NHL: World Cup of Hockey Preview

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Credit: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

By: Rossy Pasternak

The new World Cup of Hockey is an amazing, newly formatted, international tournament which begins September 17th. The two week training camps for all teams have allowed the players to get acclimatized to their new teammates, and the teams are ready for action. Training camp was more important for the youngsters from North America than any other team, as most of them have grown up rivals of each other on the national stage.

The collection of players under the age of 24 will have an especially hard time coming together and playing as a team due to the lack of national pride associated with being on the team. While the other teams, Canada, USA, Russia, Sweden, Finland, and Czech Republic will have a flag on their jersey, North America and Team Europe have recently made logos. A key problem with these two teams will likely be players playing more for the name on the back than the one on the front.

So far, North America has shown their dominance with speed and creativity. A team with the likes of McDavid, Eichel, Matthews, Larkin, Gaudreau, and Drouin will never lack skill or speed, but North America has it up and down the roster. On the back end, they are bolstered by Aaron Ekblad and Shayne Ghostisbhere, as well as Jacob Trouba. The North Americans also have a lot of players who are RFA’s, and still need to sign. The distractions are mounting for the North Americans, but they may have the speed to skate right past them.

On Canada’s side, the roster consists of Team Canada veterans. Anchored by Sidney Crosby, Corey Perry, Steven Stamkos, and John Tavares, the Canadians wont lack scoring. If it is two-way play you like, how about Patrice Bergeron, Ryan Getzlaf, Jonathan Toews and Claude Giroux. If you like defensman? How about perennial Norris candidate, and 2016 winner, Drew Doughty and his partner Jake Muzzin, or 2016 Norris candidate Brent Burns and his partner Marc-Edouard Vlasic? If they aren’t enough for you, why don’t we throw in Jay Bouwmeester, Alex Pietrangelo and Shea Weber. In goal, the Canadians have the two best NHL goalies, Carey Price and Braden Holtby. Canada is the obvious team to beat, with riches that are just purely unfair.

Team USA boasts a roster full of two-way stars. The Americans will play a gritty style with a hard forecheck and an even harder back-check. Headlined on forward by Patrick Kane, T.J. Oshie, Joe Pavelski and Zach Parise, and on defence by Dustin Byfuglien, Ryan Suter and Ryan McDonagh, the Americans definitely do not lack star power. In net, they have three exceptional goalies in Ben Bishop, Jonathan Quick and Cory Schneider. The Americans have a roster worthy of medalling, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them in the finals.

Team Europe, who lost both of their games against North America in pre-tournament action, faces the same problem as their counterparts from across the Atlantic. Although the team has no age limit, they boast some exceptional young talent. Leon Draisaitl and Roman Josi join international superstars Marian Hossa, Anze Kopitar and Zdeno Chara in their quest for gold. Expect this team to be near the bottom of the standings come competition time, but with Jaroslav Halak in net, you never know.

Team Sweden boasts one of the most offensive teams in the tournament. They have depth throughout their roster, and will be in the competition for gold for sure. Nicklas Backstrom and Filip Forsberg will attempt to take the baton from the Sedin twins as the primary goal-scorers, although the Sedin’s will be there to add offence as well. On defence, the Swede’s have possibly the best puck-moving defence corps in the tournament. Victor Hedman and Oliver Ekman-Larsson are great in all three zones of the ice, and will drive the play offensively. In net, Sweden has the ‘King’, Henrik Lundqvist, and there is not much left to say about him that hasn’t already been said before.

Team Russia has an exceptional offence, but will have trouble defending their own end. Obviously, when you think about Russia, you think about their offensive superstars. That group has gotten bigger since we last saw them play on an international stage. Added to the core of Datsyuk, Ovechkin, and Malkin are Nikita Kucherov, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Artemi Panarin and Vladimir Tarasenko. All of those guys are superstars in the NHL – minus Datsyuk who left for the KHL – and it will be interesting to see how they take to smaller roles. As I stated before, the trouble is on the back-end for the Russians. The most intriguing players on defence for the team are the ones who may not even crack the active lineup. Nikita Zaitsev will definitely draw loads of attention from the Toronto crowd, and Alexey Marchenko is an interesting defensive prospect for the Red Wings. In net, the Russians have a trio of good goaltenders, Bobrovsky, Varlamov, and Vasilevskiy.

Czech Republic will probably be at the bottom of the standings come the end of the tournament. Headlined by Ondrej Palat and Jakub Voracek, the Czech team will struggle to put the puck in the net. Add to that the fact that Roman Polak is the team’s most fearsome defender, and it is obvious that this team is a level below the others. Petr Mrazek solidifies the goaltending for the Czech team, which means at least they will have good production from one position on their roster.

Team Finland is an interesting dark-horse for a medal. Much like North America, this team is made up of mostly young, emerging talent. Players such as Aleksander Barkov, Erik Haula Teuvo Teravainen, Patrik Laine Jyrki Jokipakka, Olli Maatta, Sami Vatenen and Rasmus Ristolainen. Those young-guns are joined by playoff hero Joonas Donskoi, as well as veterans Jussi Jokinen, Mikko Koivu and Leo Komorov. In net, they have two goalies who struggled to live up to expectations last season, Tuukka Rask and Pekka Rinne. I am really excited to see what Laine can do in a true NHL-level competition.

Group A Projected Standings:

  1. Canada
  2. USA
  3. Europe
  4. Czech Republic

Group B Projected Standings:

  1. Finland
  2. North America
  3. Russia
  4. Sweden

Semi Finals:

Canada wins vs. North Amercia

USA wins vs. Finland

Finals:

Canada beats USA 2-1 in the best-of-3 finals series.

What do you think will happen during the World Cup? Do you think someone other than Canada will win? Comment your thoughts below!

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