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Familiar names, new faces among Canada's invitees

Thursday, 07.02.2009 / 1:23 PM / All-Access Vancouver

By Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

To play for Canada at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, you will have to be skilled, fast, gritty and well-balanced. Men's National Team Executive Director Steve Yzerman thinks he has found the 46 Canadian players that best fit the bill.

The hard part will be cutting the All-Star list in half.

Hockey Canada on Thursday released its list of 46 players representing 24 NHL teams who have been invited to attend Canada's National Men's Team orientation camp, which runs from Aug. 24-27 in Calgary. Five goaltenders, 16 defensemen and 25 forwards made the cut.

"I think hockey sense is important, skating ability is important, competitiveness, versatility and guys that are responsible players," Yzerman said. "You can't afford guys that are going to be high-risk, that make a lot of mistakes. There is a lot that goes into it and at the end of the day I want to bring the best overall players."

Some of the names should come as no surprise: goalies Martin Brodeur and Roberto Luongo; defensemen Scott Niedermayer, Shea Weber, Mike Green, Jay Bouwmeester and Chris Pronger; and forwards Sidney Crosby, Ryan Getzlaf, Vincent Lecavalier, Jarome Iginla, Rick Nash and Eric Staal.

Others such as Marc-Andre Fleury, Brent Burns, Marc Staal, Milan Lucic, Dan Cleary, Andy McDonald, Derek Roy, Drew Doughty and Jordan Staal may raise an eyebrow or two.

Ultimately, Yzerman and his staff of executives, including Ken Holland, Doug Armstrong and Kevin Lowe, as well as coaches Mike Babcock, Ken Hitchcock, Jacques Lemaire and Lindy Ruff, invited the players they feel are the most well-rounded in the country.

The list of 46 will be divided into two teams, Red and White, for the four-day camp. Each team will have four forward lines and eight defensive pairings. Camp will culminate with a Red-White game.

Yzerman and Babcock said they wanted to keep the number manageable to run a fluid and successful camp that will include both on ice and off ice activities.

"For the coaching staff, we want to get to know them and we want them to get to know us," Babcock said. "We'll implement our program much like we do in our training camp in the NHL. In Detroit, we play nine exhibition games so our implementation is done in the first three days, much like what we have here.

"It's not an evaluation camp; it's a great opportunity for us to get to know them and for them to get to know us. We can figure out do we like what we've done or do we have to tweak it."

Of course, with any list there are going to be omissions. In this case, Boston center Marc Savard is the most prolific scorer left off.

"At the end of the day when we put this list together, we wanted to bring some different types of players, maybe guys that aren't leading their teams in scoring but are very good players in different roles," Yzerman said. "Bringing in different types of players is the reason Marc is not on the list."

Just because a player did not receive an invite does not mean he is not under consideration. For instance, Yzerman said that Tampa Bay center Steven Stamkos' name was debated heavily before the final cuts, and he will be scouted like everyone else in the fall. The same holds true for someone like Vancouver forward Alex Burrows.

"When we get to the Olympics next year, depending how the season starts and potential injuries to players, some of the guys that didn't make this team aren't automatically excluded from making this team," Yzerman said. "Things can change quickly."

The inclusion of players such as Lucic and Cleary are indicators of the type of team Yzerman is looking to build.

Lucic offers a healthy dose of muscle, but he also has skill and the ability to put the puck in the net. Cleary is a versatile forward who plays in all situations for the Red Wings and also can keep up with the play and score goals.

"In particular, when we got to Montreal last week and met with the coaches, in trying to finalize this roster and get it down to a manageable group we asked, 'Do we want to bring four lines of the same player or do we want to have some players that can do some different things?' " Yzerman said. "I think it was pretty agreeable among all of us that we want to bring guys that can be effective in a different role and be versatile."

Yzerman said that Fleury's play in the spring, which helped the Pittsburgh Penguins win the Stanley Cup, played a major role in the decision to invite him to the camp. That all three NHL-playing Staal brothers made the cut is just a coincidence.

"We didn't bring them because they are brothers," Yzerman said. "They are big strong guys who can make this team."

Brenden Morrow (knee) and Brent Burns (concussions) are coming off serious injuries, but they were still invited. Both have to have fast starts to the 2009-10 regular season to prove that they are back to their pre-injury form.
"I think hockey sense is important, skating ability is important, competitiveness, versatility and guys that are responsible players. You can't afford guys that are going to be high-risk, that make a lot of mistakes. There is a lot that goes into it and at the end of the day I want to bring the best overall players."
-- Steve Yzerman
Yzerman wasn't deterred by Joe Sakic's cloudy future as a player. He may be considering retirement, but Sakic was still given an invite to this camp by Yzerman, who said he has talked to the veteran recently but did not ask about his plans.

"I just gave him a heads up that I was going to put him on the list to invite him to camp," Yzerman said. "If, in fact, his decision were to come back and play we want him to come to the camp and go from there."

Should Sakic, who turns 40 next week, choose not to attend, Yzerman said there's a chance he'll be replaced. However, the number of invitees likely won't go higher 46.

"When you start going through what each player can do, you get real serious about who fits with who and that's part of what this camp is about," Babcock said. "The tournament is going to be as good as it's ever been with the quality of teams and we have to make sure we're as ready as possible."

Contact Dan Rosen at drosen@nhl.com