TH2N projects Canada's 2014 Olympic hockey roster Staff

1/27/2012 12:36:04 AM

It has been just over two years since general manager Steve Yzerman unveiled Canada's men's hockey team roster for the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.

Now, with just over two years to go before the puck drops at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, That's Hockey 2Night's team of analysts have unveiled the 23 men they feel should don the maple leaf to defend Canada's gold medal.

One of Canada's largest strengths in Vancouver was its youth. A hungry team of up-and-coming NHLers blossomed together and played some of its strongest hockey on what is arguably the world's biggest stage.

Looking forward to 2014, TH2N has looked for a balance between veterans of the gold medal team and players rounding into form now in hopes of dominating two years down the road.

A half-dozen of the forwards from the 2010 team return to the Sochi team Marc Crawford has assembled, including golden goal-scorer Sidney Crosby, reigning Hart Trophy winner Corey Perry, his Anaheim teammate Ryan Getzlaf, 2010 Olympics best forward award winner Jonathan Toews, two-time Olympian Rick Nash and Hurricanes captain Eric Staal.

The rest of the forwards come from the 25-and-under bracket. The list includes five players participating in the 2012 NHL All-Star Game.

Current goal-scoring leader Steve Stamkos, Flyers standout Claude Giroux and Bruins sophomore Tyler Seguin joined the team as consensus choices.

Oilers sophomore and Canadian folk-hero Jordan Eberle would slide in to one of the final spots.

"He's on the fast-track to stardom," TH2N analyst Jamie McLennan said of Eberle's inclusion in the forward ranks. "Two years from now he's going to be unbelievable."

Jamie Benn and 2011 first-overall pick Ryan Nugent Hopkins rounded out the group.

"He's so smart," TSN analyst Craig Button said of Benn. "He can skate and when we get to 2014 people are going to be saying 'Wow!'"

A coach's change was allowed on the forward ranks, and TH2N (and 1998 Nagano Olympic team) head coach Crawford opted to replace panel-pick Patrick Sharp on the team's wing. Instead, Crawford made it a trilogy of Oilers, adding 2010 first-overall pick Taylor Hall.

"Up front you want speed, you want size and you want the ability to score," Crawford said. "Taylor Hall has all those things."

The blueline, too, would see significant turn-over with TH2N's team. The only returnees from Vancouver would be 2010 Olympic All-Star Shea Weber and fellow Norris Trophy nominee Drew Doughty.

Like the forwards, the blueline would also be dominated by the 25-and-under set, including Pittsburgh's Kris Letang (who'd get top-pairing minutes alongside Weber), stay-at-home stalwart Marc Staal (to pair with Doughty) and young Blues defender Alex Pietrangelo.

The young Pietrangelo may come as a surprise in contention with incumbents such as Brent Seabrook, but TH2N's brain trust thought him the better option two years out.

"He can jump into the attack, create advantages and play at a high tempo," said Button. "He's a guy, to me, that has surpassed Brent Seabrook."
The team would add a hulking insurance policy with 6'8 Tyler Myers making the trip as well.

"He's big, strong and he covers a lot of ice," said Button. "In two years' time, he'll be a hammer."

Crawford again stepped in and removed a Chicago Blackhawk, overruling the panel's decision to select Duncan Keith. He instead opted for young, mobile Michael del Zotto of the Rangers to add some puck movement to the blue line.

"You always err on the side of mobility," he said of del Zotto. "The blend players – the guys that can defend and play a puck-moving style – there's room for those guys."

In the crease, the team would look similar to the 2010 team on paper, but vastly different on the ice. While the embattled Roberto Luongo would return to the team, he would do so in the press-box as the team's third netminder.

The third man from 2010, Pittsburgh's Marc-Andre Fleury, would also return but this time as the back-up.

However,the surprise starter (as chosen by Crawford) would be Montreal netminder Carey Price. An NHL All-Star three of the past four seasons, Price is no stranger to the maple leaf, back-stopping Canada to a World Junior gold in 2007 in thrilling fashion.

"Carey Price, to me, is going to be the best Canadian goaltender in 2014," Crawford said of his choice to start the Habs netminder. "I actually think he's the best Canadian goaltender right now".