One of the most interesting sidebar stories throughout the upcoming NHL season, especially in Canada, will be the jostling for position for the 2010 Canadian men's Olympic hockey team.
As part of the build-up to the Games, hockey analyst and former player/coach Pierre McGuire named his Olympic team locks and watch list, players he believes are sure-bets for the Canadian squad, as well as players to watch for throughout the 2008-09 NHL season.
Both lists will be updated throughout the season, including throughout the playoffs and 2009 World Championship.
McGuire's first edition sees Vancouver Canucks netminder Roberto Luongo as the early lock in goal for Team Canada. The Montreal native has played more than 70 games in four straight seasons and has recorded a 2.33 goals against average and a .919 save percentage, winning 82 games, in his two seasons with the Canucks. Luongo backed up Martin Brodeur in Torino at the 2006 Games and backstopped Canada to two straight world championships while playing a key backup role at the 2004 World Cup.
''In 2002, Brodeur won gold for Canada but he wasn't so great in Torino in 2006,'' McGuire said. ''He's a goal-oriented person who's won four Vezina trophies and three Stanley Cups - he gets winning - but he's not getting any younger.''
On the blueline, McGuire locked Minnesota's Brent Burns, Washington's Mike Green, Calgary's Dion Phaneuf and Anaheim's Chris Pronger.
''Brent Burns plays over 23 minutes a game for the Minnesota Wild, and last year at the world hockey championships; he was voted the best defenceman in the tournament,'' McGuire said. ''Burns knows how to defend low.''
In selecting Green, McGuire feels his experience in playing with high profile European players in Washington can only help him in international play.
''Think about it. Mike Green, who I believe will lead the NHL in scoring for defenceman this season, has to play against Alexander Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Semin every day in practice with the Capitals.''
For Pronger, he would be making his third Olympic appearance, as he was a key member of Canada's defence in Salt Lake City and Torino.
On forward, McGuire's list guaranteed spots for Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby, Anaheims' Ryan Getzlaf, Ottawa's Dany Healtey, Calgary's Jarome Iginla, Tampa Bay's Vincent Lecavalier, Dallas' Brenden Morrow, Columbus' Rick Nash, Philadelphia's Mike Richards and Chicago's Jonathan Toews.
View McGuire's entire list here.