NHL·Analysis

Canadian Olympic men's hockey power rankings: Forwards an embarrassment of riches

Between now and the team announcement, CBC Sports' Rob Pizzo will be providing you with his ongoing versions of Team Canada ahead of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, as well as some players who are doing their best to get GM Doug Armstrong's attention.

Pairing Connor McDavid with Zach Hyman is not such a crazy idea

Oilers forward Zach Hyman (18) has scored six goals in the early season, five have been assisted by Connor McDavid. (Jason Franson/Canadian Press)

Now that we know NHLers will be heading to Beijing to compete at the 2022 Winter Olympics, sports talk in this country will centre around picking Team Canada.

Keeping in mind the NHL season is active, players are essentially auditioning for a spot, and the predicted rosters will essentially change on a regular basis.

Between now and the team announcement, I will be providing you with his ongoing versions of Team Canada, as well as some players who are doing their best to get GM Doug Armstrong's attention.

Although there is plenty of hockey left to play before the team announcement is officially made, we figure ... why wait!

Teams can dress 13 forwards, seven defencemen and two goalies (plus an extra player at each position).

Most teams are right around the 10-game mark of the season, and some players are definitely starting to get the attention of hockey fans. 

This week we are going to be focusing on the area where Team Canada has an embarrassment of riches: the forwards.

However, to do that, we need to first go look back.

WATCH | Rob Pizzo breaks down his updated Team Canada rankings:

Canadian Olympic men's hockey power rankings: Ep. 3

3 months ago
Duration 3:24
With most NHL teams hitting or approaching the 10-game mark, Rob Pizzo makes a significant change to his Olympic roster. 3:24

'Built-in chemistry'

When we found out that the NHL will be heading back to the Olympics, I had a chat with Justin Bourne from Sportsnet, and Dom Luszczyszyn from The Athletic. 

I asked for a "dark horse" pick for Team Canada, and Dom said this:

"Here's what might happen, if they think about chemistry. Zach Hyman, playing on Connor McDavid's wing, putting this Chris Kunitz-like season together, and they just decide to bring him to be McDavid's winger. Got built-in chemistry."

That's interesting. 

Back in 2014 when Team Canada was announced for the Games in Sochi, Russia, Sidney Crosby was the undisputed best player on planet earth. He was the lock-of-all locks. But when Kunitz was also named to the team (even though he was sitting seventh in the league in scoring), the hockey world raised their collective eyebrows. 

The reason Kunitz was picked was simple: He was on Crosby's line. Playing alongside the best player in the world has its perks.

When it comes to tournaments like this, one main issue (no matter how much talent you have on the roster) is having a team gel, and quickly. 

Then-Canadian GM Steve Yzerman didn't stop there, he also picked teammates Patrick Sharp and Jonathan Toews, as well as Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry.

While Kunitz only found the back of the net once, Team Canada won the gold, so it's hard to argue against the moves. 

Zach Hyman has had a blast this season playing alongside McDavid. He has six goals, and give of them were assisted by McDavid.

It's not often that someone can go from not being on an Olympic roster, to suddenly on the first line, but if the team was being selected today that's exactly where I would put him. 

"Built-in chemistry" as Luszczyszyn put it, is a very valuable asset.

Let's look at how that one major change affected my team this week:

(Reminder: Connor McDavid, Sidney Crosby and Alex Pietrangelo have officially been named to the team)

Forwards

First line

  • Left wing: Zach Hyman, Edm
  • Centre: Connor McDavid, Edm
  • Right wing: Nathan Mackinnon, Col

Second line

(LW: Brad Marchand, Bos; C: Sidney Crosby; RW: Patrice Bergeron, Bos)

I'm a stubborn guy, and it will take a lot for me to tinker with this line. Get used to seeing it.

Third line

(LW: Jonathan Huberdeau, Fla; C: Brayden Point;, TB, RW: Mark Stone, Vegas)

There is no way I'm cutting Huberdeau, so I put him on the wing. Stone (lower-body injury) has returned to the ice and should be back to action soon so I want to see just how bad his injury is before making any changes.

Fourth line

(LW: Ryan O'Reilly, StL; C: Mark Scheifele, Wpg; RW: Mathew Barzal, NYI)

Barzal gets dropped down to the fourth line and Mitch Marner (despite starting to come around with five points in his last three games), finds himself on the outside looking in.

On the bubble: Steven Stamkos, TB

Canadiens goalie Carey Price is close to returning to the team after he entered the NHL/NHLPA's player assistance program on Oct. 7, says head coach Dominique Ducharme. (Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

Defencemen

  • Jakob Chychrun, Ari-Cale Makar, Col
  • Shea Theodore, Vegas-Alex Pietrangelo
  • Vegas; Adam Pelech, NYI-Aaron Ekblad, Fla
  • Morgan Rielly, Tor

On the bubble: Dougie Hamilton, NJ

Goalies

  • Carey Price, Mtl
  • Marc-Andre Fleury, Chi
  • Carter Hart, Pha

I'm going to leave the blue-line as-is for now, and the goalie situation is such a question mark that I'm not ready to do anything there just yet. See you in two weeks.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rob Pizzo has been a reporter for CBC Sports based out of Toronto since 2013. He has covered the NHL for Hockey Night in Canada, CBC, and was rinkside at the Olympic Games in Pyeongchang.

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