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As August draws to a close, we are inching closer and closer to the 3rd edition of the World Cup of Hockey. Created to replace the Canada Cup in 1996, the tournament was held in 1996 (and won by the United States) and in 2004 (when Canada triumphed). Since then, Canada claimed the last two olympic gold medals and Canadians are once again calling hockey “their game”. While for some people this tournament may very well be an exhibition that means nothing, for many Canadians it's like the first course of a supreme dinner which includes the World Cup, the NHL season and the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Just last week, two of Canada's players withdrew from the tournament with injury concerns. First, Jaime Benn, second only to Patrick Kane in scoring last season, announced he could not make the tournament as he's still recuperating from off season core muscle surgery. A few days later, star Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith also announced he would not make it as he is apparently still rehabbing from a right knee injury suffered last season. And today, news came of Jeff Carter's unavailability... Thankfully, if there is one thing that Canada doesn't lack, it's depth and Hockey Canada wasted no time to announce who will fill their roster spot.

As things stand, Team Canada's World Cup roster is as follows:

Goaltenders

Carey Price: Last season was a total wash for the Canadiens' all-star goaltender, a knee injury forced him to miss all but 12 games last season after he posted the best season of his career in 2014-2015. He had unreal numbers then with a 1.96 goal against average, a .933 save percentage and he set a franchise record for most wins by a goalie in a single season with 44. Those amazing numbers earned him 4 trophies for the season, the Vezina, Hart, Ted Lindsay and Jennings. Price was also the man for Team Canada at the Sochi Olympics, backstopping the team to its second gold medal in a row. Based on past achievement, one can consider that Price has got a rather good chance of being the team's number one goaltender, especially since the Montreal Canadiens' goalie coach Stephane Waite has been hired to play the same role for the nation.


Braden Holtby: While Price was sidelined last season, Holtby was on fire. He backstopped the Washington Capitals to a President's trophy with some stellar numbers of his own. A 2.20 goal against average, a .922 save percentage and he tied the league record held by Martin Brodeur for most wins in a season with 48. Unlike Price however, he has never been on Team Canada's roster and he has been quoted by the Washington Post as saying: “All of us want to play, but if Carey [Price] is healthy, there's no reason to not go with him. He has all of the experience internationally and the smart choice would be that.”

Corey Crawford: The Blackhawks netminder completes Canada's line-up between the pipes. While Crawford has never played in an Olympics tournament, he is the only one of the 3 goalies to have a Stanley Cup to his name, two actually to be exact. That being said, his numbers are not as impressive as the other two even though he plays on an amazing Chicago team. The consensus is that Crawford will be Canada's third goaltender and only die hard Hawks fans would argue to the contrary.

Defensemen

Shea Weber: The former Predators captain was a shoo-in to make the team, after all he has been on Canada's last two gold medal winning teams. His booming shot, his defensive soundness and his physicality make him an anchor on Canada's blueline. If a forward tries to either score or run his goalie, Weber neutralizes him like no other. An example both on and off the ice, Weber has also been named an alternate captain just as he was in Sochi in 2014.

Drew Doughty: Fresh off a James Norris trophy winning season, there was no doubt that the robust defenseman would make the cut. While Doughty may put up less points than the likes of Erik Karlsson or Brent Burns, he plays an impeccable defensive game and if we've learn one thing from the national teams coached by Mike Babcock, it's that the head coach knows that defense wins medals. Doughty was part of the olympic squad both in 2010 and 2014 with great results.

Jake Muzzin: This selection puzzled more than a few people but if you consider that Canada's head coach is very aware of the importance of defense and the fact that he is one of Doughty's defensive partner in Los Angeles, picking him makes a lot of sense. And let's face it, he did still post a 40 point season which sure isn't bad for a D-man. This tournament will mark the second time he dresses for Canada after the 2015 World Championship.

Marc-Edouard Vlasic: Right behind Muzzin in the points column for the NHL defensemen, you will find Vlasic. A core member of the Sharks' blueline corps, he was part of Team Canada in Sochi and performed admirably in a defensive role. He did not record a single point but did everything that was asked of him in the 6 matches he played in.

