Canadian Olympic Hockey Rosters: Players to watch, MVP picks and snubs

Canada forward Marie-Philip Poulin (29) celebrates her goal against the United States with teammate Melodie Daoust (15) during second period women's gold medal final Olympic hockey action at the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in Gangneung, South Korea on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018. (Nathan Denette/CP)

Can you believe it's almost Olympic season?

In a little over one week the women's tournament will commence in Beijing on Feb. 3, with the Canadians taking on Switzerland to open. The men's tournament gets going on Feb. 9, with Canada's first game scheduled for Feb. 10 against Germany.

On Tuesday, the Canadian men's hockey team was unveiled, a mix of young and old, NHL prospects and European veterans seeking Gold and an upgrade from the bronze won at the 2018 Olympic tournament. The Canadian women's team was announced on Jan. 11 and they'll look to build on their silver medal performance from 2018 and return to the top of the podium where they sat after the 2002, 2006, 2010 and 2014 Games.

With both Canadian Olympic hockey rosters set, four Sportsnet writers (Sonny Sachdeva, Rory Boylen, Mike Johnston and Emily Sadler) share their picks on who they're most excited to see, who they think will be Canada's MVPs and which player didn't crack the main roster who they would have liked to see in Beijing.

Sonny Sachdeva


Who I’m most excited to see at the Olympics: Josh Ho-Sang
Who I think will be Canada's MVP: Eric Staal
Who I would've liked to see on the roster: Connor Bedard

There are plenty of interesting names dotted throughout the Canadian men’s roster -- all eyes will surely be on how 2021 No. 1 pick Owen Power fares on the big stage, and the same goes for No. 3 pick Mason McTavish. But I’m most interested to see what Josh Ho-Sang does with this opportunity. The Toronto Marlies winger's career path has been among the more bizarre ones we’ve seen for players of his calibre. There's just a sense he hasn't gotten as fair a shake as he should've given how he's performed. But now, amid another impressive AHL campaign, Ho-Sang will get the chance to deliver some history for Canada on the world stage, and perhaps convince some of the doubters. There's no question he has the skill to do it.

Past that, there's no overlooking the impact Eric Staal can have at these Games. It’s been a tumultuous couple years for the former All-Star, but before last season, Staal had scored at a 20-goal pace for the previous four seasons, hitting the 40-goal plateau just a couple years ago in 2017-18. It’s unclear what level of competition we’ll see in Beijing, but with Staal still looking like a bona fide NHLer pretty recently, he'll play a key role in Canada's medal hopes.

As for a name that would’ve been great to see on the roster, who would’ve been against potentially watching 16-year-old wunderkind Connor Bedard lift Canada to Olympic glory years before he even begins his NHL career?


Who I’m most excited to see at the Olympics: Marie-Philip Poulin
Who I think will be Canada's MVP: Mélodie Daoust
Who I would've liked to see on the roster: Mikyla Grant-Mentis

Even as she heads into her fourth Olympic Games, Marie-Philip Poulin remains appointment viewing. It's a rarity to be able to watch a genuine legend in the sport do their thing on the Olympic stage (as we've learned from the men's side of the tournament). Don't take lightly the privilege of having another chance to watch Captain Clutch lead her squad into the Olympic spotlight. And after her performance at the 2021 world championships — nine points in six games and the historic golden goal to top it all off — expect another marquee performance.

Of course, dominant as Poulin is, it was Mélodie Daoust who led that 2021 tournament in scoring, with six goals and 12 points to her name. It was Daoust who earned MVP honours as Canada claimed gold. Go back to the last Canadian Olympic run, at the Sochi tournament in 2018, and it was Daoust who was named MVP then too -- and she led the squad in scoring then as well. Look for the veteran to continue her habit of putting up MVP-calibre performances on the big stage in Beijing.

There's no question Canada’s women’s roster is star-studded and a tough one to crack, with as good a chance this year as they have any year to claim gold. But it remains bizarre that Mikyla Grant-Mentis wasn’t granted an opportunity to try and make this roster. The reigning MVP of the Premier Hockey Federation, Grant-Mentis has continued to dominate this season with eight goals and 22 points through 11 games, leading the league in points, goals and assists. She’s more than earned a shot.

Rory Boylen


Who I’m most excited to see at the Olympics: Mason McTavish
Who I think will be Canada's MVP: Maxim Noreau
Who I would've liked to see on the roster: Shane Wright

Keeping it young for a couple of these answers. Since I was hopeful the Canadians would have taken an approach similar to what the Americans did by bringing a youthful roster to Beijing, I'm all in on seeing what Mason McTavish does on the senior international stage. The third overall pick of the 2021 NHL draft joins the first overall pick (Owen Power) in this Canadian lineup and it will be the fifth team McTavish has played on this season (Anaheim, AHL San Diego, OHL Peterborough, OHL Hamilton and now Canada). Along with Trevor Zegras, McTavish figures to be an important player down the middle for the Ducks in the years to come.

Choosing who Canada's MVP will be from this lineup is incredibly difficult because while Staal brings the name value, the goalies could carry the load, or the youngsters could rise to the occasion, the fact is there are a number of wild cards here. Will experience be an asset? Maxim Noreau, a defenceman, led Canada in scoring at the 2018 Olympics (seven points in six games) and was the only Canadian named to the tournament all-star team. He is the only returning player.

