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Canada roster projection for World Cup of Hockey

by Staff Writer / Calgary Flames

Canada has won the Olympic gold medal twice in a row, and its performance in Sochi in 2014 was considered one of the most dominant of all time.

Canada allowed three goals and 129 shots on goal in six games, using a possession game to keep the puck away from its net and then counting on goaltender Carey Price when teams managed to mount any attack.

Powerful opponents like the United States and Sweden were left demoralized after shutout losses to Canada in the semifinal and final, respectively.

The core of that team should be back at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey in Toronto, with one very important addition, a player who missed the 2014 Olympics because of an injury (Steven Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning) and some younger talent that has matured into dominant players refreshing the roster.

Here is what Team Canada's roster could look like for the tournament, which will be held Sept. 17-Oct. 1, 2016, in Toronto (alphabetically by position):

FORWARDS

Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins, C -- Crosby scored the gold medal-winning goal at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics and was captain of the team that won gold in Sochi in 2014, scoring his only goal in the final against Sweden to give Canada a 2-0 lead late in the second period. Crosby, 28, is the only player who has been in the top five in NHL scoring each of the past three seasons. His 244 points during that time are 28 more than his nearest competitor, Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals (Russia), who played 14 more games.

Ryan Getzlaf, Anaheim Ducks, C -- Getzlaf's size (6-foot-4, 218 pounds) and vision make him a dominant playmaking center, and the fact he comes with his own personal finisher, Ducks teammate Corey Perry, makes him that much more dangerous in a short tournament. Getzlaf, 30, is fifth in the NHL in points per game during the past three seasons and has a long, successful relationship with Hockey Canada, winning gold at the 2003 IIHF World Under-18 Championship, the 2005 IIHF World Junior Championship and twice at the Olympics.

Ryan Johansen, Columbus Blue Jackets, C -- Johansen turns 24 on July 31, 2016, just in time to make him eligible for Team Canada rather than the 23-and-under Team North America. Johansen is eighth in goals among Canada-born forwards during the past two seasons with 59, and at his age there should be plenty more to come.

John Tavares, New York Islanders, C -- Tavares lost the Art Ross Trophy on the final day of last season to finish one point behind Jamie Benn of the Dallas Stars. Tavares, 25 on Sept. 20, has the third-highest points-per-game average in the NHL during the past two seasons, and no forward was on the ice for more 5-on-5 shot attempts by his team last season, according to war-on-ice.com.

Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks, C -- Tampa Bay Lightning coach Jon Cooper called Toews "Captain Everything" during the 2015 Stanley Cup Final, and it perfectly describes why the Blackhawks captain is so valuable to Team Canada. Toews, 27, can play anywhere in the lineup with any players on his wings and be effective. In a short tournament like the World Cup, that kind of versatility is invaluable.

Jamie Benn, Dallas Stars, LW -- Benn caught fire down the stretch (12 goals and 23 points in his final 12 games) to edge Tavares for the 2015 NHL scoring title. A revelation at the 2014 Olympics for his strong two-way play, Benn scored the only goal in Canada's 1-0 win against the United States in the semifinals. The 26-year-old won't sneak up on anyone at the World Cup.

Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers, LW -- No one in the NHL has more points during the past five seasons than Giroux (376), who was not selected for the 2014 Olympics but should get his opportunity here. The 27-year-old's size (5-11, 172 pounds) always has been used against him, but a player with his proven history of consistent offensive production belongs in a best-on-best tournament.

Taylor Hall, Edmonton Oilers, LW -- Hall's career has been plagued by injury, but when healthy he is one of the most productive players in the NHL. His 0.94 points-per-game average during the past four seasons is tied for 11th in the League with Phil Kessel of the Pittsburgh Penguins (United States) and Getzlaf among players with 215 or more games. Hall, 24 on Nov. 14, has the ability to break a game open with his speed and could fit nicely to the left of Crosby.

Rick Nash, New York Rangers, LW -- Nash will be 32 when the World Cup begins, making him the oldest player on this roster. But he remains one of the top scorers in the NHL, finishing third with 42 goals and first in even-strength goals with 32 last season. With a wealth of international experience -- he's played 53 games at the Olympics and IIHF World Championship -- Nash would help integrate the younger players on the team. He is a natural left wing who can kill penalties, something in short supply among Team Canada forwards.

Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins, RW -- Bergeron is a coach's dream. He scores goals, kills penalties, wins faceoffs, drives possession and does basically anything he is asked to do while playing against the opposition's best players. A three-time winner of the Selke Trophy as the NHL's top defensive forward, Bergeron, who will be 31 when the World Cup begins, is remarkably consistent, with a points-per-game average between 0.68 and 0.79 in each of the past six seasons.

Corey Perry, Anaheim Ducks, RW -- Perry and Getzlaf come as a package. They have spent roughly 83 percent of their total 5-on-5 ice time playing together during the past eight seasons, according to puckalytics.com. It's a mutually beneficial relationship, with Getzlaf outscoring Perry 274-267 from their combined 541 points when they are on the ice together at 5-on-5 during those eight seasons. During the past three seasons, Perry, 30, is tied for fourth in the NHL with 91 goals.

