Burke: Canada to have most of Olympic roster chosen by November

Sean Burke speaking at a Team Canada press conference. (Jeff McIntosh/CP)

While some may still be holding out hope that the NHL finds its way to an agreement for Olympic participation, Team Canada general manager Sean Burke is already penciling in names on the nation’s 2018 roster.

As Canada’s squad prepares to head to Pyeongchang, South Korea without the elite talent it’s brought for the past few tournaments, Burke said he’s well aware of his future team’s need for time to gel and establish workable chemistry.

“We’re trying to bring the team together as quickly as possible, so the players can play together as many times as possible before the Olympics,” Burke told IIHF.com’s Andrew Podnieks on Wednesday. “We also know there are guys between now and February that may play well who didn’t play here and others who did play and may struggle, but we have to make decisions probably before the ideal time.”

Fresh off of two August tournaments – the Sochi Hockey Open and the Nikolai Puchkov Tournament – that allowed the Team Canada brass to assess their potential crop of players, Burke said he’s hoping to have the majority of the 2018 team lined up within a couple months.

“Our first goal is to have a large part of our final roster ready in time for the Karjala Tournament in November,” Burke said. “There will be some changes after that, but we need to get the group together by then. And then we’ll be better prepared for another tournament in Moscow in December.”

As for who wears the hallowed maple leaf when the Olympics finally roll around, Burke suggested the list of names that participated in the team’s recent tournaments includes the majority of the eventual Canadian roster. Former NHLers Mason Raymond, Max Talbot and Carlo Colaiacovo highlighted that group, though it may have been the squad’s goaltending that stood out the most.

Netminders Ben Scrivens, Justin Peters and Kevin Poulin were the three to get the call, and each got a fair look during Canada’s tournament run.

“All three goalies played very well,” Burke said. “They all played two games. Poulin is not currently on a team but stepped right in and played against a tough Russian team in Sochi. Early he was nervous and then settled in and performed really well. Justin Peters was very solid.

“And Ben Scrivens, I thought, was outstanding. It’s a long way to February, but as of today I think we have three quality goaltenders. They’re all capable.”

Much is yet to be decided regarding Canada’s 2018 roster, and there’s no question the reigning champs head into the coming Olympics with a far more difficult task than they have in years past.

But that doesn’t appear to be changing Burke’s mindset.

“We go into PyeongChang believing gold is realistic.”

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