2 Years To Italy: An Early Look At Canada's Potential Olympic Women's Hockey Roster | CBC Sports

It may feel like the Canadian women’s Olympic hockey team won gold in Beijing only yesterday.

But only two years remain before Canada goes for gold again, this time in Milan-Cortina, Italy.

Halfway through the Olympic cycle, one major thing has changed: the creation of the Professional Women’s Hockey League (PWHL). 

The PWHL will change not just the way the Canadian team is selected, but who is on the final roster that goes to Italy in 2026.

Canadian GM Gina Kingsbury and her staff now have a best-on-best league to use as an evaluation tool. Players can play their way on or off Canada’s radar with their performance in the PWHL.

It means this might be the most difficult Canadian roster to project, with the PWHL only a little more than a month old.

A dominant Canadian team defeated the Americans for gold in 2022. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press/File)A dominant Canadian team wrote a perfect ending to the latest chapter in one of the best rivalries in all of sport, defeating the Americans for gold.

Since then, an overhaul to the American roster has created a younger team that’s looked faster than Canada at points over the last year. The Americans won the last world championship. Could two losses in a row at worlds force Canada to make changes? 

Here’s an early projection of the 2026 Canadian Olympic roster:

Forwards:Marie-Philip Poulin

Sarah Fillier

Fillier emerged as a star for Canada at worlds in 2021, playing on a line with Natalie Spooner and Mélodie Daoust. She followed it up with 11 points in seven games at her first Olympics a few months later at only 21. She’s been Canada’s top scorer at the last two world championships.

You can write her name in pen because she’s a key part of Team Canada’s future. Fillier is wrapping up her NCAA career with Princeton University and is a candidate to go first overall in the next PWHL draft.

Sarah Fillier will be a key part of Canada’s team for years to come. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)Brianne Jenner

Poulin’s long-time linemate, and a leader on the Canadian team, has always been one of the smartest players on the ice.

When Poulin ended the Canadians’ world championship drought in 2021, it was Jenner who made the pass that led to the golden goal. A few months later, she was named Olympic MVP. It’s hard to imagine this roster without Ottawa’s captain.

Laura Stacey

Stacey played on the 4th line at the last Olympics, but has elevated her game in a big way over the last few years. She was the best player on Team Adidas on the Professional Women’s Hockey Players’ Association (PWHPA) circuit last season, and has kept the momentum going with PWHL Montreal.

On a Canadian roster that should be built on speed, Stacey has that in spades. She’s great at using that speed to break away from opponents or drive to the net with power. 

Emily Clark

A versatile player who can play up and down the lineup, Clark brings a little bit of everything to the Canadian team. On top of that, she’s beloved in the dressing room. Jenner once described her as the “heartbeat” of Team Canada.

Natalie Spooner

Spooner hadn’t played a lot of hockey in the last year and a half before debuting with PWHL Toronto this winter, after giving birth to her son, Rory, in December 2022. A little more than a month into the PWHL season, she’s been Toronto’s best player.

Spooner is at her best when she’s parked in front of the net, getting her stick on pucks and being generally annoying to play against. That’s exactly what she’s done both in Toronto and with Team Canada after returning for the last three Rivalry Series games. She finished with six points in three Rivalry Series games, and leads the PWHL with seven goals.

WATCH | Spooner on Canada winning Rivalry Series, PWHL Toronto’s turnaround: 

Natalie Spooner on Canada winning Rivalry Series, PWHL Toronto’s turnaroundHost Rob Pizzo is joined by PWHL Toronto forward Natalie Spooner, fresh off helping Canada to victory over the United States in the rivalry series.

Blayre Turnbull

Turnbull is a reliable, hard-to-play-against centre with more offensive ability than she’s shown in the first month with PWHL Toronto.

Sarah Nurse

A key part of Canada’s top six, Nurse broke the single-tournament scoring record at the last Olympics. She looked dangerous on a line with Spooner and Emma Maltais at the end of the Rivalry Series.

WATCH l Sarah Nurse, Saroya Tinker discuss experiences as Black women in hockey: 

Sarah Nurse, Saroya Tinker on creating space for Black women in hockeyPWHL Toronto’s Sarah Nurse and former pro hockey player Saroya Tinker share their experiences as Black women in hockey, inspiring the next generation, and their work with Black Girl Hockey Club.

Emma Maltais

Maltais played an energy role on the fourth line at the last Olympics, a roster she made at 22. But as the Canadian coaching staff has given her more opportunity, you’ve started to see some of the offensive prowess that Maltais showed at Ohio State University.

Danielle Serdachny

Serdachny went to the net with Poulin in overtime at the Rivalry Series in December 2022, but didn’t pass to Captain Clutch. She took the shot herself and won the game. That takes confidence. Serdachny is a key part of Canada’s future, and was one of Canada’s best players in the Rivalry Series games she appeared in this season.

