The NHL, NHLPA, and IIHF finally came to an agreement on Friday regarding player participation in the 2014 Winter Olympics on Sochi, Russia. With that agreement in place, countries participating in ice hockey at the Olympics could move forward with their roster decisions, safe in the knowledge that they wouldn’t have to craft a roster around Canadians playing in the AHL and Europe.
I can just imagine one of Team Canada’s Spengler Cup teams going up against a Russian team loaded with KHL talent and it’s not particularly pretty.
Fortunately, that won’t be happening in Sochi, as the roster for Team Canada’s Olympic development camp was announced Monday and it’s full of NHL talent, including two members of the Vancouver Canucks: Roberto Luongo and Dan Hamhuis.
Roberto Luongo is a lock for the team after supplanting Martin Brodeur during the 2010 Olympics and winning gold. While he got some flack from some corners for allowing the tying goal in the final minute of regulation in the gold medal game that sent it to overtime, Luongo made 34 saves in that game, including four in the overtime period ensuring that Sidney Crosby was able to score the golden goal.
It also ignores his fantastic performance throughout the rest of the tournament, including his incredible save on Pavol Demitra in the dying seconds of the semifinal against Slovakia, sending Team Canada to the gold medal game. Luongo finished with a .927 save percentage in the tournament.
Luongo is the favourite to be the starter for Canada, particularly considering that he’s the only goaltender invited to camp that has actually been on an Olympic roster before. Carey Price is the most likely number two man, with Corey Crawford, Braden Holtby, and Mike Smith battling for the third spot.
Dan Hamhuis has a tougher row to hoe to make Team Canada, as Canada’s defensive depth is impressive. Duncan Keith, Drew Doughty, and Shea Weber are sure things and Brent Seabrook, Alex Pietrangelo, and PK Subban are likely as well. That leaves just a couple depth spots available, with some very good defencemen competing for them.
The main thing in Hamhuis’s favour is that he’s a left-handed shot, with many of Canada’s top defencemen being right-handed shots. He’s also one of the steadiest defenders in the league, which may give him a leg-up in comparison with some of the riskier choices. Add in his strong performance at the 2013 World Championships and his 24 points in 47 games last season, tied for 10th among Canadian defencemen, and it’s clear why he got the invitation and why he has a strong chance of representing Canada in Sochi.
If Hamhuis does make Team Canada, it will be some nice validation for one of the most humble players in the NHL. Hamhuis is always hesitant to step into the limelight, but the strength of his play has earned him this opportunity and he deserves it.