And, as usual, I'm wrong on plenty of choices according to the Hockey Canada brass. I'm even wrong when I try and pick my team by thinking like Head Coach Don Hay. The addition of two NHLers gives the team some added skill and size to their wings, but the biggest concerns out of camp were the injury situations for Canada. Don Hay cut the team to his ideal 22 players and if injuries to Jonathan Huberdeau (leg) and Quinton Howden (concussion) aren't resolved by Christmas, one has to think that there will be a couple of lucky losers, to borrow a tennis term.
In goal, the team went against my suggestion and returned Mark Visentin, despite his sub-.900 SV% so far in 2011-12. Joining him is Scott Wedgewood, a personal favourite of mine but he's hardly been much better than Visentin so far this year with a .904 SV%. Maybe based on technical and athletic ability these are the two best guys, and they'll thrive behind Canada's stingy defence, but these have to be the two more questionable roster decisions on the team. Both Tyler Bunz and Louis Domingue have been at or near the top of their leagues so far this year, while Visentin and Wedgewood haven't even been the best Canadian goalies in their own league so far, let alone the country.
That said, the team looks strong all-around up front, with a couple of suprise choices for the final roster. Don Hay, despite being a WHL coach, chose a lot of OHL players aside from the two goalies: there are 8 OHLers amongst the skaters, and Anaheim Ducks forward Devante Smith-Pelly is an OHL graduate as well. Players that made the real team and not my fake team include undrafted Barrie Colts phenom Tanner Pearson, star centre Freddie Hamilton, 18 year old centre Boone Jenner, and most surprisingly, London Knights blueliner Scott Harrington. Surprising cuts from the OHL included star scorer Tyler Toffoli and offensive dynamo Ryan Murphy, but with Murphy coming off a major injury it is not too surprising, while Toffoli got caught in a numbers game on right wing once Brett Connolly and Smith-Pelly came from the NHL.
Canada, along with the United States, have to be considered the favourites for gold on home soil. That doesn't mean they can't be knocked off before the gold medal game, although that hasn't happened since 2001. This is a deeper tournament than usual, with Russia sending an impressive collection of offensive talent and Finland sending possibly their best ever team. So the choices today must be viewed in that context (and one can't forget Sweden, who are most definitely a medal contender).
Here's a quick look at how the lineup might look on Dec. 26, assuming full health, and based on who played in the final game last night:
|Jaden Schwartz||Mark Schiefele||Devante Smith-Pelly||Brandon Gormley||Dougie Hamilton||Mark Visentin|
|Jonathan Huberdeau||Freddie Hamilton||Mark Stone||Ryan Murray||Mark Pysyk||Scott Wedgewood|
|Quinton Howden||Ryan Strome||Brendan Gallagher||Jamie Oleksiak||Nathan Beaulieu|
|Tanner Pearson||Michael Bournival||Brett Connolly||Scott Harrington|