Brent Burns: While defense can win medals, you also do need to score some goals to win the big prizes and there aren't many defensemen as productive as the one his San Jose teammates nicknamed the caveman. So far, Burns' presence on the national team has been limited to 3 World Championships on years where the Sharks failed to make the playoffs but his latest season forced the Team Canada brain trust to make room for him. Who could say no to a D-man who notched 75 points and 27 goals while being a driving force to his team's run to the Stanley Cup final?

Alex Pietrangelo: The recently appointed Blues captain was also part of the Sochi squad and has done nothing since to justify even considering leaving him off the roster. Another defensive force, he is a minute muncher that will give you solid and reliable play. While his offensive production has decreased in the last few years, Canada will have plenty of other offensive weapons to rely on.

Jay Bouwmeester: A veteran from the Sochi team in 2014, Bouwmeester very nearly missed out on this tournament but Keith withdrawing from the squad gave him what could very well be one last chance to wear the national jersey. At 32, he is Canada's oldest defenseman and could very well be the country's insurance policy who'll be called on should someone suffer an injury. That being said, Bouwmeester is still St-Louis' second D-man and can certainly be relied on.

Forwards

Sidney Crosby: It should be no surprise to anyone to see that the gold-medal winning goal scorer from the Vancouver olympics and captain of the Sochi 2014 team returns once again to the mix. While Crosby did have his slowest start to the season last year, once the Penguins appointed a new coach he became his old self again and led his team to a second Stanley Cup. A generational talent, Crosby makes everyone around him better and will once again wear the C for this tournament.

Tyler Seguin: The second pick overall of the 2010 draft and one half of the Stars' dynamic scoring duo will now get his chance to shine on the international stage. He did line-up for the World Championships in 2015 but this is a tournament where the best players are still busy with the Stanley Cup playoffs, for me, it's not quite the highest level. Since his trade from Boston to Dallas in the summer of 2013, his career has really blossomed and he has revealed himself as a lethal offensive weapon with 3 seasons of over 70 points. It's a shame that his partner in crime Jaime Benn had to withdraw from the tournament as they would no doubt have given us heck of a show but Seguin on his own is still a great addition to any team.

Patrice Bergeron: a veteran of the Team Canada line-up and a member of the triple gold club (olympic gold, world championship gold and Stanley Cup), Bergeron is one of the best defensive centres in the game today. The 31 year old has already won the Frank J. Selke trophy three times and while he does excel defensively, he can still be an attacking threat as his numbers show from last season: 32 goals and 36 assists for 68 points on a struggling Bruins team that missed the playoffs for the second season in a row is not an easy level to reach.

Corey Perry: Jeff Carter's withdrawal must have pleased Team Canada's captain at the latest World Championships! Having been ignored in the orignal selection, he will now join his Anaheim line mate Ryan Getzlaf. While he did not have his best season for the Ducks last season, Perry is still an offensive threat and a very worthy replacement for Carter. As Team Canada's captain at the latest World Championships, he recorded 9 points in 10 games.

Matt Duchene: Last season wasn't an easy one for the Avalanche forward, he only managed to rack up 59 points, his team missed the playoffs and his coach got annoyed at him for celebrating a personal milestone goal (his first 30 goal season). Thankfully, he did get the call to represent Canada just like he did in the last olympics although he was only used in 4 of Canada's 6 matches and failed to record a single point. I think he will once again be Canada's depth forward and be used to shake things up if and when needed.

Ryan Getzlaf: The Ducks' less than stellar season may have been hard to digest for the Anaheim fandom but Getzlaf is still part of the nation's plan. Getzlaf has recorded 19 points in his last 21 appearances for Canada and in Sochi he played with Perry and Benn, one of them is MIA this time around... It will be interesting to see where and with whom Mike Babcock sees him play.

