Everyone has already been debating who will make Canada's Olympic team in 2010 for some time now. But let's not forget Team Canada 2009.
The men's world championships starts on April 24th. Canadian general manager Doug Armstrong is in charge of selecting the team. This weekend he named Lindy Ruff of the Buffalo Sabres as head coach with Dave Tippett of the Dallas Stars and Barry Trotz of the Nashville Predators as the assistants.
Who might Canada call upon to play?
Some reports suggest players will be begin being named to Team Canada as early as today. What follows is a suspected invitee list. This list only looks at players from NHL teams that did not qualify for the Stanley Cup playoffs. Undoubtedly there will be some late additions from teams who are eliminated early, although Armstrong has publicly said he wants "to have our full team announced by early (this) week."
Canada traditionally has used this tournament to test the loyalty and the skills on the big ice of players they are seeking for Olympics and World Cups. Although the big ice will not be a concern at the 2010 Olympics, here's some players Canada will be particularly interested in watching close up in terms of the Vancouver Games:
Marty Turco, Dallas
Canada will likely wait until after the 1st round of the NHL's playoffs are done before naming all three goalies. Amongst the non-playoff teams Canada does not have a lot to choose from, especially if an aging veteran and unrestricted free agent to be like Roloson opts to sit out and not risk injury.
Ultimately Canada would like to test one of the youngsters, like Steve Mason or Carey Price. If either player is available after round one, they should expect the call.
Drew Doughty, Los Angeles
Sheldon Souray, Edmonton
Brent Burns, Minnesota
Shea Weber, Nashville
Jay Bouwmeester, Florida
Dan Hamhuis, Nashville
Craig Rivet, Buffalo
Ian White, Toronto
Luke Schenn, Toronto
Ed Jovanovski, Phoenix
It appears Canada should be able to ice a World Championships team with a very good defense. Doughty, Burns and Weber would be silly to turn down this chance. Bouwmeester has a good track record with Canada, but with his contract now over he may sit out and avoid serious injury. Throw in the PP expert Souray and Team Canada regular Hamhuis and Canada likely would have as good of a blue line as anyone in the tournament.
Forwards 2010 Hopefuls:
Derek Roy, Buffalo
Martin St. Louis, Tampa Bay
Jason Spezza, Ottawa
Dany Heatley, Ottawa
Shane Doan, Phoenix
Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay
Todd White, Atlanta
Colby Armstrong, Atlanta
Bryan Little, Atlanta
Mike Fisher, Ottawa
Justin Williams, Los Angeles
James Neal, Dallas
Shawn Horcoff, Edmonton
Andrew Cogliano, Edmonton
Jean-Pierre Dumont, Nashville
The forward units are looking somewhat thin. Still, assuming all of the identified 2010 hopefuls play in this tournament, Canada should be able to score some goals.
Youngsters like Little and Cogliano could add some speed and enthusiasm. I see Cogliano in particular playing an important role in this tournament and having a bit of a coming out party.
Canada will be anxiously awaiting to see who comes available after round one of the NHL playoffs.
Canada traditionally has rewarded a Canadian pro playing in Europe, usually as a carrot for playing in the Spengler Cup at Christmas time. Will they do that this year with the Olympics getting so much closer? Here is the 2009 Spengler Cup roster.
Canada opens the world championship against Belarus on April 24
As an aside, there are a lot of good young American players on the non-playoff team rosters. America is on the verge of another very strong generation of hockey players.