Tyler Seguin, Dallas Stars, RW -- Much like Getzlaf and Perry, Seguin comes as a package with Benn. They have been the most productive pairing in the NHL since Seguin's arrival in Dallas in 2013, with a combined 143 goals and 327 points. Seguin, 24 on Jan. 31, scored 74 of those goals, eclipsing his total during his first three NHL seasons with the Boston Bruins by 18. Seguin's experience playing on the wing in Boston helps him on a team overloaded down the middle.

Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning, RW -- Stamkos, 25, was denied an opportunity to play in the 2014 Olympics because of a broken tibia, and Canada won gold regardless. Now imagine that team with Stamkos, who finished second to Ovechkin last season with 43 goals and was 14th with 72 points. He is the purest goal-scorer on the roster, and his experience playing right wing helps alleviate the crowded center position.

DEFENCEMEN

Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings -- Doughty, 26 on Dec. 8, has won Olympic gold for Canada and the Stanley Cup with the Kings twice each. Doughty led Canada at the 2014 Olympics with four goals and six points, scoring the overtime winner against Finland in the last preliminary-round game. He was a runner-up to Ottawa Senators defenceman Erik Karlsson (Sweden) for the 2015 Norris Trophy, garnering more first-place votes.

Mark Giordano, Calgary Flames -- Giordano looked to be heading toward his first Norris Trophy when a torn biceps tendon ended his season Feb. 25. Giordano had 48 points in 61 games last season, a 0.79 points-per-game average that was second among defencemen to Karlsson (0.80). Giordano, 32 on Oct. 3, also had the best score-adjusted relative SAT percentage of any defenceman to play at least 1,000 minutes at 5-on-5, according to war-on-ice.com.

Duncan Keith, Chicago Blackhawks -- Keith, 32, is the reigning Conn Smythe Trophy winner after an incredible performance in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The 2014 Norris Trophy winner is a strong skater and playmaker who has at least 35 assists in each of his past six full seasons.

Kris Letang, Pittsburgh Penguins -- Letang, 28, had an NHL career-high 54 points in 69 games last season and was the top possession-driving defenceman on the Penguins. Among defencemen to play at least 1,000 minutes at 5-on-5, he finished 10th in score-adjusted relative SAT percentage at 5-on-5, according to war-on-ice.com. His combination of offensive ability and defensive smarts fits well with the group on the right side of the Team Canada defence.

P.K. Subban, Montreal Canadiens -- Subban was second to Giordano in score-adjusted relative SAT percentage among defencemen with 1,000 minutes of ice time at 5-on-5 last season, according to war-on-ice.com He dressed for one game at the 2014 Olympics, but since then Subban's defensive game has improved significantly and he has established an NHL career high in points in each of the past two seasons. The 26-year-old is second in the League in points by a defenceman during the past three seasons (251), which is 18 more than Keith, the next Team Canada defenceman on the list in fourth.

Marc-Edouard Vlasic, San Jose Sharks -- Vlasic solidified the Canada defence at the 2014 Olympics by claiming a top-four spot to the left of Doughty and proved to be a perfect complement to his rush-happy partner. Vlasic, 28, is a solid possession driver for the Sharks who can pitch in offensively, scoring an NHL career-high nine goals last season, and play on the penalty kill.

Shea Weber, Nashville Predators -- Weber is coming off a down season by his standards. The 30-year-old scored 15 goals in 78 games, an NHL career low for a season when he played at least 60 games, was 17th in scoring among defencemen with 45 points, and did not have strong possession numbers. But he was phenomenal at the 2014 Olympics, tying for second on Canada with five points. His past performances on talent-rich teams suggest he will be a strong asset, following gold-medal wins at the 2010 and 2014 Olympics, 2007 World Championship and 2005 World Junior Championship.

GOALIES

Braden Holtby, Washington Capitals -- Holtby was invited to Hockey Canada's Olympic orientation camp in 2013 with an eye to the future. That future appears to be now. Holtby, 26 on Sept. 16, was a workhorse for the Capitals in 2014-15, starting a League-high 72 games, including a Capitals record 23 straight. His .923 save percentage was sixth in the NHL and he proved his ability to perform under the pressure of working without a viable option behind him.

Roberto Luongo, Florida Panthers -- Minnesota Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk may deserve this position based on his performance last season. But Luongo's edge is his international experience and his proven ability to be a good teammate when he is not playing. Luongo, 37 on April 4, supported Carey Price when he won the starting job at the 2014 Olympics and would be a valued mentor for younger teammates as the third goaltender. He had a 2.35 goals-against average and .921 save percentage last season.

Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens -- Price's performance at the 2014 Olympics would have been enough to put him in the driver's seat to be the starter at the World Cup for Team Canada; the 28-year-old allowed three goals on 103 shots in five games and made saves on all 55 shots he saw in the semifinal and final. Since his return from the Olympics, Price's 5-on-5 save percentage of .942 in 78 games is the best in the NHL among goalies to play at least 2,500 minutes, according to war-on-ice.com.

Author: Arpon Basu | Managing Editor LNH.com

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