On Friday, the teams being represented in the World Cup of Hockey finalized their rosters. There were a couple surprises and as always, many great players were left off their respective teams. All eight GMs have a game plan in mind, and each player selected was hand picked to ensure that management has the keys in place to claim hockey dominance. Let’s take a look at the players added and analyze the surprises, snubs, and strategy set in place.
Defenseman: Alex Pietrangelo (St. Louis Blues), Jake Muzzin (Los Angeles Kings), Brett Burns (San Jose Sharks)
Forwards: Matt Duchene (Colorado Avalanche), Claude Giroux (Philadelphia Flyers), Brad Marchand (Boston Bruins), Joe Thornton (San Jose Sharks)
Where is P.K.? The heart and soul to the Montreal Canadiens was left off by Doug Armstrong. There is no question Subban has more talent than that of surprise pick, Jake Muzzin. However, it is clear that Canada is looking for a repeat performance from Sochi. A stay at home defenseman, ready to lock down the opposing team’s depth players was instrumental in deciding the three remaining positions. Subban’s knack to pinch and his decision making was an obvious factor in keeping him off this roster.
As well, two-time Olympic gold medalist, Corey Perry was snubbed a spot on the team after leading Canada to a gold at the World Championships in Russia. By picking up three centres, in Duchene, Giroux, and Thornton, Armstrong and Babcock appear to want a complete 200 foot game from all forwards. No goals and one assist in Sochi may have played a part in the snub.
However, just because Perry was left off does not mean the forwards that made the cut should not be there. Having the best passer, and advanced metrics player in Joe Thronton once again representing Canada is quite a sight. The Stanley Cup Final bound, London, Ontario native had 63 assists in the regular season and dished out 15 more helpers in the playoffs. Do not expect him to play many minutes, but expect Thornton to be effective when he does.
Look for Canada to not give up many goals this September. Having Price or Holtby between the pipes behind big bodied defenseman and defensive minded centers will be instrumental in keeping scores low and win totals high.
Goalie: Robin Lehner (Buffalo Sabres)
Defenseman: Mattias Ekholm
Forwards: Carl Hagelin (Pittsburgh Penguins), Patric Hornqvist (Pittsburgh Penguins), Marcus Kruger (Chicago Blackhawks), Jakob Silfverberg (Anaheim Ducks), Carl Soderberg (Colorado Avalanche)
Stanley Cup contenders Carl Hagelin and Patric Hornqvist were named to the roster Friday. The two have 12 and 11 points respectively and a game winning goal each. The preliminary forwards named to the roster are still very good and pose a threat to win games by great margins.
Notable omission, Stars’ stud John Klingberg, who totaled 48 assists, 28 at even strength. Klingberg logged 22 minutes a game and was the number one defenseman in Dallas this year. His team play was well noted, blocking 68 shots this year.
The key to success: as all analysts predict it will be their defensive talent and style of play. Headlined by Erik Karlsson, Swedend’s D core will play a huge factor in the line of defense before King Henrik.
Goalie: Mikko Koskinen (SKA St. Petersburg, KHL)
Defenseman: Ville Pokka (Rockford IceHogs, AHL), Jyrki Jokipakka (Calgary Flames), Sami Lepisto (Salavat Yulaev Ufa, KHL)
Forwards: Patrick Laine (Tappara Tempere, SM- liiga), Sebastian Aho (Karpat Oulu, SM- liiga), Erik Haula (Minnesota Wild)
The big names noted on this finalized roster are consensus first round picks, Patrick Laine and Sebastian Aho. At the World Championships, Laine was name the MVP, at just 18 years old, putting up seven goals and helping out on five more. This kid is good and at times, he can compete with Auston Matthews for the number one overall draft pick. Both Laine and Aho led Filand to a gold on home soil at the World Juniors so their ability to play at the international level is not in question.
What will be in question for Team Finland is the youth and inexperience their team brings to the table. As well, about half of the forwards selected to the team playing for NHL rosters are considered depth players. Teravainen, Korpikoski, Donskoi are three forwards amongst others that get third line minutes at the NHL level.
As well as they did play in the World Championships, I don’t see Finland making a run. With teams like Sweden and Russia as well as the sleeper of North America I do not see them as much of a threat. However, with some of the best goalies in the NHL, Rinne and Rask will have to do their part to keep their country in games.
Defenseman: Erik Johnson (Colorado Avalanche), Jack Johnson (Columbus Blue Jackets), Matt Niskanen (Washington Capitals)
Forwards: David Backes (St. Louis Blues), Ryan Callahan (Tampa Bay Lightning), Brandon Dubinsky (Columbus Blue Jackets), James van Riemsdyk (Toronto Maple Leafs)
The question everyone is asking GM Lombardi: Where the hell is Phil Kessel? Phil the Thrill has been the most electrifying player to watch in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, 9 goals 9 assists the man has led the Pens into the Stanley Cup Finals. His start up speed is unmatched and his acceleration from his defensive zone has been elite in the NHL for the past few seasons. The better question I ask is why ex-teammate JVR got a spot while Kessel got the boot? Lombardi and Tortorella will have a lot of questions to answer if USA does not make a competitive run.
