It sort of sounds like maybe Canada is going to start to put together a national team again with an eye towards the 2006 Olympics. (Although it's a bit hard to tell, as they will just be evaluating candidates in different tourneys of hastily assembled Canadians overseas this winter).
But in the event that they do start up a team full-time, do you think the Habs have any prospect who would benefit from a long-term assignment with Team Canada? It would have to be a player who is (a) good enough to play on the team, and (b) we can give over to the team until after the 2006 games.
Historically, Brian Savage stands out as one guy we did this with. Were there others? Keli Corpse for part of a year, various others had much briefer stints. But for example, in the '92 team, prospects like Joe Juneau, Jason Woolley, Kent Manderville, Chris Lindberg got a good jump-start to their pro careers by a long-term apprenticeship with the Olympic team.
Given our surplus of forwards coming up, I'm think that guys like Urquhart or Lambert might be good options as loaners.
He is stuck on a lousy team and I believe he will still be too young next season to play in the AHL (20 years old minimum).
I still think Chipchura will have things to learn at the junior level next year, and a chance to be an even bigger leader for his team when Colliton is gone. Plus, staying in the gritty NA environment would be best for him, IMHO.
Who knows, though. Typically, it isn't the 1st round picks and blue-chip prospects who get this kind of assignment. It's slightly older guys, maybe college grads, guys who aren't in your top-10 prospects but need a place to play and hope for a breakthrough.
I don't really think Urquhart or Lambert are good enough yet, but maybe with a pro year this year under their belt, they could be considered next year. Even Milroy or Locke, perhaps.
It's my understanding that it's going to be all or none for NHL players in the olympics. That means no player under an NHL contract will be allowed to participate. So any of our prospects who are signed by the Habs will not be able to play. What this means, who knows? Will the Habs have to sign prospects to retain their rights during a lockout or not? If so, then guys like Chipchura wouldn't be able to play olympics.
Things get weird if there's no hockey in 2006 as all free agents would be able to suit up.