Four New York Islanders were named to their countries' respective Olympic hockey rosters today, with John Tavares making Team Canada, Michael Grabner and Thomas Vanek making Austria's team, and the injured Lubomir Visnovsky making Slovakia's roster.
Grabner and Vanek were locks for Austria; they're among a select group of Austrians in the NHL. While Tavares was not a lock given the amount of talent Canada possesses, leaving him off like some such Okposo would have been a near-outrage. Visnovsky is a lock when healthy, but the concussion that has kept him out since October makes his selection, like that of Marian Gaborik (collarbone), conditional on injury progress and thus more symbolic than anything.
Tavares is coming off a five-point night in the Isles' 7-3 win over the Stars last night, but of course it's his growth and performance over the past few seasons that puts him among Canada's elite. As the official site updates his bio:
Tavares has represented his country at three World Championships (2010, 2011, 2012), scoring a point-per-game or better in each tournament. Tavares also played for Team Canada at two World Junior Championships (2008, 2009), winning a gold medal at each tournament. In 2009, he was named tournament MVP, scoring 15 points (eight goals, seven assists). Tavares’ 12 career WJC goals are tied with Eric Lindros and Jeff Carter for most goals in a career by a Canadian at the WJC.
A first-time Olympian, Tavares has 300 points (132 goals, 168 assists) in 334 career NHL games.
So he's doing okay. Canada will probably find a role for him -- though it may not be at center, as Canada went with a stacked roster of pivots, several of whom will end up playing wing.
Here is a graphical look (via Twitter) at how the players on Canada's roster are used by their teams.
From last night, here is what Tavares and Vanek look like together:
and here is what Tavares looks like doing his own thing:
So with top talent all over the place, the Olympics in February could be fun. Which, I mean, it better be since the NHL is shutting down the studio to let the players go.
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