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Who will defend Canada’s gold if the NHL skips the Olympics?

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The Deutschland Cup came and went last weekend in Augsburg, Germany without much fanfare in Canada.

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But it was significant for a couple of reasons: the international hockey tournament marked the return of Dave King behind the Canadian national team bench for the first time since the 1999 IIHF World Championship, and it was the first event in Hockey Canada’s evaluation of players for the 2018 Olympics, provided the NHL decides not to participate in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

I still believe the NHL, NHLPA, IIHF and IOC will come to their senses and strike a deal to continue the NHL’s participation in 15 months’ time.

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In fact, the IIHF, NHL and NHLPA will assemble in New York on Wednesday for Olympic talks. This meeting comes on the heels of a site visit to Pyeongchang by league and players’ union representatives last month.

However, just in case, Hockey Canada has devised a backup plan. If the NHL sits out the next Winter Games, the Canadian men’s hockey roster will consist of professionals who play in Europe and the American Hockey League.

“Hockey Canada is a well-run machine and it should have a Plan B,” said the 68-year-old King, whose team finished second to Slovakia in the four-team, three-day round-robin tournament. “We had a bunch of dynamic kids [in Germany]. The one thing I noticed is how proud they were to put on a Canadian sweater.”

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King’s old national team goalie, Sean Burke, now a pro scout with the Montreal Canadiens, put together the team with the help of King and his Canadian coaching staff of Mike Pelino, Luke Richardson and Mike Stewart.

Pelino coaches in Russia and Stewart in Augsburg. Richardson will be priceless in helping Hockey Canada scope the AHL landscape. He coaches the Binghamton Senators.

King came away impressed with the play of Canada’s defence at the Deutschland Cup, particularly Mat Robinson (Dynamo, Russia), Chay Genoway (Jokerit, Finland), Geoff Kinrade (Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk, Russia) and Jon Sigalet (Frolunda, Sweden). King liked the way this group skated and moved the puck.

Up front, right wing Kevin Clark (Brynas, Sweden) of Winnipeg led the way with three goals in three games. Canada blanked Switzerland 3-0, dropped a 4-3 shootout decision to Slovakia and defeated Germany 3-1, but finished second behind the Slovakians, who finished a perfect 3-0.

While this was only the first step for Hockey Canada — we’ll get a much better look at players in the Spengler Cup in Davos, Switzerland late next month — I asked a Canadian coach in Europe and two NHL pro scouts to help construct a list of players who should be given consideration for the 23-player Olympic “Plan B” roster.

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