Claude Giroux: The Flyers captain has yet to be a part of Canada's olympic roster but he did win a gold medal for the country at the World Championships in 2015. While his offensive output has slowed down in the last few season, Giroux can still be relied on offensively, he reached a total of 67 points this year and guided his Flyers to the postseason. In his sole tournament for the nation, Giroux patrolled a line alongside Dallas' Tyler Seguin, could Babcock be tempted to reunite the duo?

Brad Marchand: The Bruins' pest finds his way on Team Canada's line-up after a really good performance at the last World Championships which saw him gather 7 points in 10 games. He wasn't with the team in Vancouver or in Sochi and it will be a brand new experience for Canadians everywhere not to hate him with a passion. Because that's the type of player Marchand is, you hate him when he's against you but you love to root for him when he's on your team. Furthermore, the 28 year old has just had his most productive season ever in the NHL with 60 points which included 37 goals, pretty hard to pass on a player that can both produce and get under the opponent's skin.

Steven Stamkos: Stammer nearly made his olympic debut for Canada in 2014 but a broken tibia prevented him from accompanying the team to Russia. It was an up and down season for Stamkos in Tampa, speculation was intense about whether or not he'd be back with the Lightning after his contract expired and he suffered a blood cloth which not only ended his season early but prevented him from playing in all but one game of the Lightning's playoff run. Provided he is in good shape however, he could have a huge impact on the roster and be one of Canada's best offensive weapon.

John Tavares: The Islanders captain was in Sochi with Canada but his tournament ended early and on crutches. He still collected a gold medal but the smart money says he'll want to have much more of an impact this time. Tavares has racked up 156 points in the last two NHL season and he sure is ready to shine. It remains to be seen if Babcock will give him the go to step in in a bigger role...With a star studded line-up it's alway hard to assess who will be called upon to do what.

Joe Thornton: At the ripe old age of 37, Jumbo Joe returns to the Canadian Team for the first time since Vancouver in 2010. It's probably not a coincidence that this return happens after his best NHL season since 2009-2010 when he had a 89 points output which was nearly matched by his 82 points effort this year. The Sharks might have taken his C but Thornton is still an important part of their team and he really did show up in the playoffs this year with 21 points in 24 games falling just short of the ultimate goal that is the Stanley Cup. Chances are, that devastatingly close loss might just make him hungrier for the title at the World Cup.

Logan Couture: Not originally supposed to make the line-up, Couture got the call following Benn's withdrawal. At 27 years of age, Couture has yet to wear the Maple Leaf at the senior level but his amazing postseason left little choice to the Team Canada brass. With 30 points in 24 playoffs games, chances are he would have been the Conn Smythe winner had the Sharks managed to defeat the Pens in the final. A line mate of Jumbo Joe on the power play, Babcock may be tempted to opt for some ready made chemistry in a tournament that doesn't give much time to create some.

Jonathan Toews: The Hawks captain also captained Team Canada at the 2010 Olympics before giving centre stage to Sidney Crosby in Sochi in 2014. Just like then, Toews will serve as an alternate and will no doubt be an intricate part of any Canadian success. Captain Serious as he is known across the NHL, always means business and this man will no doubt play to win. After a surprisingly short postseason with the Hawks, Toews will be eager to add to his already impressive resume.

There you have it, the Team Canada line-up for this upcoming tournament. As previously stated, this all-star line-up will once again be coached by Mike Babcock who will be assisted by Claude Julien, Joel Quenneville, Barry Trotz and Bill Peters. Even the bench staff on Team Canada is an all-star team!

Canada plays its first exhibition game on September 9 and you can fin the rest of their exhibition schedule here: https://www.nhl.com/news/world-cup-o...dules/c-793114 . As for the real tournament, it kicks off on September 17 and Canada will battle Czech Republic in its first round robin match on that day. The full tournament schedule is right here: https://www.nhl.com/news/2016-world-...unced/c-778411 .

To be honest, I can hardly wait for the start of this competition and I just know i'll be spending all my evenings watching quality hockey come September 8. I hope you'll enjoy this tournament as much as I know I will and that Canada once again delivers on the biggest of stages.