Despite the NHL not sending their players to the Beijing Olympics, there is still lots of excitement around who will be selected to represent Canada’s men’s hockey team. General manager Shane Doan will still have plenty of talented players to choose from as he tries to give Canada a shot at a gold medal in February.
Two exciting players that have been mentioned as being seriously considered to make the Team Canada recently are the most recent first and third overall picks in the NHL Entry Draft: Owen Power and Mason McTavish.
Both players just represented Canada at the 2022 World Juniors and impressed in their short time at the tournament. Despite neither player being 20 years old yet, both have a lot of potential upsides to bring to Team Canada come February.
Despite the official roster not being named yet, many insiders believe Power already has a spot on Team Canada. This, if true, is an excellent decision by Doan and his management team.
If we can take anything from the 2018 Olympics, Canada is much more likely to have solid options on defence that specialize in defensive play. They might lack offensive explosiveness from their blue line, which is where Power could be highly beneficial.
The Buffalo Sabres’ first overall pick in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft is currently playing in the NCAA with the University of Michigan. In 20 games this season, Power has three goals and 20 assists. Those 23 points lead all NCAA defencemen, with Ottawa Senators draft pick Jake Sanderson being the only other close to him (22).
In Canada’s opening game of the 2022 World Junior Hockey Championships, Power recorded a hat trick against Czechia, becoming the first-ever defenceman to record a hat trick for Canada at the tournament. He also notched two assists to finish with five points in two games before the event’s cancellation.
Power can quarterback a power play, which will be vital to Canada. With most of the other defencemen likely specializing in the penalty kill, the prospect of having one of the best power-play quarterbacks at the Olympics could give the team a huge advantage in close games.
Listed at 6-foot-6, 214 pounds, Power shouldn’t be outmatched physically by older, more experienced players. There’s not much doubt that if he had wanted to play in the NHL this season, he would have been able to compete and be an effective player.
However, the fact that he wanted to return to college for one more season is a massive win for Hockey Canada, and if selected, Power could be a difference-maker in the country’s quest for gold in Beijing.
In 2018, Canada really lacked elite, game-breaking skill in their forward group. In six games in PyeongChang, the only player to record more than one point per game was Derek Roy, with seven points. Only five players, three of which were forwards, registered four or more points.
That needs to be addressed for Beijing, as Canada will have to find more ways to score goals. And bringing one of their most dynamic young players in Mason McTavish seems like a great way to achieve that.
McTavish currently plays in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) for the Hamilton Bulldogs, having been recently traded there from the Peterborough Petes just days ago. He has seven goals and two assists in just seven OHL games this season; however, many expect to see those numbers skyrocket now that he has joined the powerhouse Bulldogs.
Like Power, McTavish was a beast at the 2022 World Junior Hockey Championship. His ability to create offence with such little time and space is something not many other players representing Canada in Beijing will be able to do.
Veteran centres such as Eric Staal and Cal O’Reilly will be able to handle much of the defensive zone starts and matchup assignments. Whether Canada keeps McTavish at centre or moves him to the wing, he will focus on generating offence, even strength and the power play.
Not to mention McTavish has NHL experience, playing nine games with the Anaheim Ducks at the start of the 2021-22 season before being sent back to the OHL. While with the Ducks, he didn’t look outmatched at the NHL level, scoring twice and adding one assist during those games.
Overall, Power and McTavish aren’t the only two youngsters that Doan and his management team are rumoured to be considering for Beijing. Cole Perfetti, Kent Johnson, Peyton Krebs, Kaiden Guhle, and Jack Quinn are all considered to represent their country at the Olympics.
It seems like Canada has learned from 2018 that they can undoubtedly ice a team that can be strong defensively. What seems different this time around is that they have learned that maybe taking some more young players, who could struggle defensively, is worth the risk if they can help produce enough offence to beat some of their most formidable opponents.
Sports writer covering the Minnesota Wild. Graduated with a degree in sport media, also working with the Oshawa Generals of the OHL.