Team Europe: The first 16 players picked for the team come from seven different countries. While they have a balanced roster, the main question is how will total strangers with little practice time play together?
The World Cup of Hockey, to be played in Sept. 2016 in Toronto, is an eight team tournament showcasing the world’s best hockey players. The eight teams participating include: Canada, United States, North America, Sweden, Russia, Finland, Czech Republic and Europe. Team North America is differentiated from Canada and the U.S. as it will consist strictly of players 23 years and younger. Team Europe will be comprised of players from European nations other than those that have a full squad. Now that initial rosters have been released, here is a look at each team.
Team Canada: The winner of the last two Olympic gold medals, the Canadian team is the projected favorite for this tournament once again. The team is full of All-Stars including Sidney Crosby, Steven Stamkos, Duncan Keith and Shea Weber. The only potential weakness is projected starting goalie Carey Price who is dealing with lingering injuries and may be rusty when games start. Even if he can’t play though, backups Braden Holtby and Corey Crawford are more than capable of filling in.
Team United States: The United States has gotten so close to success in the last two Olympics, but twice had their dreams dashed by Team Canada. This team is a mix of veterans like Patrick Kane, Ryan Kesler and Zach Parise and new blood including Dustin Byfuglien and Justin Abdelkader. General Manager Dean Lombardi did not pick only big name scorers, but looks to have built a more balanced squad to match Canada’s.
Team North America: This team will likely be the most interesting and fun group to watch. Filled with lesser known but highly talented players like Jack Eichel, Connor McDavid and Aaron Ekblad, this team could surprise in this tournament.
Team Sweden: Featuring 83 current NHL players and coming off a silver medal in the Sochi Olympics, the Swedes are a potential threat to win it all this time. Led by Henrik Lundqvist in goal and reigning Norris trophy winner Erik Karlsson and his defensive colleagues, it will be extremely difficult to score against them. While their offense isn’t as strong as some other teams’, they should be able to contain their opponents and get some low scoring victories.
Team Russia: Loaded with scoring potential (Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, etc.), the Russian club will be able to light the lamp as well as anyone. The problem lies in their defense and goaltending. They will likely have to win some high scoring games to advance.
Team Finland: Finland is lacking offensive firepower, with none of its forwards scoring at least 20 goals this season. To have a chance, they will have to rely on veteran goaltenders Tuukka Rask and Pekka Rinne to carry the load.
Team Czech Republic: Lacking scoring punch and top tier defensemen, the Czech team will have an uphill battle to compete. The most interesting storyline is a player not on the team, Jaromir Jagr. Jagr stated two years ago he was done with international competition. If he changes his mind though, he would be the player to watch.