After the Canadian national team celebrated its third Spengler Cup championship in a row on Sunday, general manager Sean Burke confessed he has filled 20 of his 25 roster spots for the Olympic team.
The Spengler Cup was the fifth and final tournament for the men’s Canadian Olympic auditions. It ended with an impressive 3-0 victory over the Switzerland national team.
Players like captain Maxim Noreau, a defenceman, and goalie Kevin Poulin used the outings in Davos, Switzerland, to solidify their spots on the Canadian Olympic team roster. Meanwhile, veteran players David McIntyre, Zach Boychuk, Jay McClement, Chris Kelly and Max Lapierre skated into the picture.
“The veterans helped their cause a lot,” said Burke, who will carry three goalies, eight defencemen and 14 forwards on his Olympic roster. “We really have tough decisions to make.”
The five vets each made an impact during the tournament in different ways. Boychuk, the 14th overall selection of the Carolina Hurricanes in the 2008 NHL draft from Airdrie, Alta., scored timely goals and exhibited immediate chemistry with another lock up front, Andrew Ebbett.
Vets shine on special teams, face-offs
McClement, McIntyre, Lapierre and Kelly were excellent in defensive and penalty kill roles. McClement, Kelly and Lapierre also gave Canada excellence at the face-off dot.
With Canada up 1-0 on a fortunate Boychuk goal in the second period, it was McClement’s face-off win a few shifts later that set up Noreau for Canada’s second goal.
In the third period, McIntyre had helped Canada kill off a delay-of-game penalty to Mason Raymond before the former managed to score the final goal of the game.
While McClement, Lapierre and Kelly would bring plenty of big-game NHL experience to the national team and Boychuk was a two-time gold medal winner with the 2008 and 2009 Canadian junior teams, underdogs like Poulin, Noreau and McIntyre deserve an Olympic opportunity.
It’s interesting how these three have come together and may be teammates in South Korea.
Montreal natives Poulin and Noreau played a season of junior together with the Victoriaville Tigres a decade ago. Poulin was a fifth-round New York Islanders draft pick, but after bouncing back and forth between the NHL and AHL for six years, he decided to give Europe a try two seasons ago. The 27-year-old Poulin made 36 saves for his shutout in the final.
Noreau went undrafted but managed to sign an entry-level contract with the Minnesota Wild. He saw action in only six NHL games in his first four seasons as a pro, so he decided to move to Switzerland.
Noreau actually was traded for McIntyre in a minor-league deal after the 2010-11 season.
McIntyre was a late-round selection of the Dallas Stars in 2006, but after the trade for Noreau played in only seven NHL games for the Wild. He headed to Finland in 2014. The native of Pefferlaw, Ont. now plays in Switzerland for Zug and often against Ebbett, who plays for Bern.
Canada to face Swiss in Olympic opener
With the exception of the final, the Spengler Cup competition was against club teams as opposed to national teams Canada competed against in the past two tournaments in Finland in November and Moscow two weeks ago.
Switzerland is the same team the Canadians will open the Olympics in South Korea against on Feb. 15. Switzerland had on its roster former NHL players like Rafael Diaz, Tanner Richard, Damien Brunner and former Carolina prospect Gregory Hofmann.
Led by the veterans and the goaltending of Poulin, the Canadians showed plenty of character for the national team’s 15th victory since Hockey Canada began sending a team in 1984.
Now it’s up to Burke, who will travel to Buffalo to scout the medal round of the world junior tournament, to sort out what he has watched since the summer when Canada played in a couple of exhibition tournaments in Russia.
As he remarked, his final decisions won’t be easy.