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Hockey Canada can't ignore Ann-Sophie Bettez any longer

Ann-Sophie Bettez is one of the best players in the CWHL, so why isn't she on Team Canada's Olympic roster?

Shanna Martin

Ann-Sophie Bettez was named CWHL player of the month for January. She is second in the league in scoring right now, behind only Marie-Philip Poulin. Bettez has amassed 125 points in 86 games over the course of her CWHL career, has won three national championships with McGill University and yet, at 28 years old, hasn't represented her country at the senior level.

Why is that?

"I guess I really don’t think about those things," says Bettez. "I got to a point where I got invited to a few camps and now I’m kind of over it because otherwise I’m just going to be sad for the rest of my life. So I’m just going to enjoy being here. Yes, it’s a good measuring stick for me but at the end of the day I’m still able to compete and have fun and that’s the most important thing."

It would seem that Bettez's play would warrant at the very least an invite... Let's take a look at the road that Bettez took to get to where she is now.

Upon graduating from McGill, Bettez was awarded the Brodrick Trophy, presented to the most outstanding player in the country, the highest honour in CIS women's hockey. After five seasons with the Martlets, Bettez was crowned scoring leader, two-time conference MVP, and CIS rookie of the year. She is McGill's all-time leader in goals (85), assists (87) and points (172) in 91 regular season games.

Bettez's skill didn't go unrecognized by Hockey Canada. Her first experience with the program came in the summer of 2007, when she was invited to Canada's national women's under-22 selection camp in Toronto. The following year, she attended the team's under-22 evaluation camp in Calgary.

In 2009, she won the silver medal with Team Canada at the MLP Cup in Germany, before being named to the Canadian national team roster for the IIHF World Women's Championship in Finland, where she won a silver medal. In 2010, she won a gold medal with Team Canada at the MLP Cup in Germany. In March 2011, she received an invitation to Canada's selection camp for the IIHF World Women's Championship (but she did not make the team).

It would be her last invitation to a Team Canada camp.

"The thing about Ann-So is that she was always really good but she got so much better in the past couple of years," said teammate Charline Labonté, who played with Bettez at McGill as well as in the CWHL. "She peaked a little bit later than a lot of people. Unfortunately she’s not part of the Team Canada program but she was before and she’s so much better than she was back then so it’s a little bit unfortunate."

Bettez was named rookie of the year in the CWHL in 2012, and won the Angela James Bowl in 2014 (awarded to the CWHL's scoring champion).

Bettez is the only player who has been in the top-five of CWHL scoring the last four years. In fact, in her four years in the CWHL, she has finished in the top-five in scoring each year. This isn't a flash in a pan, and it isn't because she just happens to be playing with Marie-Philip Poulin. She has scored at this level with different teammates and against different opposition.

Here is a beautiful one-touch assist to Caroline Ouellette on the power play.

So why hasn't she gotten any Olympic national team love?

Could it be because Bettez shoots left? Only five of Team Canada's 13 forwards shot right in Sochi, something that we know that the men's team fixated on during the development stage. We admit this is akin to grasping at straws. Hockey Canada was reached for comment but has yet to respond.

One argument that has been bandied about is her size. At 5'4", Bettez is one of the smallest players on les Canadiennes' roster. With a 2016 Team Canada training camp average height of 5'7", cracking into the lineup at her size is something that obviously poses a challenge. But it's not impossible, as 5'3" Shelby Bram, 5'5" Jillian Saulnier and 5'5" Jessica Campbell demonstrated by getting invites. Her height hasn't stopped her having success in the CWHL.

Age is certainly a factor as well. Bettez, although only 28, is older for a Team Canada cycle fixated on 2018. To that point, six of the 32 members of Team Canada's camp that took place this week have yet to graduate from University. Four of those six have yet to attend university. Only one player born prior to 1990 has not been to the Olympics and that is defender Courtney Birchard who has played for Canada at three World Championships.

On a Canadiennes power play that includes Olympians Julie Chu, Lauriane Rougeau, Poulin and Ouellette, Bettez does not seem out of place, even when playing against the best. Bettez also plays on the penalty kill and in defensive situations.

