The road to Pyeongchang will go through Helsinki for Team Canada’s Olympic hopefuls.
Hockey Canada unveiled the 26-man roster on Thursday for November’s Karjala Cup in Finland, which is the next step in the evaluation process leading up to the 2018 Winter Olympic Games, the first to be played without NHL talent since 1994.
Team Canada general manager Sean Burke cast a wide net for the Karjala Cup tune-up, but it is by no means an all-encompassing one.
“These 26 players are part of the larger group that is still under consideration for the Olympic team,” Burke said in a statement. “Ten of these players were not with us in August in Russia, while others who are under consideration won’t join us next month due either to their being unavailable, or because we feel we already have a good sense of where they could fit with our team.”
Although unsigned free agent forward Jarome Iginla was not included on the Karjala Cup roster, the door has not been closed on the possibility of Iginla representing Canada in South Korea.
Iginla, who captured two Olympic gold medals for Team Canada, recently underwent a minor procedure to clean out loose particles in his hip.
It is unclear whether Iginla, now 40, will be invited or has interest in the next step of the evaluation process, which is the Channel One Cup in Moscow from Dec. 12-17.
Twenty-two of the players representing Team Canada at the Karjala Cup next month have at least one game of NHL experience. TSN will broadcast two of Team Canada’s three Karjala Cup games – against Sweden (Friday, Nov. 10, 11:30 a.m. ET) and Finland (Sunday, Nov. 12, 10:30 a.m. ET).
Wojtek Wolski, Matt Frattin, Mason Raymond, Rene Bourque, Simon Despres and Ben Scrivens are among the more recognizable names. Thirteen of them play in the KHL, with others sprinkled in leagues in Switzerland, Germany, Sweden, with one other player (Christian Thomas) on an AHL-only contract.
Two players who will play in Finland, forward Dylan Sikura (Northeastern) and defenceman Zach Whitecloud (Bemidji State), currently play in the NCAA ranks.
Other prominent NCAA players with the pedigree to be on Team Canada’s radar include defencemen Cale Makar (UMass-Amherst), Dante Fabbro and Brandon Hickey (both Boston University).
As a courtesy to the college programs those three players represent, Team Canada may not have requested that they be evaluated in the Karjala Cup, should Burke and the management staff already have a “good sense” of where they could fit, as Burke said.
To date, Hockey Canada has not come to an agreement with the Canadian Hockey League to allow major junior players to participate in the 2018 Olympics, though there is interest from Team Canada’s management staff in current major junior players.
If Hockey Canada is unable to come to some sort of agreement with the CHL, Team Canada would be at a decided competitive disadvantage for young talent compared to the likes of the United States – with so many American products choosing the college route.
So far, Team Canada’s management staff – which includes Burke, Martin Brodeur, Scott Salmond and head coach Willie Desjardins – has a list of upwards of 360 Canadians not playing in the NHL on their radar. They plan to leave no stone unturned.
“As a management group and coaching staff, our priority is putting the best possible team together,” Burke said. “We will continue to evaluate every Canadian player that’s eligible to represent their country at the 2018 Olympic Winter Games to ensure we give ourselves the best possible chance for success in Korea.”
Team Canada Pre-Olympic Roster
|8||Wojtek Wolski||L||6'3||220||Zabrze, POL||Kunlun Red Star (KHL)|
|9||Mason Raymond||L||6'1||179||Cochrane, Alta.||SC Bern (NLA)|
|10||Derek Roy||L||5'9||187||Rockland, Ont.||Linköping HC (SHL)|
|14||Brandon Kozun||R||5'8||170||Calgary, Alta.||Lokomotiv Yaroslavl (KHL)|
|15||Eric O’Dell||R||6'1||201||Ottawa, Ont.||HC Sochi (KHL)|
|17||Gilbert Brulé||R||5'11||187||Edmonton, Alta.||Kunlun Red Star (KHL)|
|19||René Bourque||L||6'2||216||Lac La Biche, Alta.||Djurgårdens IF (SHL)|
|20||Matt Ellison||R||5'11||200||Duncan, B.C.||Metallurg Magnitogorsk (KHL)|
|21||Quinton Howden||L||6'2||190||Oakbank, Man.||Dinamo Minsk (KHL)|
|22||Dylan Sikura||L||5'11||159||Aurora, Ont.||Northeastern University (HE)|
|23||Andrew Ebbett||L||5'9||176||Vernon, B.C.||SC Bern (NLA)|
|25||Matt Frattin||R||6'0||205||Edmonton, Alta.||Barys Astana (KHL)|
|26||Christian Thomas||R||5'9||174||Toronto, Ont.||Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (AHL)|
|29||Rob Klinkhammer||R||6'3||214||Lethbridge, Alta.||Ak Bars Kazan (KHL)|
|2||Karl Stollery||L||5'11||181||Camrose, Alta.||Dinamo Riga (KHL)|
|3||Zach Whitecloud||R||6'2||209||Brandon, Man.||Bemidji State University (WCHA)|
|4||Chay Genoway||L||5'9||170||Morden, Man.||Lada Togliatti (KHL)|
|5||Chris Lee||L||6'0||187||MacTier, Ont.||Hockey Canada|
|6||Maxim Noreau||R||6'0||198||Montreal, Que.||SC Bern (NLA)|
|7||Simon Després||L||6'4||218||Laval, Que.||HC Slovan Bratislava (KHL)|
|11||Jesse Blacker||R||6'2||195||Toronto, Ont.||Kunlun Red Star (KHL)|
|12||Geoff Kinrade||L||6'0||185||Nelson, B.C.||Kunlun Red Star (KHL)|
|28||Mat Robinson||R||5'10||185||Calgary, Alta.||CSKA Moscow (KHL)|
|1||Justin Peters||L||6'1||210||Blythe, Ont.||Kölner Haie (DEL)|
|30||Ben Scrivens||L||6'2||181||Spruce Grove, Alta.||Salavat Yulaev Ufa (KHL)|
Contact Frank Seravalli on Twitter: @frank_seravalli