OPINION: Canada's first 16 players for World Cup of Hockey

The Canadian Press projects who makes the cut

The Canadian Press
Published on March 1, 2016

An unbeatable juggernaut at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, Canada is lining up to be equally potent at the World Cup this fall. Canadian general manager Doug Armstrong and head coach Mike Babcock have an embarrassment of riches to choose from. Here is CP's projection for the first 16 players on the roster, which will be revealed Wednesday:

1. Sidney Crosby (centre): Canada's captain for the last gold-medal winning squad, Crosby is a lock to return again at the World Cup. Struggling through an uncharacteristic slow start this season, the Penguins captain has returned to his usual high-scoring production, back among the league's leading scorers. He should lead the Canadians once more.

2. Jonathan Toews (centre): The de facto captain to Crosby, Toews seems to do just about everything, be it for the last two Canadian Olympic teams or the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks. Toews can score a key goal for Babcock, lock down as a defensive stopper or win a key faceoff. He'll line up behind Crosby in the second centre slot.

3. Drew Doughty (defence): A revelation at his first Olympics in Vancouver, Doughty was again a dominating force for Canada in Sochi. Doughty scored four goals, logged big minutes and seemed to transcend even the best the game had to offer at the 2014 Games. The same will be expected of the Kings star at the World Cup.

4. Duncan Keith (defence): Along with Shea Weber, Keith was half of Babcock's most trusted defence duo in Sochi. He brings a wealth of winning experience to the squad with three Stanley Cups and two Olympic gold medals. He was an especially effective force last spring, a unanimous choice for the Conn Smythe Trophy as the top playoff performer.

5. Shea Weber (defence): No Canadian logged more minutes in Sochi and though his game is probably trending downward, the 30-year-old remains a heavy defensive force and someone Babcock will lean on. He and Keith should again form Canada's top pair.

6. Jamie Benn (left wing): Benn scored the only goal in Canada's riveting semifinal win over the United States in Sochi and he's become even better since. Benn won the Art Ross Trophy as the league's leading scorer last season, trailing only Patrick Kane in that race this season. A powerful winger, Benn could be a fixture next to his Stars teammate, Tyler Seguin.

7. Tyler Seguin (centre): Just coming into his own for the Stars when the 2014 Olympic team was named, Seguin missed the mark in landing a gig on that squad. He won't be counted out again. Seguin and Benn have been the league's most electric duo in Dallas for the past two-plus seasons. It's hard to envision the two not joining forces this fall.

8. John Tavares (centre): Tavares suffered a devastating knee injury in the quarter-finals in Sochi, missing the last two games. Still only 25, Tavares should get another shot. The Islanders captain is a powerful force down the middle and someone who could play the wing, perhaps alongside Crosby.

9. Steven Stamkos (centre): Stamkos wasn't healthy enough to play for Canada at the last Olympics, but he should get another chance. The impending unrestricted free agent has been scorching for the red-hot Lightning recently, soon to reach 30 goals for the fifth time in his NHL career. Like Tavares, Stamkos will provide a goal-scoring presence, both at even-strength and on the power play.

10. Ryan Getzlaf (centre): Among the slowest starters in the league last fall, Getzlaf is back to being a forceful presence down the middle for the Ducks. The 30-year-old had 20 points in February, winning the NHL's first star of the month. An imposing presence at centre, Getzlaf can expect to be back.

11. Jeff Carter (centre): Like many of his teammates, Carter has a rich history performing for winning teams, the squad in Sochi among them. Carter scored three goals and five points in six games at the Olympics. He's also been a dominant post-season performer for the Kings with an alluring combination of size, skill and power.

12. Corey Perry (right wing): Like his Ducks teammate, Perry started slowly this season, but he, too, has risen, on track to reach 30 goals for the sixth time in his NHL career. Perry didn't score a goal in Sochi, but he comes ready-made to play next to Getzlaf for the Canadian squad.

13. Patrice Bergeron (centre): If not near quite as potent as Toews, Bergeron can be a jack-of-all-trades for Canada. The long-time Bruins forward can score, kill penalties, win a key draw and play the wing if needed. Bergeron is on pace for his best offensive season in nearly a decade, too.

14. Marc-Edouard Vlasic (defence): Vlasic plays big, effective and probably underrated minutes for a quality Sharks team. He also played next to Doughty in Sochi, providing a smart, safe, puck-moving presence next to Canada's most dynamic defender. The Canadians were the best defensive unit in recent hockey memory. Given that, there's reason to think Vlasic will be back for the World Cup, if not with the initial 16 than later. Alex Pietrangelo is another option to join Keith, Weber and Doughty in the first group named.

15. Carey Price (goalie): Assuming he's fully healthy, Price should be Canada's guy in goal. His credentials need little elaboration. Price has been the NHL's best goalie (when healthy) in recent years. He gave up only three goals in six games in Sochi.

16. Braden Holtby (goalie): Holtby has been arguably the best Canadian goaltender this season with Price out, but the race is close. Corey Crawford and Roberto Luongo have both posted equal, if not better, numbers than Holtby, who has been a rock for the league's best team. He should be one of Canada's three goaltenders regardless.