I would have liked to see more youth go to Beijing for Canada, and taking the entire WJC team was a nice idea in theory. With Power there and Connor Bedard front of mind too, Shane Wright, the prospective No. 1 overall pick in the 2022 draft, would have been fantastic to see in Olympic competition.


Who I’m most excited to see at the Olympics: Mélodie Daoust
Who I think will be Canada's MVP: Marie-Philip Poulin
Who I would've liked to see on the roster: Loren Gabel

Daoust and Poulin are almost interchangeable in the "most excited to see" and "MVP picks" categories. Poulin never disappoints and, as Sonny points out above, her international resume is impeccable and her big-moment ability undeniable. When Canada needs someone to come through and score a goal at a key moment, Poulin will be one of the first to come to mind. These will be her fourth Olympics and she's finished above a point per game each time.

In that same conversation for Canada's top difference-maker is Daoust, the MVP and leading scorer at the 2021 worlds. These will be her third Olympic Games. Whoever winds up the MVP, both of these two are must-see players you shouldn't let slip by because of early start times in China. They will wow the older viewers among us and inspire the younger generation.

When picking from the best of the best for hockey teams in Canada there will always be great players left off the final roster, but it was surprising that Loren Gabel didn't even crack Canada's 28-player pre-Olympic roster. A stand out at the 2019 women's worlds where she scored a team-leading six goals in seven games as a 22-year-old rookie, Gabel won two national titles with NCAA Clarkson, won the Patty Kazmaier Award as the top women's college player in 2019, and holds the school's all-time goals record still with 116. Still just 24, Gabel will hope the 2026 Olympics will be her shot, it was just so shocking the PWHPAer wasn't even among the final few cuts.

Mike Johnston


Who I’m most excited to see at the Olympics: Eric Staal
Who I think will be Canada's MVP: Eddie Pasquale
Who I would've liked to see on the roster: Kent Johnson

Back in 2018, the U.S. had Brian Gionta, the Czechs had Martin Erat, Slovakia had Ladislav Nagy, Germany had Christian Ehrhoff, and the gold medal-winning Olympic Athletes from Russia had Pavel Datsyuk and Ilya Kovalchuk. There’s something captivating about seeing veteran NHLers in tournaments skating alongside players with little to no NHL experience and I think Eric Staal still has some quality hockey left in the tank.

At the other end of the age spectrum, 2021 fifth-overall pick Kent Johnson is a highly touted prospect who could’ve fit in nicely on this roster just like his University of Michigan teammate Owen Power. The skilled playmaker and Columbus Blue Jackets prospect will have to settle for being named one of Canada’s alternates.


Who I’m most excited to see at the Olympics: Natalie Spooner
Who I think will be Canada's MVP: Marie-Philip Poulin
Who I would've liked to see on the roster: Meaghan Mikkelson

Poulin is a consistent performer at the Olympics with 11 goals in 15 appearances on the game’s biggest stage and there’s no reason to think she can’t continue her dominance this year. As for the final cuts, Mikkelson is a three-time Olympian with Team Canada and it would’ve been cool seeing her overcome the odds, plus her devastating knee injury, and make the final roster. However, as she pointed out in this heartfelt social media post, there’s more than one way to measure success.

Emily Sadler


Who I’m most excited to see at the Olympics: Owen Power
Who I think will be Canada's MVP: Eric Staal
Who I would've liked to see on the roster: Devan Dubnyk

Over the course of the past year, we've watched as Owen Power shone amongst men at the 2021 world championship, got drafted first overall to the Buffalo Sabres, scored at a point-per-game pace with Michigan, and made history with a hat trick in his world junior debut before heading home early after the cancellation of the tournament. Now, he's got another chance to write his name into Canadian international hockey lore when the college sophomore suits up at the Olympics Games. That he's doing all this before he formally begins his NHL career is pretty remarkable.

While I'm also really looking forward to seeing what college standout (and Power's future teammate in Buffalo) Devon Levi does on the Olympic stage, I'm equally surprised to see that Canada's crease won't include another Devan -- Dubnyk, that is. I know the unsigned NHLer's best hockey days are behind him, but I can't help but feel like his veteran presence would be a smart addition to help Levi navigate international ice.

Meanwhile, I know I'm not the only one forecasting an excellent tournament for Staal, who's likely playing for gold and a shot at a short-term NHL contract with a playoff contender.


Who I’m most excited to see at the Olympics: Sarah Fillier
Who I think will be Canada's MVP: Marie-Philip Poulin
Who I would've liked to see on the roster: Victoria Bach

As long as she's wearing the maple leaf, MPP is my perennial MVP pick, period. But while this team still belongs to Marie-Philip Poulin, it's clear that this roster is striking a balance between veteran know-how and future stars -- and that latter part is where Sarah Fillier comes in. Fillier, who models her game after Poulin, was excellent at the World Championship in August and will be a mainstay on this team for years. I can't wait to see her make the most of her Olympic debut.

Considering management’s future-forward thinking while constructing this roster, I'm surprised not to see Bach's name listed. Like Fillier, Bach is another young forward whose name will surely be found on many Canadian hockey rosters to come. It's a shame she'll need to wait another Olympic cycle to make her debut at the Games, but her exclusion here simply speaks to just how deep Canada's talent pool is.

While this roster shows the beginnings of a new era for some brand new Olympians, it's also the end of one for others -- most notably, longtime Canadian hockey icon Meaghan Mikkelson. What a remarkable comeback story that would've been after undergoing extensive knee surgery. While I don't question the talent on this team, I do wonder if her veteran poise and experience will be missed on the squad's young blue line.

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