She led the NCAA in points last season with Colgate University en route to being a top-three finalist for the Patty Kazmaier Award as the best player in women’s college hockey. By 2026, Serdachny should have a season in the PWHL under her belt.

Forward Danielle Serdachny competes for a puck at the Women’s World Championship last year. (Cole Burston/The Canadian Press)Loren Gabel

It was surprising to see Gabel left off the most recent Rivalry Series roster after a strong start with PWHL Boston, where she has five points in seven games. Gabel has one of the best shots in the league and is someone who could play her way on to Team Canada.

Kristin O’Neill

When CBC Sports polled players on who they were least looking forward to playing against, O’Neill’s name came up a few times. She plays larger than her five-foot-four frame and could centre Canada’s fourth line.

Jessie Eldridge

Eldridge excels at getting the puck to the net and has spent much of this season in New York on a line with a sharpshooter in American Alex Carpenter.

“An attacker who not only brings a style of play that fans adore, but one that opponents dread facing,” New York GM Pascal Daoust said about Eldridge when her signing with New York was announced.

It would be interesting to see her get a solid look on a top line with Poulin, whom she played well with in the PWHPA.

New York’s Jessie Eldridge (9) is skilled at using her size and vision to get pucks to the net. (Frank Franklin II/The Associated Press)On the bubble:

Jamie Lee Rattray: She’s been Canada’s Swiss army knife as a 13th forward, but here’s guessing Canada might look for more youth on its next Olympic roster.

Julia Gosling: Playing with St. Lawrence University, Gosling centralized with Canada before the last Olympics at only 20. She could add size to Canada’s bottom six.

Defence: Renata Fast

Ella Shelton

Shelton played a depth role at the last Olympics, but could be the best defender on this roster by 2026. She’s got a blistering shot and has the speed to get back and break up plays going the other way.

Micah Zandee-Hart

She’s a solid defender, but also known for her leadership on every team she’s played on. Zandee-Hart was a captain on Canada’s U18 team, at Cornell University and now on New York.

Erin Ambrose

The quarterback of Canada’s power play, Ambrose’s hockey IQ makes her a staple on this team, especially given her chemistry with Montreal teammates Poulin and Stacey.

Canada defender Erin Ambrose, right, celebrates a goal with Marie-Philip Poulin last year. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)Ashton Bell

Bell didn’t see a ton of ice time at the last Olympics, where she made her debut out of college only two seasons after switching from forward to defence. She’s getting lots of opportunity with Ottawa, where she’s already shown her ability to move the puck.

Jocelyne Larocque

Larocque has been a steady stay-at-home defender for Canada for years and occupies a top-two role beside Fast. But she’ll be 37 at the next Olympics, and would be taking a spot away from someone like Sophie Jaques, who will be a key part of Canada’s future on defence.

On the other hand, Kingsbury, who is also Toronto’s GM, selected Larocque second overall at last year’s draft over a young star in Alina Müller. Larocque’s teammates love playing in front of her, too. When asked about the most underrated player in the league, Poulin picked Larocque. Here’s betting she’s on the team, even if it’s further down the depth chart.

Jocelyne Larocque (3) has been a mainstay on Canada’s blue line at three Olympic Games. (Heather Pollock/PWHL)Chloe Primerano

Primerano will only be 19 by the 2026 Olympics, but she’s a generational player with a high hockey IQ. She set the single-tournament points record (16 in six games) by a defender at her first U18 tournament a few weeks ago. And earlier this week, the University of Minnesota announced Primerano would start college early.

She will need to be part of the national team’s roster picture next season to have a shot at making the roster. But there’s a case for bringing Canada’s defender of the future to the Olympics.

On the bubble: 

Sophie Jaques: Jaques has had a slow start to her professional career, but could take off in Minnesota after a trade earlier this week. If that happens, don’t be surprised to see Jaques, who won the Patty Kazmaier last season with Ohio State, play her way on to this team.

Claire Thompson: Thompson set an Olympic record for points by a defender in 2022, but this projection assumes she’s unavailable. Thompson is in medical school and hasn’t appeared in the PWHL yet.

Goaltenders:Ann-Renée Desbiens

She thrives in big games. Desbiens will be Canada’s starter.

Emerance Maschmeyer

Corinne Schroeder

Schroeder has been lights-out for New York, building on a stellar first pro season with the Boston Pride of the Premier Hockey Federation. Her play this season earned her back-to-back calls as the third goaltender in the Rivalry Series, though she hasn’t started a game for Canada yet. 

On the bubble: 

Kristen Campbell: Campbell was left off the last Rivalry Series roster and had a tough start to her season with Toronto. But it’s worth keeping in mind that Campbell hasn’t gotten to play much over the last few years as Canada’s third goaltender — only 14 games since the 2020-21 season, compared to the 59 Schroeder has played, per Elite Prospects. There’s lots of time for her to play her way on to this team.

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