Why above all others was the Vegas Golden Knights defenceman the third player selected to Team Canada’s 2022 Olympic men’s hockey roster Monday morning?
“There was no question he was someone I valued immensely on and off the ice for this program of the Olympics,” Canada’s general manager Doug Armstrong said when explaining his decision during an appearance on The Jeff Marek Show.
Pietrangelo, a three-time Second Team NHL All-Star, was a key cog on Canada’s gold medal-winning team at Sochi 2014, the last time NHL players competed at the Games, and he played a pivotal role for Canada at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey.
Armstrong and Pietrangelo, 31, also won a Stanley Cup together with the Blues in 2019.
“He’s a great 200-foot player,” Armstrong said. “He was paired as a shutdown player (in 2014 and 2016) and he did a great job at that, but he’s a 200-foot player and his game has evolved even since 2016. The last six years, to me, he’s just one of the top defenders in the league. … What you’re trying to do is build a team and we’ll start with 200-foot players and I think Petro’s a great example of that.”
Armstrong, who has been GM in St. Louis since 2010, was unable to come to terms on a contract extension with Pietrangelo in 2020 and the 2008 first-round pick of the Blues ended up signing in Vegas.
“At the end of the day, he made a business decision and we made a business decision, but when you’re working for Team Canada you always do what’s best for Team Canada,” Armstrong said.
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) October 4, 2021
Armstrong and his management team have until Oct. 15 to submit a final long list of 55 players from which they will assemble a final roster before a January announcement.
As usual, Canada will have gold-medal expectations heading into the Games.
“What you learn to do is not underestimate anyone,” Armstrong said of preparing for an international tournament before giving a brief rundown of contenders. “You have the Finns that to me are my favourite nation outside of Canada because they’re small and they have players that just play with passion and love of the game and they’re always a tough out.
“The Americans have great talent, the Russians have great talent and the Swedes have great talent. … You have to be careful and have to be ready to play everybody but I would say the top nations are consistently the top nations.”