Not many teams would consider a silver medal disappointing.
But for the first time in 20 years, that’s where Canada finds itself. It hasn’t even been four years since the crushing defeat to the US in the gold medal game, and the whole landscape of Canadian women’s hockey has changed.
Players haven’t been able to play together as often with the CWHL’s sudden 2019 fold. The PWHPA rose in its ashes, but with inconsistent planning and not much game information, it’s hard to use that data to get a real gauge.
Then there’s the bright side, with the rise of college stars and young stars like Loren Gabel, Micah Zandee-Hart and others ready to carry the torch for the next generation.
There is no reality in which Team Canada is not going to be really good. However, this edition will look very different, even though some of the talent that made the performance of the gold medal possible will be transferred.
LW: Jamie Lee Rattray, Loren Gabel, Sarah Nurse, Jill Saulnier, Laura Stacey
C: Marie-Philip Poulin, Sarah Fillier, Brianne Jenner, Blayre Turnbull
RW: Melody Daoust, Victoria Bach, Natalie Spooner, Emily Clark
LD: Jocelyne Larocque, Micah Zandee-Hart, Lauriane Rougeau, Claire Thompson
RD: Renata Fast, Jamie Bourbonnais, Brigette Lacquette
G: Ann-Renee Desbiens, Genevieve Lacasse, Emerance Maschmeyer
Honorable Mentions: Rebecca Johnston, Laura Fortino, Erin Ambrose, Meaghan Mikkelson, Meghan Agosta, Daryl Watts, Elizabeth Giguere, Mikyla Grant-Mentis
Some of the names here are obvious: Marie-Philip Poulin, Sarah Nurse, Jocelyne Larocque.
Since there hasn’t been much in women’s international hockey over the past year, the rest of this projection needs to get a little creative. Despite Canada not playing at the women’s World Cup last year, Canada still named a roster of 23 players, so we can get a little idea of who the program expects to bring to Beijing in 2022.
Hockey Canada also had a training camp for 47 players in Calgary earlier this year, where they got an extra look at who could make it to the final.
Almost everyone who was expected to make it to the Olympic roster was named in the 2020 Worlds roster. So that makes it a bit simple.
Lacquette wasn’t there, but she feels like a shoo-in now. There is so much young talent knocking on the door to make it to the roster, and maybe there will be some surprises, but losing essentially a year of competition doesn’t make it easier for cusp players to knock out established vets.
That said, there are some players who will almost certainly step aside this time, and that could create some space.
Longtime goalkeeper Shannon Szabados hasn’t played since she gave birth to her first child last year, so it’s a strong assumption that she won’t be back this time. Desbiens seems the logical choice to earn a role in the net, following in Szabados’ footsteps. Desbiens was a star in Wisconsin and is only 26 years old.
After that, some cuts become more difficult. Fortino and Johnston just missed the 2020 World Cup cut, and they both easily competed for a spot and beat a younger player.
Mikkelson is making a second comeback attempt, but hasn’t played since 2017/18, despite all her achievements as a three-time Olympian. She could push, but that seems questionable.
Agosta falls into a similar category where she hasn’t played since 2018 and works full time as a cop in Vancouver, but she has an abundance of experience working with Canada so it would be silly to calculate her.
Then of course you have the non-doubters: Daoust led Canada in the scoring last time, Jenner and Spooner have been part of Canada’s plans for a decade, while Clark and Fast impressed on their Olympic debut in 2018.
The 2020 Worlds roster featured eight new faces, and it’s hard to see any of them being passed over for the Olympic roster right now.
23-year-old Gabel from Clarkson may have the most stars here. She won the Patty Kazmaier (the best American women’s college player) as a senior, has been with Team Canada since the 2018 Four Nations Cup and is an absolute game changer who has scored 40 goals in a season.
She’s in. Sarah Fillier probably is too.
Fillier was a Patty Kaz finalist as a freshman at Princeton – a rarity – and made her debut on the national team at the same time as Gabel. They had a similar timeline and, like, Gabel, Fillier is a machine that scores with an average of nearly two points per game among the Tigers.
Bach and Rattray are undoubtedly scorers to be on the roster to make their Olympic debut. They have been with the program and played very well, with Bach showing flashes of dominance at times.
Maschmeyer has had a few opportunities to play at an international level, but has had an impact on the fold between Harvard and then the CWHL for years. This could be an opportunity for her to become more involved in Canada’s long-term plans.
The defense only gets really interesting with young players. Zandee-Hart and Bourbonnais are a dynamic duo on the blue line who do not go back with inexperience. Thompson is a really fascinating option there too.
On the eve
Canada could only add 10 more players.
The passing of the last generation’s torch is clearly underway, but there is so much talent – so much young talent – that will definitely be part of the Olympic plans in the end, not even this time.
One player that is consistently overlooked is Grant-Mentis. The forward for the NWHL’s Toronto Six was the best player on the ice at the Lake Placid tournament, breaking all kinds of team records at Merrimack University. She’s probably a long shot to actually make it to the Canadian squad, but deserves more than a polite look.
And then there’s Giguere, Gabel’s teammate, who could end up on the roster if she plays her way there. Giguere and Watts, who have been dominant since she was a freshman at Boston College (she has since become a power with Wisconsin) were not in the camp in January, which doesn’t help their chances. However, their talent is enough to amaze everyone.
If there were more camps and competition, maybe spots could be stolen from Saulnier or Turnbull, who have established themselves sufficiently over the past year, but without competition. That doesn’t seem to happen if there are no worlds in 2021, and it is almost certain that Canada will err on the side of players who have already succeeded in its schedule.
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