John Tavares named to Canadian Olympic team; Thomas Vanek, Michael Grabner selected for Austria
TORONTO - Had the Islanders not been in the same city where the Canadian Olympic squad was announced earlier Tuesday, perhaps the fanfare around John Tavares' selection would have been a bit muted.
But Tavares got to bask in the attention of the hometown media crush after Tuesday's announcement before the game with the Leafs.
"It's been a goal of mine, a dream of mine as a kid," Tavares said. "Watching it on TV four years ago I really wanted to give myself an opportunity to make this team. It's an honor."
There was never much question as to Tavares' inclusion on Team Canada; he put an exclamation point on his roster spot with a hat trick and two assists in Monday night's 7-3 win over the Stars. He joins about as impressive a list of centers as can be: Sidney Crosby, Ryan Getzlaf, Jonathan Toews and Patrice Bergeron.
Speculation during the summer had Tavares perhaps moving to wing with such an impressive group; now that he sits third in the NHL with 51 points, it would seem centers like Matt Duchene and Steven Stamkos may be the ones sliding over to the wings.
"I'm sure I'll be fine," Tavares said when asked about not being the top center, as he's accustomed to being with the Islanders. "I'm happy to play anywhere and accept that responsibility of playing on a team like this."
The Islanders had three other players named to Olympic rosters on Tuesday. Thomas Vanek and Michael Grabner, the top two all-time NHL scorers among Austrians, were shoo-ins from the moment the country qualified for the Olympics for the first time in September.
Lubomir Visnovsky was named to the Slovak team in what would be his fifth Olympics, but there is really no chance for him to play in Sochi. Visnovsky, out since Oct. 20 with a concussion, has not been cleared to resume skating.