Even if you think her numbers are due to who she is playing with, if Chris Kunitz can make the men's team because of chemistry with Sidney Crosby, why shouldn't Bettez be included to play alongside Marie-Philip Poulin? But as we said, she would have deserved a shot before Poulin even arrived in Montreal.

"She’s a great player. She’s an all around great player. She’s so strong, she’s so fast, she sees the ice real well and luckily for me I play with her," said Marie-Philip Poulin. "She makes me look good out there and every time I get to play with her it’s quite the honour and she does it all. I just have to give it to her or put the puck on the net and she’ll put it in."

You may be wondering if it even matters that Bettez was overlooked. Canada has won back-to-back-to-back gold medals at the Olympics. At this point however, several of Team Canada's women aren't likely to return for PyeongChang in 2018.

Let's take a look at Canada's 2014 gold medal winning forward roster, as well as Hockey Canada's current camp invitees, and see what everyone is up to:

Meghan Agosta-Marciano: She played her NCAA hockey at Mercyhurst College, before joining the Montreal Stars (now les Canadiennes) in 2011. In just two CWHL seasons, she scored 57 goals, adding 69 helpers for a total of 126 points in 50 games. Oh, she also happens to be a three-time Olympic gold medalist (Turin, Vancouver & Sochi). In 2014, she took a break from hockey to pursue a career in law enforcement. She graduated from the Vancouver Police Department Academy in May of 2015. Presumably she is still in excellent shape, is only 28 years old, and is a probably a shoe-in up front for the 2018 roster.

Rebecca Johnston: Played NCAA at Cornell University before starting her CWHL career in 2012. She spent her first season with the Toronto Furies, before moving on to the Calgary Inferno last year, where she clinched the Angela James Bowl as the league's leading scorer. She hasn't seen any playing time this season due to an injury. She was a member of the Olympic gold-medal winning squads in both 2014 and 2010. At age 26, her talent is undeniable, and she belongs on the team in 2018.

Jennifer Wakefield: She started her NCAA career a the University of New Hampshire before moving to Boston University, where she would be named captain in 2011. She was cut from Team Canada's Olympic squad in 2009, but was a member of the 2014 team that won gold in Sochi. For the past two years, she has been playing professionally in Sweden in both men's and women's leagues. Wakefield is only 26, and doesn't appear to be going anywhere any time soon.

Photo Credit: Shanna Martin

Gillian Apps: A three-time Olympic gold medalist (Turin, Vancouver & Sochi), Apps stands tall at six-feet, shoots left, and spent her days playing in the CWHL with the Brampton Thunder. She, along with Jayna Hefford and Catherine Ward, announced her retirement from Hockey Canada this past fall, creating an opening on the front end.

Caroline Ouellette: Caro is one of the most decorated Olympians in Canadian hockey history, winning four gold medals in 2002, 2006, 2010 and 2014. She is a staple in les Canadiennes' top six in the CWHL, where she has helped Montreal win two of its three Clarkson Cups. At age 36, Ouellette is third all-time in games played with Team Canada (behind only Hayley Wickenheiser and Jayna Hefford). While she certainly wouldn't look out of place in 2018, this could potentially be another vacancy up front.

Mélodie Daoust: One of the smaller members of the Hockey Canada program, five-foot-six Daoust is currently playing her 4th year of CIS hockey at McGill University. She won an Olympic gold in Sochi at only 22 years of age. Daoust is young, shoots left, and shouldn't be going anywhere anytime soon.

Jayna Hefford: A five-time Olympian and four-time Olympic gold medalist, Hefford scored the gold-medal winning goal in Salt Lake City in 2002. During her time in the CWHL, she played with the Brampton Thunder, where she was an Angela James Bowl winner in 2008-09 after scoring 69 points in just 28 games. Hefford announced her retirement this past fall, creating an opening up front on the right wing.

