With news that the NHL is "cautiously optimistic" that current CBA talks might lead to a World Cup in February 2021, we've decided to predict what each team's roster could look like should the tournament take place.
We adopted the NHL's format for the 2016 World Cup. Canada, the United States, Sweden, Finland, Russia, and the Czech Republic all send teams, while Team North America (players aged 23-and-under from Canada and the U.S.) and Team Europe (players from other European countries) round out the field.
Teams are comprised of any combination of 20 skaters and three goalies. Any Canadian or American player under 24 years old on Feb. 1, 2021, is automatically assigned to Team North America. However, we've added our own caveat: If a player suited up for Team North America in 2016, he is eligible to represent Canada or the U.S. this time around, even if he's still under 24.
In this edition, we project Team USA's roster.
Head coach: Mike Sullivan
John Tortorella remains a strong coaching option for the Americans, but we'd like to see what Mike Sullivan could do with a younger core. Since the 2016 World Cup of Hockey, Sullivan has captured two Stanley Cups and has established himself as one of the more beloved coaches to play for in the league.
|Patrick Kane||Auston Matthews||Blake Wheeler|
|Johnny Gaudreau||Jack Eichel||Phil Kessel|
|Kyle Connor||Dylan Larkin||Cam Atkinson|
|Jake Guentzel||Vincent Trochek||T.J. Oshie|
Notable omissions: Joe Pavelski, Brandon Saad, Anders Lee, James Van Riemsdyk, Zach Parise, Kyle Palmieri
The top-six forward group is any coaches dream. You could mix and match those wingers with either center in Matthews or Eichel and expect tremendous results. The bottom six provides a ton of speed, skill, and scoring ability while adding a level of grit and tenacity. Tuch is a 6-foot-4 winger with blinding speed and should be ready to crack this lineup in a year-and-a-half from now.
As for the omissions, Pavelski isn't getting any younger. He's declined over each of the last four campaigns despite coming off an extremely fortunate 38-goal season when he recorded a shooting percentage of 20. Parise will also be that much further past his prime.
|Torey Krug||Seth Jones|
|Jaccob Slavin||John Carlson|
|Noah Hanifin||Jacob Trouba|
Notable omissions: Shayne Gostisbehere, Ryan McDonagh, Keith Yandle, Dustin Byfuglien, Brett Pesce, Jake Gardiner
This defense core was extremely difficult to decide on. The omitted players still have a strong case to make the team, but the young American talent that's come along on the blue line just can't be overlooked - and they're only going to get better. This unit offers a healthy balance of lefties and righties who are mobile both with and without the puck.
Leaving veterans like Yandle, McDonagh, and Byfuglien off the team was tough, but when the tournament deepens and the Americans find themselves up against other powerhouse nations, they'll need the speed and skill on the back end.
Suter is a rare exception. The 6-foot-2 blue-liner is an absolute horse and one of the best American defenseman of all time. Despite all the miles he's logged, he remains a force on the back end and would be a valuable veteran presence to have as an extra option.
Notable omissions: Jonathan Quick
Despite a down season for the Anaheim Ducks, Gibson shined between the pipes and further proved himself to be one of the most valuable goaltenders in the NHL. Bishop will still be on the right side of 30 come the tournament, and Hellebuyck has shown tremendous promise in Winnipeg early in his career.
Quick should still be considered but will need a bounce-back season to prove he's still able to perform at a high level entering the latter years of his career.
Others in this series:
- Sweden and Finland (Saturday)
- Russia and Czech Republic (Sunday)
- North America and Europe (Monday)
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