When it was announced that there would be two hybrid teams in this years World Cup of Hockey – Team Europe (or, as many have referred to it, “Team Some of Europe“), and Team North America – I was skeptical. What national anthems do they play, if any? Will either of them make waves in this tournament?
Was this just an excuse for the NHL to include current stars like Anze Kopitar and Connor McDavid and gouge more money from our pockets? I don’t know the answers to at least two of those questions. But I do know this: Team North America is going to embarrass some teams in the WCH. Don’t believe me and think this is just a hot take? Take a look at their roster and compare it to both the U.S. roster and Canada’s.
Let’s get the obvious out of the way: Canada is stacked front to back and will probably win this tournament unless Sweden gets in the way.
Their original roster was insane to start. But since Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, Duncan Keith and Jeff Carter all came down with injuries or are simply not playing, replacements were necessary. Canada is spoiled in that their replacements are better than some teams stars, and even then some players were snubbed and inexplicably left off the roster.
But this begs the question: how many of the young guns from Canada could play on the current roster? Connor McDavid, although out for half this past season with a broken collarbone, put up over a point a game in the NHL. Who would Canada sacrifice should McDavid make that roster? It’s hard to argue against a point a game, but it’s also hard to argue against a line of Sidney Crosby, Patrice Bergeron, and Brad Marchand. Canada’s roster was simply too hard to crack for the younger players, at least for now.
However, when you compare Team North America’s roster against Team USA, I genuinely wonder how this roster was composed. Don’t get me wrong, I love that Justin Abdelkader is a great 3rd line grinder with a nose for the net. I love that Brandon Dubinsky can muck it up in front of the net with the best of them. But you’re going to tell me that they got a roster spot over Johnny Gaudreau? Gaudreau was 7th in the NHL in scoring. For the people in the back who want to know who beat him, here’s the list: Patrick Kane, Jamie Benn, Sidney Crosby, Joe Thornton, Erik Karlsson, and Joe Pavelski. That’s some ridiculous company. Dubinsky and Abdelkader are solid 3rd line players, but that’s all they will ever be, and that’s how they’ll make their money. Players like Gaudreau, Jack Eichel, and Dylan Larkin are already making some waves in the NHL, and two of them are only a season into their careers.
“But experience matters in these kinds of tournaments!” some will grumble. I will counter with the absolute shredding Team North America put on Team Some of Europe in the prelims. For reference, nearly all of Team Europe’s roster are solid NHL veterans with plenty of international experience. If winning this tournament is solely based on veteran experience in international competition and the Stanley Cup playoffs, Team Europe should theoretically win almost every game. I think the young guns will be fine against players who’ve “been there before.”
“But heavy hitting might undo them!” more will argue. Really? I can’t believe I’m about to say this (brace yourselves Capitals fans), but the Pittsburgh Penguins won a Stanley Cup with speed over power. They sped right past the bruising New York Rangers, they made some of the heavy hitting Washington Capitals look ridiculous, and they made the San Jose Sharks, who combined the classic physical style the Western Conference uses with some speed, look slow. GM’s across the board are clamoring for faster players as opposed to only physical players. And if Team North America needs to bring physical play, center and wing Jack Eichel, as well as 6’4″ defenseman Seth Jones can easily bring the thunder. But for most of the other teams out there, they’ll have to catch the Young Guns in order to hit them.
So where could Team North America end up in this tournament? I wouldn’t be surprised if the Young Guns pull off at least a bronze medal – well, if the tournament was awarding a bronze! Their particular pool contains Sweden, who should win the group, but after that most of the teams are even. If Team North America can make it past Finland and Russia, they’ll be in pretty good shape.
By Julia Karron