When the puck drops at the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver, the home team will likely be the odds-on favorite to win the gold. The Canadians clearly have the most depth on their roster, which will make Steve Yzerman’s job of selecting the roster even more difficult. With no “taxi squad” being brought along, the players picked for the final roster will be the only ones available for play. Here’s my picks for the Canadian roster.
Martin Brodeur – Brodeur was the starter for the Canadians in both 2002 and 2006, winning gold in ’02. The future Hall of Famer also won gold at the 2004 World Cup. Brodeur currently has 15 wins and ranks 3rd in the league with a 2.05 GAA.
Roberto Luongo – Luongo has been at the top of his game for the last couple seasons, but a history of slow starts and a lack of big game experience might keep him in a backup role in Vancouver. He has a solid 2.56 GAA, but solid won’t cut it for in the Olympics.
Marc-Andre Fleury – The young French Canadian has backstopped the Penguins to back to back Cup Finals, winning the Cup in 2009. He certainly has the big game experience that will come in handy at the Olympics, and is currently tied for the league lead with 16 wins.
Scott Niedermayer – A natural leader with more experience than just about anyone else in the league, Niedermayer has been a staple on Canada’s national teams for years. A natural playmaker, Niedermayer contributes offensively, while surrendering nothing in his own end. Niedermayer’s a virtual lock for the roster.
Mike Green – Some might leave Green off the roster for his occasional ineptitude in his own end, but Green’s scoring touch makes him invaluable. The young defenseman leads all Canadian defensemen in scoring from the blueline, with 22 assists and 25 points already this season.
Chris Pronger – A giant on the blueline, Pronger does it all. He currently averages nearly 27 minutes of ice time for the Flyers, and has a stellar +13 rating. Like Niedermayer, the 35 year old has played for every major championship in hockey, and should be guaranteed to make the squad.
Drew Doughty – The sophomore defenseman from Los Angeles is a big reason the Kings are off to such a hot start. Doughty has 20 points already, and has proven he can hang with the best. The 2nd overall pick from 2008, barring a mid-season sophomore slump, should be joining Canada’s finest in February.
Dan Boyle – The veteran defenseman has only gotten better since being traded to San Jose. Boyle was on the backup squad in 2006, but his performance this year should get him on the starting roster. He trails Mike Green by only one point this season, with 6 goals and 18 assists already.
Jay Bouwmeester – The top prize from 2009’s free agent class is proving his worth in Calgary this year. He currently has a +12 rating, impressive considering he logs more ice time than anyone else on this list except Pronger and Boyle. Another towering defenseman, Bouwmeester can dish out the big hit when needed, and still provides a measure of offense when needed.
Duncan Keith – Keith is my pick to be the 7th defenseman on this stacked squad, only because of his lack of experience. Keith currently has 23 points and +9 rating. He currently leads all defensemen in icetime logged per game, and could jump into the starting six by the time February rolls around.
Under Consideration – Shea Weber, Stephane Robidas, Dion Phaneuf
Sidney Crosby – Need I say any more? Arguably the best player in the league, Crosby is on pace for his first 50 goal season. Crosby captained the Pens to their first Stanley Cup in over a decade in 2009, and there’s no question he’ll be headlining the list of stars for Canada in Vancouver.
Jarome Iginla – One of many leaders on the Canadian squad, Iginla is one of the best all-around players in the game today. A tough player with a wicked shot and a proven scoring touch, Iginla has 29 points already this season, leading the Flames to the top of their division.
Rick Nash – A skilled playmaker, Nash is the perfect power forward. Nash has highlight reel potential every time he touches the puck. He’s not afraid to play the body and uses his 6’4 frame to his advantage when he drives the net.
Joe Thornton – The NHL scoring leader at the moment is perhaps the most prolific passer in the game right now, and currently centers the league’s top line. Thornton has great chemistry with new linemate Dany Heatley. >
Dany Heatley – The high scoring winger got a lot of bad press when he demanded a trade from Ottawa, but no one seems to remember that now. Something tells me his 18 goals and 32 points have something to do with that.
Patrick Marleau – Marleau has long been one of the most underrated players in the league, but he has exploded this season since being placed alongside of Thornton and Heatley on San Jose’s lethal top line. My guess is the three Sharks will be kept together when they take the ice wearing their nation’s colors.
Ryan Getzlaf – Another huge body on Canada’s intimidating roster, Getzlaf has 30 points already, despite Anaheim’s early struggles. Getzlaf reminds me of a young Todd Bertuzzi, with a mean streak and great playmaking ability.
Steve Stamkos – The sophomore forward was Tampa Bay’s first overall pick in 2008. He leads his team in points, ahead of established stars Marty St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier, and has scored an impressive 17 goals already. His nose for the net would be a great fit with Getzlaf’s physical playmaking.
Jonathan Toews – The 3rd overall pick from 2006 is off to a bit of a slow start this season, but he’s one of the top young Canadian talents in the game this season. Toews’ game would be a nice fit with Stamkos’ scoring and Getzlaf.
Corey Perry – Another underrated scorer, Perry is currently tied with Crosby and Marleau for 2nd overall in Canadian point scorers with 33 points. While he’s not a household name like most of the others on this list, he had a breakout season with 32 goals and 72 points last year. He’s on pace for close to 100 points this year. He also has over 100 penalty minutes in each of the last two seasons.
Mike Richards – Arguably the best two way player Canada has to offer, the Flyers’ captain has a knack for scoring clutch goals, especially shorthanded. He has only 22 points this season, but his defensive skills make him a valuable asset.
Paul Stastny – A lot of folks doubted Stastny’s ability to fill the shoes of Colorado legend Joe Sakic, but the young center has 30 points already this year, and has been the sparkplug for Colorado’s newfound offense.
Ryan Smyth – “Captain Canada” holds the record for most games played in a Canadian uniform. He’s won five gold medals with Team Canada. The cagey veteran is the definition of heart and hustle. Playing on the first line in Los Angeles, Smyth has been the catalyst for Anze Kopitar’s scoring boost. Don’t believe me? Kopitar has a measly one assist since Smyth went down with an injury on November 16.
Under Consideration – Shane Doan, Martin St. Louis, Vincent Lecavalier, Brad Richards, Brenden Morrow, John Tavares