The Candidates for Team Canada in Pyeongchang: The Best of the Rest
A couple of weeks ago I wrote about Canada’s KHL options for the upcoming Olympics in Pyeongchang. This latest entry looks at the other candidates from Sweden and Switzerland, to college and junior hockey. Full disclosure, the list is a bit of a doozy. But this is still a fun exercise for the hockey-mad Olympics fans out there.
Also, with all of this BS surrounding the men’s side of the tournament this year, it is important that the Woman’s Hockey games get their due in terms of coverage and viewership. Unlike the men and the NHL they are actually sending the top of their sport so be sure to tune in.
Without further ado, here are the names that Canada will look to round out their Olympic roster.
Rest of Europe
Rene Bourque, Right Wing, Djurgardens IF
Bourque bought himself a lot of time with his back-to-back 50 point campaigns for Calgary in 2009-10 and 2010-11. Due to injuries or just overall ineffectiveness Bourque failed to score more than 18 points in an NHL season since his Calgary days. His scoring binge with the Flames made him a featured piece in a trade along with a 2013 second rounder (that became Zach Fucale) to Montreal in return for Mike Cammalleri.
Last year’s stint on the historically awful Colorado seemed to be the last gasp of breath on Bourque’s NHL career. This year Bourque has moved on the Swedish Hockey League and has a reasonable 12 goals and 18 points in 26 games. At 36 years old he could offer Team Canada experience and name recognition. This isn’t lost on Canada’s management as he’s been included on both the Karjala Cup and Channel One Cup roster.
Andrew Ebbett, Center, Bern SC
The 5’9″ Ebbett has a knack for scoring at a high rate in every league he’s played in… other than the NHL. Despite 32 points in 48 games in 2008-09 with the Anaheim Ducks, Ebbett just couldn’t seem to stick in an NHL scoring role. In 224 NHL games across eight seasons with the Ducks, Blackhawks, Wild, Canucks and Penguins Ebbett only managed 71 points. It has been a different story at every other level. In college Ebbett had 143 points in 167 games with the Michigan Wolverines. He scored 320 points in 335 AHL games. With Bern he has had 73 points in 85 Swiss League games. At age 34 Ebbett has a chance to score some big goals on the Olympic stage.
Stefan Elliot, Defense, HV71
Ellior suited up for 84 NHL games with the Colorado Avalanche, Phoenix Coyotes and Nashville Predators from 2011 to 2016. He was actually traded for fellow prospective Olympian Brandon Gormley in 2015. Other than that… He just seems like another name. Not much to report here
Brandon Gormley, Defense, Mora IK
That Shea Weber comparison has not aged well. Gormley was a lofty 13th overall pick in 2010 by the Phoenix Coyotes and certainly did not lived up to the draft hype. For this Olympic tournament, any NHL experience is a plus and Gormley’s 58 games across three seasons with Arizona and Colorado (from 2013 to 16) will not be overlooked. He’s still only 25 years old and has shown a little something-something with a quick 11 assists in his first 15 games in the SHL.
Maxim Noreau, Defense, Bern SC
In last year’s Spengler Cup, Noreau was Canada’s captain and one of their best players. He scored three goals in four games and was named to the tournament’s All-Star team. The former Minnesota Wild blueliner (only six games but who’s counting?) has been one of the best offensive defensemen in the Swiss-A League since moving overseas. In five seasons split between Ambri-Piotta and SC Bern (2011 to 2018 with a brief return to the AHL for the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons sandwiched in the middle), Noreau has scored 125 points in 181 games. I would consider Noreau a lock for Pyeongchang.
Justin Peters, Goalie, Cologne Sharks
The former heir-apparent to Cam Ward for the Carolina crease, no one told Peter life was gonna be this way (*clap*clap*clap*). Well everything is coming up Peters as he has effectively gone from fringe NHL backup to potential Olympian. Once again, thank you Gary Bettman! Given his 83 games of NHL experience he is definitely on the shortlist for Canada’s crease. He’s gotten some pre-tournament play and is one of the few notable(ish) options not in the NHL.
Mayson Raymond, Left Wing, Bern SC
No Crosby? No problem. At 32 years old Raymond is still in his prime(ish) and would probably be Canada’s best player in Pyeongchang. Just three years removed from a decent 45 point campaign with the Maple Leafs, Raymond’s NHL career ended because of injuries. Since his 2013-14 season in Toronto, Raymond has only suited up for a combined 105 games across three seasons between the NHL and AHL.
This offseason nobody was going to offer a 32 year old with Raymond’s recent injury history to anything more than the minimum so he jumped ship to Switzerland. This year he has racked up cool 21 points in 23 games with Bern SC. His recent experience with Canada in Spengler Cup and other International tournament play has given Canada’s management plenty of familiarity with the speedy winger so don’t be shocked to see him on the top powerplay come January.
Derek Roy, Center, Linkopings HC
Of all of the options overseas, Roy arguably has the most impressive resume. In his junior days Roy won a gold medal at the World Juniors in 2003 and led Kitchener to the OHL championship and Memorial Cup in the same year. Roy was taken 32nd overall in the 2001 draft and ended up developing into a pretty impactful NHL player. In a four season stretch from 2006 to 2010 Roy had at least 20 goals and 60 points each year. The pinnacle being a 32 goal, 81 point season with Buffalo in 2007-08. Injuries and just overall aging has hindered Roy’s impact since his Buffalo days. But at age 34 Roy has had a bit of a career renaissance since moving overseas three years ago and is now an Olympic front runner.
