the team’s truest lock. He’ll center Canada’s top scoring line.
Put him with Perry and another power forward like Benn and you get matchup problems for every opponent, every shift. Getzlaf seems to be getting better somehow, too.
Giroux was one of the more controversial omissions from Canada’s roster in 2014. He has all-world offensive skill and creativity, but a collection of more versatile players beat him out. His talent should force him onto the roster this time. Would love to see him paired with one of Canada’s top shooters, like Steven Stamkos or Tyler Seguin.
Johansen is my pick to be the 2016 version of Jamie Benn, the guy who makes layman viewers say, “Whoa, who is this guy? He’s a beast.” A monster on the forecheck who can score. He’s a great fit for Canada’s fourth line.
Believe it or not, Nash projects as Canada’s oldest forward. He’ll turn 32 in June 2016. He’s played his way out of the bubble talk, lighting the lamp with aplomb on Broadway. It’s possible he’s a stronger player at the World Cup than he was in Sochi.
Sniper, power play wizard, Getzlaf’s running mate. The two are joined at the hip.
Crazy to think ‘Stammer’ hasn’t gotten to strut his stuff yet with Canada in a true best-on-best affair (sorry, World Championship, you don’t count). Put him on Crosby’s wing and watch the fireworks. John Tavares could round out an offense-incarnate top line, or Canada could deploy someone like Nash to give the line more size and strength. Either way…holy crap.
The more goals he scores, the more his supposed character issues from his Boston days fade away in the rearview mirror. Seguin is like Giroux in that he doesn’t bring the most complete two-way skill set but has too much skill to be denied a spot anymore.
Canada is so rich up the middle that a dominant NHL pivot like Tavares could end up shifted to the wing. It’ll be him or Bergeron. Let’s just hope the Islanders let Tavares play after he blew out his knee in Sochi.
‘Captain Serious’ will log big minutes at both ends of the rink – and with no more Bouwmeester, he gets his No. 19.
On the bubble: Matt Duchene, Taylor Hall, Jaden Schwartz, Patrick Sharp
PRELIMINARY DEPTH CHART
Matt Larkin is an associate editor at The Hockey News and a regular contributor to the thn.com Post-To-Post blog. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Matt Larkin on Twitter at @THNMattLarkin