Canada banks on blend of youth and NHL experience

China Daily | Updated: 2022-01-27 09:26
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Eric Staal, pictured in action during last year's Stanley Cup Final, has been named in Canada's Olympic hockey squad. [Photo/AP]

Canada is set to have a 37-year-old veteran of almost 1,400 NHL games, a top draft pick and a college goaltender front and center at the Beijing Olympics.

Longtime NHL forward Eric Staal, 2021 No 1 pick Owen Power and Northeastern goalie Devon Levi were among the players named Tuesday by Hockey Canada to the 25-man roster.

"We've got a mix of some young guys, we've got some guys in their mid-20s and we've got some older guys," general manager Shane Doan said on a video call. "That youthful enthusiasm that shows up in the young guys early on in a season, in any season you play in, is always fascinating to watch and without a doubt it's noticeable. But you also notice those older veteran guys in the playoffs: those guys that have that energy in the playoffs when the games are on the line that have that little extra boost because they've been part of the game for a long time."

No one playing in this Olympic men's hockey tournament has been around as long as Staal, who won the Stanley Cup in 2006 with the Carolina Hurricanes and a gold medal on home ice at the 2010 Vancouver Games. He played in the NHL as recently as last season with the Montreal Canadiens, who reached the Cup Final.

"This opportunity was something that is too good to pass up," Staal said. "I'm looking forward to this chance to represent our country and go for a gold medal."

Power is one of four players on the team under the age of 23 along with goaltender Devon Levi and forwards Mason McTavish and Jack McBain. The big defenseman from the University of Michigan was drafted by the Buffalo Sabres and could be playing for them as soon as later this season.

Levi, who leads all college goalies with a .948 save percentage and nine shutouts and ranks fifth in the nation with a 1.55 goals-against average, is expected to be Canada's starter in net with former NHL goalie Devan Dubnyk surprisingly left off the 25-man roster. The 20-year-old is also a Buffalo prospect after being dealt there from Florida in the Sam Reinhart trade last summer.

"What he's done this year in college is pretty remarkable," Sabres GM Kevyn Adams said. "It's not surprising for us, I guess, to see how rapidly he's improving, but I just think this is a young player put in an opportunity on the world stage to have a great experience."

McTavish is the team's youngest player at 18 and was the No 3 pick in the 2021 draft by Anaheim. He recorded three points in nine games with the Ducks this season before getting sent back to the Ontario Hockey League.

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