TORONTO -- Some quick thoughts on Team Canada's 16-player preliminary World Cup roster announced Wednesday:
The skinny: These are the three goalies I had on my list last month when I last did my projected Team Canada roster, and I suspect these are the three choices from most people around the game. Price and Holtby were the automatic 1-2. Then management had to decide the No. 3 spot, and while Roberto Luongo and Marc-Andre Fleury deserved strong consideration, I think it's long overdue for Crawford to get his due on the big squad given his clutch, championship performances for the Blackhawks.
The real story here is that general manager Doug Armstrong and his management staff decided to fill all three goalie slots this early and not leave one spot open ahead of the June 1 final roster deadline.
I think the reason for this is Price's murky standing, as the reigning Hart and Vezina Trophy winner has missed most of the season with a suspected right knee injury. By naming both Holtby and Crawford now, Team Canada has both those guys mentally ready and focused with the assurance they're already on the team and, should Price withdraw at some point, there's no confusion what the 1-2 punch becomes: Holtby and Crawford followed by a new No. 3. So I think Armstrong wanted to clearly identify the hierarchy.
Duncan Keith, Chicago Blackhawks
The skinny: Also had all four of these guys in my group of seven last month. The story here, especially for Habs fans, is the exclusion -- at least at this point -- of P.K. Subban. But a little context here, folks. Team Canada felt the need to put two lefties with two righties as their top four for the preliminary roster, so that eliminated any chance Subban would make it this early. Doughty and Weber are untouchables on the right side. Period. Now moving forward it sets the stage for the incredible deep and competitive group of right-handed blueliners remaining to fight it out for the final one or two spots. They have Subban, Brent Seabrook, Brent Burns, Kris Letang and 2014 Olympic gold medalist Alex Pietrangelo still to pick from. I mean, it's crazy.
On the left side, I suppose some people will be surprised by Vlasic's inclusion this early in the process, but I don't see why. The 2014 Olympian is having a standout season once again for the Sharks. If he were playing in New York or Toronto, he'd be a way bigger name.
Brodie is an interesting case because he's left-handed and plays the right side for the Calgary Flames. Perhaps the ideal candidate for the No. 7 job given that versatility. Although maybe they go with two more righties and one lefty. Tough choices.
Jeff Carter, Los Angeles Kings
Tyler Seguin, Dallas Stars
Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks
The skinny: The biggest surprise as far as omissions is Corey Perry, but he's surely going to be among the final four forwards selected by the June 1 deadline.
If anyone is surprised by Carter's inclusion this early, don't be. He was a two-way stud in Sochi and the Canadian brain trust has had him as a no-brainer from Day 1.
Getzlaf, meanwhile, worked his way back on this list of 16 after not being assured of it two months ago. He's been arguably the best center in the NHL over the past month.
So, taking into account that Perry is in for sure by June 1, that leaves three other roster spots, and I think the guys on the radar are Claude Giroux, Taylor Hall, Joe Thornton, Tyler Toffoli, Ryan O'Reilly, Brendan Gallagher, Mark Stone, Wayne Simmonds, Logan Couture, Brad Marchand and Matt Duchene.
Somehow they'll need to pick three names from that list. Good luck. Mercy.
Giroux was tremendous last spring at the world championships in Prague and is having another standout season. I'd like to see him picked because I also think his power-play prowess from the half wall would be key. Hall and Duchene would be my other two choices at this point. But can I also take Jumbo Thornton? Again, so hard.
As always, those final seven roster selections for Team Canada will generate passionate debate in the World Cup host country. I'm glad I'm not the one making those decisions. Now you know why Olympic Team Canada GM Steve Yzerman announced he was stepping down about half an hour after his team won gold in Sochi. Even in assembling back-to-back gold medal Olympic teams, the stress on Yzerman was through the roof. It's not a job for the weak of heart. Enjoy, Mr. Armstrong.