Speaking of Tortorella, there are two players that absolutely should not be on this roster, and I have a very good feeling he pulled some strings to get them here. The head coach for both Brandon Dubinsky and Jack Johnson, in Columbus, replaced Phil Kessel and Kevin Shattenkirk from the Sochi 2014 team. In what world, do the former pair, even compare to the latter. Kessel a consisten 30 goal scorer and Shattenkirk a developed vet in the show, outshine, outhustle, outbody, out-everything compared to Dubinsky and Johnson. No question, this is a mistake, and USA will pay.
Defenseman: Michal Jordan (Carolina Hurricanes), Zbynek Michalek (Arizona Coyotes), Jakub Nakladal (Calgary Flames)
Forwards: Radek Faska (Dallas Stars), Ales Hemsky (Dallas Stars), Dmitrij Jaskin (St. Louis Blues), Milan Michalek (Toronto Maple Leafs)
Notable additions were veterans Hemsky and Michalek who bring the experience of playing alongside NHL superstars. When the Czechs matchup against Canada in group play Stars’ forwards Faska and Hemsky can attempt to shut down teammates Benn and Seguin. This team on paper appears to be the weakest team in the tournament, and preferably I would rather not even talk about them.
Defenseman: Alexei Emelin (Montreal Canadiens), Alexy Marchenko (Detroit Red Wings), Slava Voynov (SKA St. Petersburg, KHL), Nikita Zaitsev (Toronto Maple Leafs)
Forwards: Evgenii Dadonov (SKA St. Petersburg, KHL), Vadim Shipachev (SKA St. Petersburg, KHL), Ivan Telegin (CSKA Moscow, KHL)
Straight up skill. This team is so talented and the noted additions of Nikita Zaitsev and Alexei Emelin on the back end are instrumental in ensuring support for the deep set of forwards. Zaitsev, who recently signed with the Leafs, managed a +12 in the World Championships while securing a third place finish for his home country. Slava Voynov may not be able to play due to the ongoing trials about a domestic violence case. Russia could use him to stabilize in front of either Varlamov and Bobrovsky and his elite defensive role, while he played for the Kings will give him the ability to play huge minutes.
Datsyuk opted to not play for Russia due to family reasons as he wants to spend more time with his daughter and family. It was his choice to not play, but I am assuming if he changes his mind then he will be given a spot on the roster. Russia is a huge threat, however a repeat performance from Sochi may loom. Overvalued forwards, as well as a weak back end may lead to the downfall of yet another Russian empire.
Defenseman: Shayne Gostisbehere (Philadelphia Flyers), Colton Parayko (St. Louis Blues), Jacob Trouba (Winnipeg Jets)
Forwards: Jonathan Drouin (Tampa Bay Lightning), Auston Matthews (ZSC Lions, Swiss National League A), Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (Edmonton Oilers), Mark Scheifle (Winnipeg Jets)
There is no one this youthful squad would rather see more than Jonathan Drouin. After playing lights out, and helping the Bolts go to the Conference Finals, Drouin will need to play as a leader and guide NA throughout the tournament. RNH as well as Auston Matthews were also definitie picks after being shafted in the initial roster announcement.
One player I feel was left off was Robby Fabbri. The Mississauga, Ontario native put up 15 points in his first postseason with the Blues, and totalled 22 goals in his first full regular season and playoffs. As well, Max Domi of the Arizon Coyotes was left off alongside linemate Anthony Duclair. The talent level of this North American squad is highlighted by a plethora of recent top five picks so it is not too surprising these three were not named to the team.
The youngest team in the tournament, this team will definitely be a sleeper. In a group with Finland, Russia, and Sweden, Team NA certainly has their hands full. The saving grace could be the underestimation of the talent and skill set with all the players.
Goalie: Thomas Greiss (New York Islanders)
Defenseman: Christian Ehroff (Chicago Blackhawks), Luca Sbisa (Vancouver Canucks)
Forwards: Pierre- Edouard Bellemare (Philadelphia Flyers), Marian Gaborik (Los Angeles Kings), Nino Nederreiter (Minnesota Wild), Tobias Rieder (Arozona Coyotes)
One problem associated with making a continental team is the lack of chemistry going into the tournament. There are certain linemantes like Gaborik and Kopitar that will play together as well as Nederreiter and Vanek. However, for most forwards and defenseman it will be the first tie dressing for the same team and even sharing the ice. The talent level is there, the players selected are fast, and smart, so expect a run. With three and a half months left before the start of the tournament Team Europe will attempt to use synergies on the ice and pick up tendencies of teammates to gain hockey credibility and supremacy for their continent.
Due to the age of some of the players, combined with the uncertainity of the performance of their goaltenders, I expect Europe to play a more reserved style of play. A lot of neutral zone action as well as setting up a cycle in the offensive zone, Europe will have to control the puck in order to sustain success. With a lot of players from different countries and playing on different teams I think their game strategy will be very basic and easy to read. Teams like Canada and USA will be able to pick apart their style and tendencies, and Europe will have to limit their opponents time with the puck.
Featured Image Credit: global news.ca
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