The 2016 World Cup of Hockey Starts in less than a week….and it may seem like a ‘Olympic decoy’ of some sort. With the uncertainty of NHL players being able to participate at the 2018 Winter Olympics this event is obviously supposed to fill some void for us hockey fans that crave International hockey tournaments. But instead of just watching the usual favorites such as Canada, USA, Sweden etc. play against each other for gold…this time there’s a unique team that can bring usual hockey foes Canada and America together. That team is the all 23 years old and younger team that is Team North America.
For years Canada has been a heavy powerhouse when it comes to developing star hockey players and America has recently had huge success as well. This resulted in creating a team for some of today’s most talented Canadian and American born hockey players. Mcdavid, Larkin, Eichel, Matthews, Gostisbehere, Drouin, and Nugent-Hopkins are all just a few examples of the AMAZING talent both countries have representing this team. Now they will be playing together side by side going for Gold at the World Cup. Here are a few questions to think about going into this tournament if you find yourself rooting for the ‘kids’ of our league:
What do they have that nobody else does?
- Lack of Success And a non lack of Success where it matters
I know that third one probably has you scratching your head. I’ll get to it don’t worry! But lets start with youth. Lets face it….the other teams are obviously competitive. They’ll be fast…but theres a difference between being old and fast and young and fast. This team only has players 23 years old and younger on it. Speed, quickness, the ability to steal the puck and rush it up the ice is something in these guys favor. The best athletes in hockey are only as good as their leg strength. It’s why guys eventually retire from the game they love and these young guns are not hanging the skates up anytime soon.
“He’s just a kid….let him have some fun!”. Now that’s something that surely applies to Team North America. All of these players are in the earliest stage of their professional hockey playing careers. They don’t have to take everything so serious all the time in this game. Kids have the right and privilege to be kids even in a tournament as important as this one. It’s not their job to be the “leaders’ or the ‘favorites’. Their only job right now is to go out there and do what they already do night in and night out…play hockey and have an amazing time while doing so. (AND Lets hope we see some fun goal celebrations while we are at it…just don’t tell Don Cherry).
Okay now for that last tricky one. That lack of success i was referring too? It’s simple actually. While it’s true McDavid and RNH are helping their NHL affiliate the Edmonton Oilers rebuild, it’s also true during their year(s) of playing for their club they haven’t really won anything…including a Stanley Cup. It’s not just these two players by the way. In the NHL most of these kids haven’t won anything except the love of the fans. Larkin (DET), Drouin (TB), Ekblad (Florida) and Parayko (STL) all came up short with their teams during the 2016 playoffs. Calgary Flames star Johnny Gaudreau, Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Seth Jones and Colorado Avalanche forward Nathan Mackinnon are also among the players on this roster that haven’t had a huge taste of a success while with their teams. Maybe these young kids will think of their lack of NHL teams success lately and use that to fuel their fire and feed off that energy to win this tourney. On the flip side, guys like Brandon Saad (CBJ) has won two stanley cups with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2013 and 2015. But the biggest stanley cup winner this team has is 2016 Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Matt Murray, which is a huge advantage to have if you want to compete against the best players on earth.
What could go wrong?
Since this team is full of young talented up and coming hockey players, their biggest challenge will be their lack of experience. Other teams have been on the Olympic stage before. These guys haven’t. Most have had international experience however in the world junior championships. Many also have respectively played for their minor leagues whether it’s the OHL or College hockey. However this team surely will have some obstacles when it comes to veteran leadership since none of them really have that. I would think this is a chance for guys like Brandon Saad and maybe Sean Couturier as well to step up to the plate since they’re a couple of the ‘older guys’ of the group.
Overall, whether they win or lose…at least we as hockey fans can have a blast watching the future of Canada and USA hockey play side by side together. Sure they’re just a group of kids, but they’re the best kids in the league today and for years to come. If a hockey team full of kids can beat a professional team in the 1980 Olympics…..why can’t a group of kids who happen to be professional hockey players do the same today? They can and we will find out if they can hang with the best of them once the World Cup of Hockey starts.
Sean Couturier, Philadelphia Flyers; Jonathan Drouin, Tampa Bay Lightning; Jack Eichel, Buffalo Sabres; Johnny Gaudreau, Calgary Flames; Dylan Larkin, Detroit Red Wings; Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche; Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs; Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers; J.T Miller, New York Rangers; Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Edmonton Oilers; Vincent Trocheck, Florida Panthers; Brandon Saad, Columbus Blue Jackets; Mark Scheifele, Winnipeg Jets
Aaron Ekblad, Florida Panthers; Shayne Gostisbehere, Philadelphia Flyers; Seth Jones, Columbus Blue Jackets; Ryan Murray, Columbus Blue Jackets; Colton Parayko, St. Louis Blues; Morgan Reilly, Toronto Maple Leafs; Jacob Trouba, Winnipeg Jets
John Gibson, Anaheim Ducks; Connor Hellebuyck, Winnipeg Jets; Matt Murray, Pittsburgh Penguins