Nick Spaling, Left Wing, Geneve Servette
Spaling is a fellow alumni of the Palmerston men’s slo pitch league (unfortunately I missed the game when our team played Spaling’s team). At the time Spaling played in our baseball league he was at the end of the bench for the 29-42-11 Maple Leafs so naturally his career would progress to that of a potential Olympian. Not to beat this horse to death but the 437 games of NHL experience Spaling provides should get him some extra consideration.
Dillon Dube, Center, Kelowna Rockets
Mike McLeod, Center, Mississauga Steelheads
Taylor Raddysh, Right Wing, Erie Otters
Sam Steel, Center, Regina Pats
All four of these forwards are on Canada’s World Junior roster so we’ll have to wait for the CHL’s official word on the Olympics to see if they’ll be eligible. The CHL may just outright ban all of its players from the Olympics which would make the Olympic hockey even less fun. But if they do allow countries to cherry-pick their players from World Junior rosters, then all four of these skaters should get a look. Steel (Anaheim) and McLeod (New Jersey) have a certain pedigree and buzz surrounding them as former first round picks. Dube (Calgary) and Raddysh (Tampa Bay) have filled the net in junior and look like they could be second round steals when they eventually crack the NHL. You have to think that the Canadian Olympic team would love to get their hands on any of the four.
Owen Tippett, Right Wing, Mississauga Steelheads
If the CHL allows its players to participate in the Olympics with the stipulation that they can’t participate in both the World Juniors and Olympics, then Canada’s remaining junior hockey options should start and end with Owen Tippet. After shockingly not even receiving an invite to Canada’s World Junior camp, Tippett could end up with the last laugh if he finds a way to crack the Olympic team. Tippett is a big-time goal scorer who actually started the season with the Florida Panthers before recently being sent back down to Mississauga. His exclusion from the World Juniors is more of a result of Canada getting too cute with their roster selection rather than Tippett not being good enough.
Dante Fabbro , Defense, Boston University
Cale Makar, Defense, UMass-Amherst
Fabbro and Makar are currently playing for Canada’s World Junior team and look to be significant contributors from the back end. With Canada lacking the typical firepower at the forward positions, Fabbro and Makar’s star power on the blueline will be huge at the WJC’s.
The fact that the Nashville Predators took Fabbro in the first round of the 2016 draft bodes well for his future considering that David Poile seems to know a thing or two about drafting defensemen. The 19 year-old Boston U Terrier is a talented puckmover from the right side and could add some juice to an otherwise underwhelming group of blueline Olympic candidates.
The same can be said for Kale Makar. Last year Makar increased his draft stock enough that he received some consideration as the first overall pick before dropping to Colorado at 4. The undersized offensive defenseman is so talented that he has received hyberbolic comparisons to Erik Karlsson. He has terrific upside and can really play.
It’ll be interesting to see how Hockey Canada handles World Juniors players when selecting the Olympic team. I for one think that Fabbro and Makar could add a tonne of upside so I’d love to see them get some consideration.
Jake Evans, Right Wing, Notre Dame
Brandon Hickey, Defense, Boston Universtiy
Both Evans and Hickey are on Canada’s Spengler Cup roster making them the most likely two college players to crack the Olympic roster.
A seventh round pick in 2014, Evans has become one of college’s premier scorers with the Fighting Irish. In 2015-16 he had 33 points in 37 games and last year he scored 42 points in 40 games. Evans has shown a strong set of hands and has become a creative point producer over his time in college.
Hickey played for Canada at the World Juniors last year but at age 21 is now too old for the tournament. Calgary’s fourth round pick from 2014 and the current captain of Boston University, Hickey is best described as a stay-at-home defenseman. Without any specific standout skill, Hickey could get lost in the shuffle among the more-experienced Olympic blueline candidates.
Jeff Schultz, Defense, San Diego Gulls
Schultz was just announced to be playing for Canada for the Spengler Cup. He’s certainly an interesting name to throw into the mix. He has 409 regular season games and 36 playoff games of NHL experience and even led the league in plus minus with a +50 in 2009-10 with Washington. I actually interviewed Schultz for the PHPA a year ago to talk about his time in the NHL and his future in hockey: http://www.phpa.com/news/story/820
Christian Thomas, Left Wing, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins
Thomas is the only AHL player to crack Canada’s Karjala Cup roster so it’s safe to say he has a leg up on other AHL players. A former second round pick of the Rangers, Thomas showed off his scoring touch with a strong 24 goal campaign with the Hershey Bears last year. Overlooked by NHL teams for his 5’9″ frame, Thomas’ loss could be Team Canada’s gain.
The Retired Guys
While it would be cool to see Doan and Iginla lace it up for Canada one last time, it is more and more unlikely with every passing day of radio silence from both camps. Even if they are way past their prime, Iginla and Doan’s name-recognition would add a certain amount of legitimacy to this year’s Olympic tournament.
Not to mention, everyone knows what happened the last time Iginla played an Olympic hockey game…