The World Cup of Hockey starts on Saturday, Sept. 17. While pre-tournament games have begun, the xHockeyProducts team is excited for the tournament to begin. That’s why we are breaking down every team and providing the chances every roster has to win it all.
Team North America is comprised of Canadian and American players 23 and under as of Oct. 1, 2016. This will be the first tournament for a roster of its kind.
The lineup’s makeup includes 12 Americans and 11 Canadians. There are three players from Michigan, two from Arizona, two from Pennsylvania and one each from Florida, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Ohio and Texas. Six of the 10 provinces are represented, with five players coming from Ontario, two from British Columbia and one each from Alberta, Nova Scotia, Quebec and Saskatchewan.
|Group A||Group B|
|Team Canada||Team Finland|
|Team Czech Republic||Team North America|
|Team Europe||Team Russia|
|Team USA||Team Sweden|
|Sean Couturier – PHI||Jonathan Drouin – TBL||Aaron Ekblad – FLA||John Gibson – ANA|
|Jack Eichel – BUF||Johnny Gaudreau – CGY||Shayne Gostisbehere – PHI||Connor Hellebuyck – WPG|
|Dylan Larkin – DET||Nathan MacKinnon – COL||Seth Jones – CBJ||Matt Murray – PIT|
|Auston Matthews – TOR||Connor McDavid – EDM||Ryan Murray – CBJ|
|J.T. Miller – NYR||Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – EDM||Colton Parayko – STL|
|Brandon Saad – CBJ||Mark Scheifele – WPG||Morgan Rielly – TOR|
|Vincent Trocheck – FLA||Jacob Trouba – WPG|
International tournaments usually are won much differently than NHL contests. Grit and board battles usually don’t end up dictating the final score. These games are won by speed, skill and the ability to finish.
Those three attributes perfectly describe Team North America. Almost every player on the roster features elite-level speed and at least some ability to weave in and out of defenders (yes, including the defensemen).
Connor McDavid, the young phenom who normally wears Edmonton Oilers blue, will be at the forefront as he is a top-end point producer at every level he has played. Followed closely by him are Jack Eichel, Johnny Gaudreau and Dylan Larkin.
The World Cup tournament was created to showcase skill. This is exactly what the under-23 team will do in every game.
Some would say that Team North America’s weakness is easy to pinpoint: a lack of experience. However, some forget that most of these players have appeared in the World Junior Championships. In fact, only goaltender Connor Hellebuyck and defenseman Colton Parayko have not participated in a WJC. Tournament play and finding ways to grind out victories should not be too much of an issue.
Size may be the only issue for Team North America. Although some skaters have reached a certain physical maturity (Parayko stands at a menacing 6 feet 6 inches), others have not. Criticism for younger players often surrounds a need to put on weight to handle the rigors of an NHL contest. Although the pushing and shoving will be minimal, the big Canadian and Russian bodies could knock some under-23 players off the puck in tight contests.
Player to Watch
Is it a cop out to say the entire team?
Team North America is the future of the NHL. Every commercial, every holiday video and every article you’ll see in magazines will have the names Shayne Gostisbehere and Auston Matthews included with it. This is the NHL marketing department’s Dream Team, even more so than Team Canada.
If you had to pick just one, though, it would have to be McDavid. The 2015 first overall pick has media surrounding him at all times for a reason. The young center scored more than a point-per-game in 2015-16, amassing 48 points in 45 games. With a year of playing among NHL players under his belt, McDavid enters the World Cup of Hockey as one of the deadliest players on the ice.
What It Will Take to Win
There are less than a handful of teams that stand a chance of defeating Team Canada. One team that could features 11 Canadians on the roster.
Team North America will have to rely on speed and puck control to defeat its opponents. If goaltenders Hellebuyck, John Gibson and Matt Murray can hold down the crease and make the saves everyone knows they can, Team North America should be one of the teams that advances to the semifinal round.
The only thing truly working against them is an issue that Team Europe shares; finding true motivation. Although the under-23 teams will want to prove themselves to their older NHL counterparts, there is a sense of pride for your country in tournaments like this. It may prove to be difficult to rally around doing it for your continent.
If the young roster can work past this minor obstacle, almost nobody will be able to stop them.
Sunday, Sept. 18
Team North America vs. Team Finland, 8 p.m., ESPN2, SN, TVA Sports
Monday, Sept. 19
Team Russia vs. Team North America, 8 p.m., ESPN2, SN, TVA Sports
Wednesday, Sept. 21
Team North America vs. Team Sweden, 3 p.m., ESPN, SN, TVA Sports
Feature photo courtesy philliesfan136| Flickr
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