When the list of the 47 NHL players that would be invited to take part at the Team Canada Olympic training camp was announced, the Edmonton Oilers had two obvious players that were named; Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle. Many experts feel that both Hall and Eberle can and will make the upcoming Olympic roster and represent Team Canada next February in Sochi, Russia. But it’s a third member of the Edmonton Oilers that could still have the chance to wear the maple leaf and compete for gold next year.
Defenseman Justin Schultz still has an outside chance of being named to Team Canada despite not being invited to the camp that will take place in Calgary starting Sunday. With the players not being allowed to take to the ice due to insurance costs against injuries, Schultz will be on a level playing field with the other 17 defenseman who were invited to the August camp when the NHL regular season kicks off on October 1. All Schultz has to do is get off to a great start and catch Canada GM Steve Yzerman‘s attention.
But even that might not be enough when you look at the list of defenseman that were invited ahead of Schultz. Blue liners such as Drew Doughty, Dan Boyle, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Shea Weber were all in Vancouver when Canada won gold back in 2010. Not to mention, except for Keith, they all shoot right as does Schultz. A factor that could help determine the Oilers defenseman’s fate.
Doughty, Keith and Weber are locks for Sochi and Seabrook will surely get heavy attention. Boyle is up there in age coming in at 37, something that could hinder his chances at getting another shot at winning a gold medal. Without Boyle that puts four defenseman on the club, including Seabrook.
For Schultz, it will mean he’ll have to out perform the remaining players on the list of invites, not to mention the other Canadian defenseman that didn’t garner an invitation. Can he do it? Of course he can. But the list is long and full of who’s who, making the decision a difficult one for Yzerman.
Jay Bouwmeester who will look for a bounce back year in St. Louis with the Blues will also be penciled in as a starting defenseman by many experts. P.K Subban, Dan Hamhuis, Kris Letang, Alex Pietrangelo, Mike Green, Dion Phaneuf and Marc Staal will certainly challenge for a starting job led by the consistent play they all bring to their clubs.
Does Schultz deserve to be in Calgary this weekend? One could argue that he could be there over players like Karl Alzner, Travis Hamonic, Marc Methot and Marc-Édouard Vlasic. But in reality, this camp means very little in the grand scheme of things, especially when the players won’t get a chance to skate together. It’s those scrimmages that lines are formed, d-pairings become clear and a rough roster begins to take shape. For Schultz, this is a blessing that will allow his play to do the talking while making his case for Team Canada once the puck drops in October.
It won’t be easy for Schultz to bump one of the aforementioned players off the roster. There are many superstars on the list, but if Schultz can help propel the Oilers to early season success while putting up impressive offensive numbers, a positive plus/minus while limiting the turnovers, his name is bound to come up when the Olympic chatter picks up around late November.