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Photo Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Leafs players who have a realistic shot at representing Canada at the 2022 Olympics

It feels like I’m a month removed from being annoyed by TSN and Sportsnet filling time during the draft and free agency discussing their mock rosters for the 2022 Canadian Olympic Men’s Hockey Team. Alas, there are no more draft picks, free agents, or trades incoming at the moment, so it’s time that I too take a trip to that content well, and consider what Leafs could be representing their country at the Olympics.

Rather than start with the international players and work towards Canada, it seems much more fitting to kick this off with the country most of our readership will be excited about. Latvia. Canada. And while the Leafs haven’t been fond of drafting Canadians in the past couple of seasons, there are a number of Canadians on the Leafs, and many of them play at a high enough level to be considered.

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So both Craig Button and Mike Johnson weighed in with their rosters, and to the joy of Leafs fans it appears that both Morgan Rielly and Mitch Marner would be on their Team Canada rosters. And why shouldn’t they be, statistically the case for both of them is sound.

Morgan Rielly might not be much of a defensive defenseman, but given the up tempo game, combined with international ice, Morgan Rielly is an ideal addition to the roster. Both Johnson and Button slotted Rielly in as the 4LD, and while he could make a case for being higher, the fact that he’s consensus in that role is encouraging. He’s one of the fastest options on the point, but with Chabot and Makar, it’s not a lock that they’d be tapping into Rielly for his powerplay quarterbacking ability.

Mitch Marner seems like another no brainer selection, as he’s put up a ton of points over the past few seasons, and while 2019-20 might be looked at as a set back, Marner is also one of only a pair of natural RWers that are on the TSN projected rosters. If Marner continues to build on his penalty killing ability, combined with the potential for Canada to pair playmaking Marner with a gifted goal scoring center like Brayden Point, it’s easy to see why he’ll likely get the call.

Team Canada Alumni

Okay, so there’s probably no amount of nostalgia that puts Joe Thornton on Team Canada. We’ll let that go, so instead we’ll move on to two players that represented Canada at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey, the last significant best on best tournament, even if it was more of an exhibition tournament than meaningful competition.

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John Tavares also had an opportunity to represent Canada in the 2014 Olympics, as well as the World Cup, and of course the World Junior tournament. He’s clearly a Hockey Canada favourite, and if there is an appetite to add some veterans to the mix, he could be the Team Dad this go around, if they opt to go a different route than Stamkos and Bergeron. He’s got an uphill battle, but the fact that he plays a slightly different game, and would bring some familiarity with Marner, it wouldn’t be the first time Hockey Canada went with perceived chemistry over the best available player. Of course Bergeron has chemistry with Marchand, and Stamkos with Point. Expecting Tavares to be sandwiched in would really only become a possibility as Hockey Canada has to recalculate due to in season injuries. The fact that neither roster above includes Benn or Seguin probably speaks to Tavares needing a strong season to be back to the top of the depth list.

Speaking of the depth list, there’s also 2016 World Cup of Hockey participant Jake Muzzin. Muzzin brings a physical, penalty killing style that Hockey Canada loves, and drives most fans insane. While it’s hard to imagine that Muzzin would even be the first choice for that, he could receive some consideration after players like Mark Giordano on the left side.

The Longshot

I will toss out T.J. Brodie as the longshot for consideration. The fact that he’s able to comfortably play on either side of the ice, the fact that he is capable of playing in any situation, and the fact that he brings some experience to the blueline might make him an asset.

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Brodie would probably need to be playing at close to his highest level of playing in his career, and like Muzzin, need a few injuries to some of the top tier defensemen to give him an in, but Brodie is a name you could potentially see as summer camp invite, if summer Olympic camps are still a thing.

The good news is that if the Olympics happen and you want to order a Team Canada jersey with a Leafs player’s name on the back, you’ll probably get your opportunity. At least one, but likely both of Rielly and Marner will make the cut, at least based off their play to date.

In the coming days we’ll take a look at the Leafs roster to see who else might be representing their country at the Olympics. I don’t want to speak too soon, but Auston Matthews has a good shot at making Team USA.

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