Christopher Ralph is THW’s prospect and draft analyst.
Canada’s third period collapse against Russia in the gold medal game is now not so ancient history. Executing three valiant comebacks in three consecutive elimination games, the Russians have to be commended for showing the heart and determination their international squads have recently sorely lacked all too often at various levels of play – from the juniors to the Olympics.
Team Canada played a near perfect game against a strong USA team in the semi-finals. Two periods into the contest with a 3-nil lead, it looked promising for a return to the top for the first nation of hockey. It was not to be, however, and although the players were beyond disappointed, when the dust settles and the zamboni makes its rounds – the boys should be very proud of their performance.
As TSN’s Bob MacKenzie stated: “Yup, that’s hockey, that’s junior hockey. ”
And maybe, just maybe, it’s the hockey gods’ way of balancing the scales a touch and sending along a little message, as hockey gods are wont to do sometimes.
Perhaps something along the lines of, Stay humble, Canada, stay humble.
Should Canadian hockey fans be concerned?
Fear not Canadian hockey fans. Canadian hockey at the grassroots level is far from on a downward spiral. While Team USA was missing NHLer Cam Fowler (Anaheim Ducks) and Sweden were without eligible prospects Oliver Ekman-Larsson (Phoenix Coyotes), Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson (Edmonton Oilers) and Jacob Josefson (New Jersey Devils), imagine Team Canada roster with the following eligible players:
- Taylor Hall (Edmonton Oilers) – The dynamic forward still finding his way in the NHL, but shows glimpses of greatness. Even with Eberle and MPS on board, he is the cornerstone of the Oilers franchise.
- Tyler Seguin (Boston Bruins) – While this season has not been exactly a masterpiece, Seguin will soon be making every rink in the NHL his canvas. He possesses ridiculous upside.
- Jeffrey Skinner (Carolina Hurricanes) – Opportunistic scorer leads NHL in rookie scoring with 31 points in 40 games. Those who questioned his skating looking pretty foolish right about now.
- Matt Duchene (Colorado Avalanche) – If the 2009 draft were redone today, the Joe Sakic clone would likely have gone first overall.
- Evander Kane (Atlanta Thrashers) – The 19 year old forward has 26 points in 40 games for the surprising Thrashers.
- Ryan O’Reilly (Colorado Avalanche) – Before his 20th birthday, the reliable two-way forward has been a stalwart defensively for the Avs.
- Tyler Toffoli (Los Angeles Kings) – Toffoli was not picked for Team Canada. What did he do in response in the OHL after returning to his squad – he potted 5 goals in one game shortly thereafter.
The above players would have created a seemingly unbeatable Team Canada squad. The consequence though would have been possibly missing out on the coming out party of forwards like Ryan Johansen (Columbus Blue Jackets).
Russia, it should be noted, only has one player eligible to return, ultra-talented Evgeny Kuznetsov (Washington Capitals), for the 2012 WJCs U20 in Calgary/Edmonton, Alberta (Canada).
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Chris is THW’s senior draft/prospect analyst and a Managing Editor. Watch for “The Next Ones” Prospect Profile series, exclusive rankings, mock drafts, as well as the annual THW NHL Entry Draft Guide. Follow @ChrisRalphYQ on Twitter as he infiltrates, dissects and analyzes all happenings of hockey prospects and the NHL entry draft. Email: cralph[at]thehockeywriters[dot]com