The 2014 Sochi Olympics have come and gone, and boy, they were fine while they lasted. In fact, they were so much fine that I decided to take a stab at picking the Canadian men’s 2018 Olympic hockey team even though the competition is four years away. After all, I’m a Canadian, and this is what we do up here.
My projection includes 15 players who have never played in an Olympics before, including Steven Stamkos, who was picked for the 2014 team but missed the Games due to injury. The forward unit is full of speed, which will come in handy again on the big international ice. The defense, however, was much harder to select.
The main reason for that is defensemen tend to make the NHL later in their careers than their forward counterparts. Players like Griffin Reinhart, Derick Pouliot and Matthew Dumba have yet to play in the NHL, but could very well make this team. Others like Morgan Rielly, Dougie Hamilton and Erik Gudbranson have impressed, but it’s still very early in their NHL careers. Young defensemen are incredibly difficult to project. (Hello, Luke Schenn.)
Here are some players who didn’t make my projection but are definitely on my radar:
Kris Letang, 26 – An offensive whiz that logs heavy minutes for the Pittsburgh Penguins. The problem is Canada will have plenty of other options that fit that skillset and are younger than Letang. He also suffered a stroke earlier this month and doctors are unsure if a heart defect may have contributed to it.
Nazem Kadri, 23 – The Toronto Maple Leafs’ centre is averaging 0.73 points in 125 games. Oozes skill and tenacity.
Evander Kane, 22 – The final winger spot was between Kane and Jeff Skinner. I see this as basically a coin flip. Kane has scored slightly more than Skinner with a weaker supporting cas wiht the Winnipeg Jets, but Skinner gets the edge due to his speed.
Brad Marchand, 25 – The Boston Bruins’ winger knows how to get under opponents’ skin, but is also more skilled than a lot of people realize.
Brenden Dillon, 23 – Averages around 21 minutes per game for the Dallas Stars and has already represented Canada at the World Championships.
Erik Gudbranson, 22 – He doesn’t get much attention with the Florida Panthers, but Gudbranson is a solid defender who plays with a bit of fire in his belly.
Marco Scandella, 23 – Admittedly, I don’t get to see many Minnesota Wild games, but Scandella is a young d-man worth keeping an eye on.
James Reimer, 25 – The Leafs’ backup goaltender has the skills to be a starter in this league; it just depends on whether or not he’s given the opportunity.
Ben Scrivens, 27 – His play really took off when he was traded to the Los Angeles Kings and took over the starting job with Jonathan Quick injured. He played so well the Edmonton Oilers acquired him and made him their starter. He’s only played 57 games in his career, but the signs of a great goaltender are there.
Darcy Kuemper, 23 – Niklas Backstrom is 36 years old and Josh Harding’s future is uncertain as he deals with mononucleosis. Kuemper could be the full-time starter for the Minnesota Wild by next season.
Here’s my projection:
Are there any players I missed that you feel have a real shot at making the team? Sound off in the comments.