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Masters: St. Louis rejects underdog label at Olympic camp

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Mark Masters
8/26/2013 2:45:16 PM
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CALGARY – The oldest player at Hockey Canada's orientation camp doesn't consider himself an underdog to crack the Olympic roster. 

At 38, Martin St. Louis is the reigning Art Ross Trophy winner, having racked up a league-high 60 points last season and perhaps that's why he bristled when asked whether there was a role for him on Canada's 2014 Olympic Winter Games squad.

"Yeah, I would think that," he said with a wry grin. "I thought I had a pretty good year last year so I'm pretty sure there's a good role for me."

A couple questions later, St. Louis was asked whether he was surprised to lead the league in scoring.

"You know, good thing I have a lot of confidence, because a few more days around you guys [and] I might start doubting myself," he quipped before noting that an injury to Sidney Crosby and the fact it was a lockout-shortened campaign likely contributed to his status as NHL points king.

In general, St. Louis, at 5-foot-9 the shortest player at camp along with Boston's Brad Marchand, is getting a bit tired of the whole underdog storyline. 

"I think not being drafted, I was an under-dog, but I think once I got going in my mid-to-late-20s, I overcame the underdog stamp," he said.

And it appears he's not an underdog when it comes to the Canadian team this time around as he was a listed as a favourite to make the squad during the NHL on TSN panel's breakdown of the depth chart.

Team Canada is expected to feature plenty of young talent in Sochi with 23-year-old Steven Stamkos and 22-year-old John Tavares considered virtual locks to make their Olympic debuts. Taylor Hall (21), Matt Duchene (22), Jordan Eberle (23) and Logan Couture (24) are some of the other young guns expected to compete for the available forward spots.

And although St. Louis is not lacking in the confidence department, he is well aware of the task facing him.

"There's a lot more youth in the game than in the past and the game is faster and we definitely have to make sure as we get older as players, we've got to focus on speed," he said.

St. Louis, who represented Canada at the 2006 Olympic Winter Games in Turin, takes great pride in being able to keep up and even stay ahead of the curve. Stamkos has had a front-row seat to St. Louis' fountain-of-youth routine and jokes that his Tampa Bay teammate could keep playing until the age of 45 if he keeps going at this rate.

"He's not slowing down," said Stamkos. "I think the media kind of portrays him as he's getting older and he's losing a step, but look at the stats, look at what he's done the past five years. He's been at the top of the league every year and he's getting better, he's improving.

"Marty doesn't care what other people think about, here's worried about what he has to do to make this team, because I know he was very disappointed about not making the last Olympic team and he uses that as motivation."

St. Louis has been a great mentor to Stamkos and, according to Team Canada assistant coach Claude Julien, there's no reason he can't do the same in Sochi for other up and comers.

"He's always kept himself in real good shape," said Julien, who coaches the Boston Bruins. "He's always been a serious player. I've always liked Marty for those reasons. He comes to play every night. When you look at a team like ours, when it comes time to pick, it's nice to have skill, it's nice to have speed, it's nice to have a lot of those things, but you also want to put some experience in there. And I know there are some guys that are young that had the experience at the last Olympics as well, but that veteran leadership can't be underestimated, and that's why you've got guys like him here. Danny Boyle is another one. Been around for a long time, but we're not doing anybody favours here. If they're here, it's because they deserve to be here."

St. Louis may have one advantage over some of the younger players he's competing with for a spot: the man leading Canada's management team knows him very well. Steve Yzerman is his general manager in Tampa Bay as well as Team Canada's executive director. Although, Yzerman held the same job in 2010 and left St. Louis off the squad.

"I don't think he knew me as a player as much as he knows me now," said St. Louis. "Does that mean I'm on the team? No, not at all, I have to earn it like everybody else. I'm going to get a chance on many nights to [show] the guy who's a big part of who's going to make that team that I can be on the team."

"I think it all starts with preparation and I think I prepare myself as well as anyone else and last year, I was fortunate to be successful.

"I'm a true believer that you get what you put in."

Martin St. Louis (Photo: Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
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