Oilers kids 'in the hunt'

Oilers forwards Taylor Hall (second right), Jordan Eberle (second left) and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins...

Oilers forwards Taylor Hall (second right), Jordan Eberle (second left) and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (left) could get the call from Kevin Lowe to join Team Canada at the World Championships this year. (PERRY NELSON/QMI Agency file photo)

TERRY JONES, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:09 AM ET

SASKATOON - Kevin Lowe, of course, can't announce it right now.

Hockey Canada has a rule where you don't invite a player to the IIHF World Championships until after the team has actually been mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. Technically that hasn't happened yet.

And there are others to consult.

But you have to know when the season finally ends for the Edmonton Oilers, the new general manager of Team Canada will almost certainly be asking Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Sam Gagner to go with him to the IIHF World Championships in Helsinki.

"I would think they're all going to be in the hunt for consideration for sure," said the Oilers' head of hockey operations, who was named GM of Team Canada for this year's worlds, in addition to returning as a member of Steve Yzerman's management team for the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games.

Maybe Nick Schultz and Devan Dubnyk, too?

"They've both been there before," said Lowe.

Schultz played for Canada in 2004 and '06 with a gold medal to show for it. Dubnyk was the third goaltender last year.

Eberle has played in two so far, and Gagner one.

Maybe Captain Canada, Ryan Smyth?

"I know Ryan would want to go," Lowe said of the player who has skated in 61 games in nine world championships and won Olympic gold in Salt Lake.

But considering the mileage on the old warhorse and the desire to see as many of the top young players who will be available as possible with an eye to the Olympics, Smyth might be a longshot.

Lowe said if a young player like Eberle, Hall, Nugent-Hopkins or Gagner have hopes of playing for Canada at the next Olympics, assuming the NHL decides to go, they'd be advised to play in Helsinki.

"It's important for any young player wanting to play in the next Olympics to play in the tournament. It's the start of the process to 2014.

"Drew Doughty, for example, wouldn't have made the Vancouver 2010 Olympics if we hadn't seen him previously at the world championships," said Lowe, a member of the Olympic management staff dating back to the Salt Lake 2002 gold-medal experience with Wayne Gretzky.

The Oilers have always urged their players to join Team Canada on years when the team misses the playoffs or is eliminated in the first round.

"You want the guys on the team to be playing meaningful hockey games at that time of the year," he said of the May 4-20 event.

"If you're a hockey player, you want to be playing as much hockey as you can. If you're a hockey player, you want to be playing games in May. You want players to get used to playing as close to 110 games a year as they can, not 82 games. Besides that, it's a wonderful experience.

"Other than older guys who are all banged up or players who have personal family reasons, I can't imagine anyone saying ÔNo' to Team Canada."

The Sochi Olympics will be played on the big European ice. But Canada's pool at the world championships will be held in the Hartwell Arena in Helsinki, which features an ice surface that splits the difference between the NHL width and the European width.

That, too, would be an excellent experience, he suggests.

For Lowe, being asked by Hockey Canada to return as part of the brain trust of the Olympic team was something he didn't think twice about accepting.

"For me, it was too hard to pass up," he said.

"I think an Olympics in Russia would be the perfect way to end my Hockey Canada days. And it would keep the staff intact.

"Just to have it in Russia ... I was 13 when the 1972 Summit Series was held."

If the NHL doesn't go to the Olympics, Yzerman and the management team would help Hockey Canada put together a non-NHL team to play for our country.

"I'm certainly hoping we'll go," said Lowe.

Eberle, Hall, Nugent-Hopkins and the others, too.


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