Bailey Bram: The five-foot-nine forward played CHA hockey at Mercyhurst College, before being drafted by the Brampton Thunder at the 2012 CWHL Draft. She was traded to the Calgary Inferno prior to the start of the 2014-15 season. Bram has 3 goals and 9 assists so far this season, and both she and her younger sister Shelby have been on Team Canada's radar for several years. Bailey has played in the last three world championships for Canada, and was among the last cut from the Olympic squad in 2014. Whether or not the Bram sisters make the team will depend entirely on their progression and development over the course of the next two years.

Brianne Jenner: A Cornell University alumnus, Jenner currently sits second in scoring in her first season with the Calgary Inferno in the CWHL. She won an Olympic gold in Sochi in 2014 at just 22 years of age. The five-foot-nine forward shoots right, and is ingrained in the Hockey Canada program. Barring injury, she'll be on the 2018 roster.

Jenelle Kohanchuk: A former Boston University Terrier, and 2014 Clarkson Cup champion with the Toronto Furies, Kohanchuk has yet to crack an Olympic roster. She did however win gold with Team Canada at the 4 Nations Cup in 2014. This is another player that consistently receives camp invites from Hockey Canada, however her five-foot-seven stature could be part of the reason why.

Haley Irwin: Currently, the five-foot-seven Irwin plays up front for the Calgary Inferno in the CWHL. The two-time Olympic gold medalist (2014, 2010) played her NCAA hockey at the University of Minnesota-Duluth. She scored the game-winning goal that clinched her school's 2008 NCAA Division 1 title. (FUN FACT: Caroline Ouellette was one of the behind the bench as an assistant coach for this championship!) Irwin is only 27, and should be on the 2018 final roster.

Hayley Wickenheiser: Perhaps the greatest woman to ever lace 'em up, Wick will undoubtedly be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame when she retires. Wickenheiser is currently a rookie (!!!) with the Calgary Inferno (she just wrapped up her CIS hockey career at the University of Calgary last year). Wickenheiser has been on every Olympic women's hockey roster, winning four gold medals in the process. She was the first woman to score a goal in a men's professional league when she played in Europe. At age 37, while still competitive, her game has noticeably slowed down. Don't be surprised if she is omitted from the 2018 team (but you're allowed to cry about it, because Wick is the greatest.)

Natalie Spooner: Yeah, it seems silly to even bother making a case here. The Scarborough native spends her days playing up front with the Toronto Furies, where she won her first Clarkson Cup last season. Spooner played her NCAA hockey at Ohio State, where she ranks second all-time amongst Buckeyes in points, with 163. She won an Olympic gold medal in 2014 in Sochi, and is one of the most electrifying women's hockey players right now. She's a lock for PyeongChang.

Vicki Bendus: The five-foot-two forward didn't make the 2014 cut, but has been on Hockey Canada's radar for quite some time. Bendus played NCAA hockey at Mercyhurst, and was drafted fourth overall by the Brampton Thunder at the 2011 CWHL Draft. She played in Brampton last season, but doesn't appear to be active this year. Not sure what that means for her national team status.

Marie-Philip Poulin: Can you say DUH? She scored the gold-medal-winning-goals in both Sochi and Vancouver. She leads the CWHL in scoring in her rookie season with the Montreal Canadiennes. She's a national treasure, for goodness sake. She'll be in PyeongChang in 2018.

Shelby Bram: Currently under contract for the Buffalo Beauts of the newly formed NWHL. It will be interesting to see how Hockey Canada responds to players development in the new professional women's league. The five-foot-one forward is admittedly much smaller than other Team Canada invitees, but still manages to stay on their radar. At age 22, Bram is still developing as a hockey player, and hasn't represented Canada internationally since 2011. She seems like a long-shot for 2018.

Jessica Campbell: The 23 year-old is in the midst of her second season with the Calgary Inferno in the CWHL. She made her Team Canada debut at the 2014 4 Nations Cup, where she won gold. She won the silver medal at the 2015 IIHF World Women's Championship, and is a graduate of Cornell University. Her five-foot-five height is below Hockey Canada average, but that doesn't stop her from being an offensive threat. Campbell is third on the Inferno in scoring with 20 points in 18 games thus far this season. She could be a new addition to the Olympic squad next time around.

