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03-09-2010, 02:56 PM
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Country: Canada
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Canada will be younger, faster if NHL returns in Sochi:

One of the biggest complaints about the Canadian men's hockey team heading into the Vancouver Olympics was that the team was too young and lacked Olympic experience. If probably when the NHL decides to return to the tournament for Sochi in 2014, the team will get younger, but experience won't be an issue.

Twelve members of this year's gold medal-winning squad are in their early-to-mid twenties, and all of them should be in or near their career prime heading into the Russian competition. An older pair Roberto Luongo and Dan Boyle would be strong contenders to return regardless.

The rest of the team would likely come from a group of emerging young stars who are already making their mark in the league.

Here is a look at what Canada could look like four years from now:

FORWARDS: Returning

Sidney Crosby
Age in 2014: 26
The biggest star on the biggest stage scored the biggest goal of his international career two Sundays ago. He'll be entering his prime in Sochi a mildly scary thought. Then again, so will Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin.

Jonathan Toews
Age in 2014: 25
Canada's best forward in Vancouver might find himself between two familiar linemates in Russia.

Rick Nash
Age in 2014: 29
If you think Nash is smart as a 25 year old, wait until he really starts throwing his weight around in a few years.

Mike Richards
Age in 2014: 29
Mr. Does Everything is a lock. He could be there for his chemistry with Toews and Nash alone.

Ryan Getzlaf
Age in 2014: 28
Getzlaf might be the most dominating power forward since Eric Lindros. And he has Joe Thornton's passing touch to boot.

Eric Staal
Age in 2014: 29
After a rough start to the 2010 tournament, Staal turned out to be one of Canada's most durable forwards.

Corey Perry
Age in 2014: 28
Presuming he and Getzlaf are still one of the NHL's most reliable tandems in four years, their built-in chemistry will make the trip overseas.

Dany Heatley
Age in 2014: 33
The only member of the Sharks' big line to survive the four-year leap will be its most consistent and youngest member. Heatley will thrive with anyone.

On the bubble: Jarome Iginla will be 36 and his production is already slipping. Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton will be 34, but only the former has a real shot given the latter's tendency to disappear both in the Vancouver tournament and in the playoffs, annually. Brendan Morrow will be 35 and rust is already showing there. Patrice Bergeron would have to become a true star to get another shot.

FORWARDS: Incoming

Steven Stamkos
Age in 2014: 24
The Lightning star's already-explosive speed and quick release will make him indispensable four years from now.

John Tavares
Age in 2014: 23
The future face of the Islanders' franchise has tailed off in the second half of his rookie season, but his puck sense is sound.

Matt Duchene
Age in 2014: 23
The most consistent rookie from the 2009 draft class has already shown superstar swagger.

Jeff Carter
Age in 2014: 29
After a near-miss in 2010, Carter will have to ignore the pressure to make the team and score as often as he is supposed to leading up to the selection date.

Jordan Staal
Age in 2014: 25
Patrice Bergeron was a reach for the 13th forward slot and his inclusion almost proved detrimental. Staal is a far stronger defensive presence who will own the penalty kill and the dying minutes of close games.

On the bubble: Taylor Hall will be the No. 1 pick in this year's draft, and he could be one of Canada's best skaters in four years. Chris Stewart is showing signs that he's an excellent power forward in Colorado. Stephen Weiss could have had a shot at this year's team if he was in the midst of a breakout season, but his numbers were status quo. Milan Lucic will have to shake off a sophomore slump and find the net a lot more in the next three years to enter the conversation again.

DEFENCE: Returning

Dan Boyle
Age in 2014: 37
The blue line's elder statesman will be counted on for leadership as a winner of the Stanley Cup, World Cup and the Olympic gold.

Drew Doughty
Age in 2014: 24
By the end of the Vancouver tournament, Doughty had more fans than every other defenceman on the team combined.

Duncan Keith
Age in 2014: 30
Keith was one of Canada's most reliable defenders in Vancouver. His partner, Brent Seabrook, was not.

Shea Weber
Age in 2014: 28
Weber was Team Canada's folk hero in 2010, blasting a slap shot through the mesh of the net in the game against Germany. And he's still just 24.

On the bubble: Only Brent Seabrook (hard to imagine either Scott Niedermeyer or Chris Pronger will be playing), who failed to raise his game on the Olympic stage this year.

DEFENCE: Incoming

Mike Green
Age in 2014: 28
It's going to be too hard to ignore Green's offensive ability in 2014, especially given the fact that you can just play him on the power play if you want to.

Tyler Myers
Age in 2014: 24
The Texas-born Sabres rookie will likely get the call from both Canada and the U.S. for Sochi, but he has consistently committed to Canada in the past. At 6-foot-8, he might be the most important defenceman for either squad in 2014.

Alex Pietrangelo
Age in 2014: 23
The Hockey News ranks him as the top prospect not playing in the NHL right now. His performances for Canada at the world junior tournament have been nothing short of clutch.

On the bubble: Karl Alzner has been called up and sent down by the Capitals too often to show real consistency this season, but he should be a regular starting this fall. Luke Schenn needs to develop more offensive prowess. Dion Phaneuf and Jay Bouwmeester both have time to turn into all-stars again. Kris Letang has steadily improved his defensive play and could be a legitimate top-tier defenceman for the Penguins in a few years.

GOAL: Returning

Roberto Luongo
Age in 2014: 34
The king of Vancouver will return to the starting job barring a collapse in his game, but his first misstep will hand the starting job to ...

Marc-Andre Fleury
Age in 2014: 29
... the heir apparent, Pittsburgh's Stanley Cup-winning star, who served as the third backup this year in Vancouver but never saw the ice.

GOAL: Incoming

Steve Mason
Age in 2014: 25
The 21-year-old heated up enough before the Olympics that he was the standby goalie for Team Canada if any of the three pre-tournament selections were injured.

On the bubble: Cam Ward will be 29 when the tournament starts. Carey Price will be 26, but question marks about his consistency will have to be erased by then.

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