Karl Alzner recognizes he doesn’t skate like Mike Green or Kris Letang, doesn’t hit like Shea Weber or Jay Bouwmeester, and doesn’t have a booming shot like P.K. Subban or Dan Boyle.
But that doesn’t mean he’s selling himself short after participating in Team Canada’s four-day orientation camp in Calgary in preparation for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
Alzner knows he is one of those shut-down defensemen no one notices and he’s hoping that’s enough to convince Team Canada executive director Steve Yzerman that he belongs on Canada’s 25-man Olympic roster.
“I’d like to say I’m not going to think about it, but it’s going to be impossible not to,” Alzner told reporters in Calgary when asked about how much his mind will be on the Olympics in the first half of the upcoming NHL season.
“I’ve always tried to pride myself in being consistent. You just hope you have a really good 30 games, you get all the bounces your way and you’re feeling good out there and your slump doesn’t come at the beginning of the season.”
Alzner, who will turn 25 next month, is one of 17 defensemen invited to Calgary for Team Canada’s orientation camp. The team played ball hockey on a European-sized rink and Alzner said he noticed a big difference in the way he would need to play in Sochi.
“Making a play back to your D partner, penalty kill especially, you do notice a ton of space,” he said “Like the coaches say, close a little quicker [on forwards] and eventually they’ll run out of room You just have to make sure you’re there and take away the extra 15 feet.”
Alzner said it took only a few practices to get adjusted to the wider ice surface.
“But it’s all hockey,” he said. “You just gotta make the reads quicker and account for the extra speed the forwards are going to pick up. That’s why European teams are usually pretty quick and they use it to their advantage.”
Alzner knows there are a few locks for Team Canada – Weber, Duncan Keith and Drew Doughty are considered no-brainers – and his main competitors for a place on the team could be Vancouver’s Travis Hamonic, Ottawa’s Marc Methot and San Jose’s Marc-Edouard Vlasic.
He also knows that head coach Mike Babcock [Red Wings] and management team member Ken Holland are also in the Eastern Conference this season and will get a closer look at what he can offer Team Canada.
For now, however, Alzner is relishing the opportunity to even be considered to wear the red and white Maple Leaf on his chest.
“It’s just fun,” he said. “Fun to get a chance to see everything that goes on behind the scenes. We all know how serious it is. To be a part of it and see everything that goes into it is unbelievable”