Ah, Christmas tradition. Eating ham, opening presents... and watching Team Canada kick the world's collective rear-end at ice hockey. However, before they can be surrounded by Czech supermodels, the red and white's finest young hockey players must survive the Selection Camp. Who's going, and who's staying?
Goal: Jonathan Bernier, Leland Irving, Steve Mason, Tyson Sexsmith
Bugg's Picks: Bernier, Mason
The Western Hockey League looks to be shutout at both starter and backup goalie on Team Canada. Calgary Flames first-rounder Leland Irving has come back down to earth after three seasons of save percentages over 0.925, floundering at around 0.904 and with aGAA of 2.71 through 27 games. The same goes for Tyson Sexsmith , who shone behind an unbeatable Vancouver defense in 2006-07- but has yet to show he can do it without such a supporting cast. With Steve Mason Hockey Canada's favorite son at the Super Series and in other international tournaments, and with JonBernier having a spot all but guaranteed, it'll be an Eastern sweep at this position. However, just because it's the likeliest choice doesn't make it the right one: Mason, for all his leadership and game-stealing abilities, still coughs up asoftie a game. In a tournament format that gives an advantage to upsets, the wrong goal at the wrong time could cost you a medal. Me? I'd take Irving along for the ride.
Defense: Karl Alzner, Andrew Bodnarchuk, Drew Doughty, Keaton Ellerby, Josh Godfrey, Thomas Hickey, Kevin Marshall, Logan Pyett, Luke Schenn, Brendan Smith, PK Subban, Ty Wishart
Bugg's Picks: Alzner, Wishart, Hickey, Godfrey, Doughty, Subban, Marshall
Hockey Canada's strategy here is the same as it was last year: instead of keeping an even balance all the way down the roster, one elite shutdown pair will be relied on to carry the day while the rest of the blueline dominates offensively. While KarlAlzner and Ty Wishart are no Marc Staal and Ryan Parent, they're leaps and bounds above most in their defensive positioning and smarts. It doesn't hurt that Wishart , San Jose's first rounder in 2006, stands 6'5 but skates like he's 5'11. Surprise 2007 top-five pick Thomas Hickey- who went fourth to LA- is the team's undisputed offensive catalyst, while Washington project Josh Godfrey would lend a big-time point presence. Finally, phenom Drew Doughty and speedster PKSubban - a second pairing on most teams- could round out the defensive core. Whatever happens in the top six, it'd be a surprise not to see Kevin Marshall as the 7th man. A vicious stay-at-homer, the '07 draftee is one of only two out-and-out physical D-men at the selection camp.
Forward: Zach Boychuk, Cory Emmerton, Angelo Esposito, Colton Gillies, Claude Giroux, Matt Halischuk, Zach Hamill, Riley Holzapfel, Stefan Legein, Brett MacLean, Brad Marchand, Shawn Matthias, Mathieu Perreault, Wayne Simmonds, Steve Stamkos, Brandon Sutter, John Tavares, Kyle Turris, Dana Tyrell, Ryan White
Regardless of who is selected, Team Canada '08 is going to be younger than most years. Its four best offensive players- Angelo Esposito, Kyle Turris, Steve Stamkos and John Tavares- were either just drafted or will be this coming June. It would have been even younger had St. Louis' David Perron, and Edmonton's Sam Gagner been made available. Brandon Sutter, Colton Gillies, Stefan Legein and Dana Tyrell are the other 2007s that look to be locks thanks to their defensive smarts. Vets Brad Marchand, Cory Emmerton, Claude Giroux and Ryan White will be the team's elder statesmen and shorthanded men, leaving one open spot. It'd be tough to leave Brett MacLean off; besides his chemistry with John Tavares, he leads the OHL in goals.
Bugg's Picks: Esposito, Turris, Stamkos, Tavares, Sutter, Gillies, Legein, Tyrell, Marchand, Emmerton, White, Giroux, MacLean
For a peek at the camps for the other countries, have a look at this discussion here...