Hockey Canada just released their roster for the Channel One Cup, another tournament in a series en route to the PyeongChang Olympics and Men’s Canadian team. Channel One is the fourth such tournament, following the Sochi Hockey Open and Tournament of Nikolai Puchkov at the end of the summer and Karjala Cup last month. After Channel One, only the Spengler Cup stands between Olympic hopefuls and the final roster announcement.
At this point, a few players are standing out as favourites, including 2002 HockeyNow Minor Hockey Player of the Year Gilbert Brulé, who is lacing up for his third tournament of the series. Other 2017 national three-timers include Rob Klinkhammer (Ak Bars Kazan, KHL), Brandon Kozun (Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, KHL), Eric O’Dell (HC Sochi, KHL), Wojtek Wolski (Kunlun Red Star, KHL), Chay Genoway (Lada Togliatti, KHL), Chris Lee (Metallurg Magnitogorsk, KHL), Maxim Noreau (SC Bern, NLA), Karl Stollery (Dinamo Riga, KHL), and G Ben Scrivens (Salavat Yulaev Ufa, KHL) (see full list here).
Brulé has been a key player for the Canadian team, scoring three goals and one assist in six games to date. The Edmonton, Alta. native is in his fourth season with the KHL, following eight seasons in the NHL, from 2005 to 2014.
When he was selected as our player of the year in 2002, the centre was coming off an incredible season in with the North Shore Bantam Winterhawks and was drafted first overall in the WHL Bantam Draft by the Vancouver Giants, who also secured the #2 pick that year. Brulé went on to earn 57 points in 48 games with the BCHL’s Quesnel Millionaires before heading to Vancouver and the WHL and playing three incredible seasons that earned him a 1st round #6 pick by the Colorado Avalanche, who he played with from 2006 to 2008 before moving to Edmonton and Phoenix.
This year, Brulé is playing for the KHL’s Kunlun Red Star and is currently sitting second only behind Wolski – also being considered for Team Canada – in team scoring.
Canada has yet to claim gold in the pre-Olympic series, earning two bronze medals before finishing second in last month’s Karjala Cup. But the team’s GM, Sean Burke, is confident the last few weeks of fine tuning will take the team over the top.
“This has been a very busy few months of evaluation of Canadian hockey talent from around the world, and we are feeling very positive about where we’re at in the process,” he told Sportsnet. “Our goal remains to put together the best possible team to compete in PyeongChang in February, and these 25 players are part of a larger group that remains under consideration.”
For the first Olympic year in a long time, Canada is not entering as an odds-on favourite.
My Top Sportsbooks, a sportsbook review site with sports news and predictions plans to cover the odds for PyeongChang. Here is what their hockey experts had to say about one of the biggest winter Olympic events:
"Canada is going into the 2018 Winter Olympics with an unfamiliar label: underdogs. The team is currently 3/1 (25% probability) to win gold in the men's hockey tournament, well back of favourites Russia, who sit at 16.9 (36%). Without NHLers to draw from, Canada will be icing a team that resembles the squad it sends to the Spengler Cup, replete with ex-NHLers now playing overseas (e.g. Mason Raymon, Derek Roy, Rene Bourque, Ben Scrivens). Obviously Russia won't have the Alex Ovechkins and Evgeni Malkins of the world in their lineup, either, but the amount of homegrown talent playing in the KHL is greater than what Canada has to draw from. We agree with the Vegas oddsmakers that Russia will bring home the gold from South Korea, though Canada remains a good bet to take home silver."
No question a gold would look good at the Channel One Cup. Canada kicks off the tournament against South Korea on Dec. 13 at 11:30EST.
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