Sarah Davis: Another member of the Calgary Inferno organization, she also played for Team Canada at the 2015 IIHF World Women's Championship. The fact that she is already on Hockey Canada's radar, and has been since her U-18 days, bodes well for her chances of making the next Olympic squad.

Elizabeth Giguère: The five-foot-nine Sherbrooke native is still playing at the CEGEP level (Limoilu). It's hard to say if we can expect to see her on the 2018 roster, as a lot can change developmentally in a hockey player between age 19 and 21. Let's call this one a wild card.

Stéphanie Lalancette: Another Limoilu CEGEP player, Lalancette has already received several Hockey Canada invitations, but has yet to crack a final roster. Another wild card.

Amy Potomak: At the age of just 16, the British Columbia native has already represented Canada internationally (at the U-18 level). Her biggest advantage? Her sister Sarah has been on Hockey Canada's radar for quite some time (Sarah played for Team Canada at the 2015 4 Nations Cup). Sarah likely wasn't invited to this camp due to NCAA/school commitments. In any case, Amy seems a little young to crack the 2018 roster, especially in a program with such depth. I'd say you can safely write her off this time around (but keep your eye on her for 2022!)

Jamie Lee Rattray: The Brampton Thunder scoring leader won gold at the 2010 IIHF World Women's U-18 Championship. Rattray played her NCAA hockey for the Clarkson Golden Knights, where she helped them to their first women's hockey championship in 2014. She's one of the best players who didn't compete in Sochi, and it would be criminal to exclude the dynamic five-foot-six forward in 2018.

Jillian Saulnier: The Cornell University alum is currently a rookie with the CWHL's Calgary Inferno, where is fifth in scoring on an offensively gifted team. What stands out about Saulnier is her team-leading three game winning goals, making her a clutch player. You can never have too many clutch players on an Olympic squad, even when you already have Poulin on your roster. At age 23, Saulnier should develop nicely into an Olympic-calibre athlete by 2018.

Sophie Shirley: Another one of the younger invitees, Shirley represented Canada at the U-18 level this past summer. At the age of just 16, Shirley already stands five-feet-eight inches tall, something that makes the Saskatchewan native one to watch for the 2022 tournament.

Kelly Terry: The five-foot-six forward made her Hockey Canada debut in 2010 as part of the U-18 team. She went on to compete with Team Canada at the 2014 4 Nations Cup, before going on to win silver at the 2015 IIHF World Women's Championship in Sweden. Terry was a point-a-game player at the NCAA level (Minnesota Golden Gophers). Terry is seventh in scoring on the Toronto Furies in the CWHL this season, much lower than we've seen from her in the past (she had 13 points in 16 games last season with the Furies). The 23 year-old was named a CWHL all-star this season, but will probably need to do more in the next year and a half to crack the 2018 team.

Blayre Turnbull: The five-foot-seven 22 year old has competed in back-to-back 4 Nations Cups as a member of Hockey Canada's team. A rookie with the Calgary Inferno, the Nova Scotia native has 13 points in 18 games this season. Good, but probably not good enough for Team Canada in 2018.

Due to NCAA and school commitments, this list is not an exact or complete shortlist for 2018 or any other tournament for that matter, but does provide a look, at least, at the CWHL players that Bettez is up against.

In the end, there's very little we can do to compare the elite, but one of the ways is looking at the CWHL. We can use it like we use the NHL to compare players for the Olympic team on the men's side.

There's no NHL or male equivalent to Bettez because there's no way that Hockey Canada wouldn't take someone who has proven their worth like Bettez in the prime of his career. We're not saying she has to make the team, but it's hard to argue she doesn't at least deserve a look. She has performed better at the CWHL level than many of those invited in her place.

It seems ludicrous that Ann-Sophie Bettez is repeatedly excluded from Hockey Canada's selection and training camps. Perhaps it's time for the country to take notice of this phenomenal talent being left on the sidelines.