2016 World Cup Of Hockey: Previewing The Rest Of The Field After Team USA

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World Cup Of Hockey

The 2016 Preliminary World Cup Of Hockey rosters were announced on Wednesday. Here are the teams and a breakdown of what to expect from each come tournament time in September. 

Click here to read Starpulse’s preview on Team USA.

Team Canada

Forward

Jamie Benn (DAL), Patrice Bergeron (BOS), Jeff Carter (LA), Sidney Crosby (PIT), Ryan Getzlaf (ANA), Tyler Seguin (DAL) Steven Stamkos (TB), John Tavares (NYI), Jonathan Toews (CHI)

Defense

Drew Doughty (LA), Duncan Keith (CHI), Marc-Edouard Vlasic (SJ), Shea Weber (NSH)

Goaltending

Corey Crawford (CHI), Braden Holtby (WAS), Carey Price (MON)

Like every international tournament, Team Canada is again the cream of the crop. The two-time defending Olympic gold medalists are solid on all fronts, especially at goaltender with the two leading Vezina Trophy candidates in 2015-2016: Corey Crawford and Braden Holtby. This Canadian team is so loaded at goaltender that 2014-2015 Vezina winner, Carey Price, could actually be the third-stringer during the tournament (especially after coming back from a season-ending lower body injury). 

Canada’s defense is stacked as well with Doughty, Keith, and Weber. Kind of a surprise that Vlasic made it over P.K. Subban but it never hurts to have a stay at home defenseman like Vlasic to balance out your roster. Subban will in all likelihood be on Canada’s roster when the 23-man squad is announced in June. 

At forward, Canada is stacked: Crosby, Stamkos, Benn, Seguin, Toews, Getzlaf. No matter who their opponent has on defense, this group is capable of scoring upwards of 3, 4, or 5 goals a game in this tournament. It’ll be interesting to see who fits in where in terms of line combination. Benn and Seguin will likely be playing side by side, but with such a large group of elite players like this, it really does not matter who is with who as goals are going to get scored at ease. Good luck to the rest of the field against Canada.

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Team North America-U23

Forward

Sean Couturier (PHI), Jack Eichel (BUF), Johnny Gaudreau (CGY), Dylan Larkin (DET), Nathan MacKinnon (COL), Connor McDavid (EDM), J.T. Miller (NYR), Sean Monahan (CGY), Brandon Saad (CBJ)

Defense

Aaron Ekblad (FLA), Seth Jones (CBJ), Ryan Murray (CBJ), Morgan Rielly (TOR)

Goaltending

John Gibson (ANA), Connor Hellebuyck (WIN), Matthew Murray (PIT)

It’s good that the fans will get to see the game’s future lace up the skates and get their shot during the World Cup Of Hockey next fall. Obviously, this is a very fast and skilled team at forward with the likes of Jack Eichel, Connor McDavid, Johnny Gaudreau (AKA “Johnny Hockey”), Nate MacKinnon, and Dylan Larkin. 

On defense, Aaron Eckblad has formed into not only one of the NHL’s top young players, but he could very well be on his way to becoming one of the league’s top two-way defensemen. Other than Eckblad, none of the other three U23 defensemen are all that appealing. Solid players for sure, but they will not be able to contain the high-powered offenses of Canada, Sweden, USA, and Russia. 

The biggest issue with the U23 team is at goaltender. Yes, John Gibson was a 2016 NHL All-Star. However, if something were to happen to Gibson injury-wise, this team would be forced to rely on either Connor Hellebuyck (just recently sent to the minors), or Matthew Murray (backup behind Marc-Andre Fleury in Pittsburgh). As everybody knows, in order to win hockey games you need to have good goaltending. Gibson, who is 16-8-2 in 2015-2016 with Anaheim, should be able to supply that. But there really is not much solid goaltending on this roster and it could come back to haunt the North American U23’s in this tournament. 

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Team Sweden 

Forward

Nicklas Backstrom (WAS), Loui Eriksson (BOS), Filip Forsberg (NSH), Gabriel Landeskog (COL), Daniel Sedin (VAN), Henrik Sedin (VAN), Alexander Steen (STL), Henrik Zetterberg (DET)

Defense

Oliver Ekman-Larsson (ARZ), Victor Hedman (TB), Niklas Hjalmarsson (CHI), Erik Karlsson (OTT), Niklas Kronwall (DET), Anton Stralman (TB)

Goaltending

Henrik Lundqvist, (NYR), Jacob Markstrom (VAN)

Like they were in the 2014 Sochi Olympics, the Swedes are again very deep on defense, and it is clearly the strong point of their roster. Along with the established and elite NHL defensemen Erik Karlsson and Niklas Kronwall, Team Sweden decided to add two d-men who have really started to blossom in the last two NHL seasons in Victor Hedman and Oliver Ekman-Larsson. 

At forward, it appears that the Swedes will rely heavily on experience and skill rather than youth and speed. Five of the eight Swedish forwards on the preliminary roster are at least 30 years of age. All of the Swedish forwards are well-deserving of their place on this roster, but the lack of speed could be an issue once Sweden starts playing the Canadians and Russians in the medal rounds, who’s rosters are filled with young and speedy players.

At some point, the Swedes will likely add Robin Lehner to the roster to be King Henrik’s backup as he is playing exceptional for Buffalo right now. Jacob Markstrom is not a bad goaltender, but his lack of NHL experience is worrisome. Neither Lehner or Markstrom will likely be seeing much ice time with Lundqvist being the clear No. 1 Swedish goaltender, but it never hurts to add depth in net. 

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Team Czech Republic

Forward

Michael Frolik (CAL), Martin Hanzal (ARZ), Tomas Hertl (SJ), David Krejci (BOS), Ondrej Palat (TB), David Pastrnak (BOS), Tomas Plekanec (MON), Vladimir Sobotka (KHL), Jakub Voracek (PHI)

Defense

Radko Gudas (PHI), Michal Kempny (KHL), Roman Polak (SJ), Andrej Sustr (TB)

Goaltending

It’s weaknesses and lack of depth all over the board for Team Czech Republic. Their top forward line of Voracek, Krejci, and Pastrnak is going to have to put this team on their backs as there really are not any premiere scorers on this roster other than those three. It’s also worth noting that Vladimir Sobotka, who hasn’t played in the NHL since 2014, made the Czech roster. Which just goes to show how limited the options were at forward for the Czechs. 

On defense, it is not any better for the Czechs as their top defenseman is Radko Gudas (currently on third defensive pairing in Philadelphia). The lack of an elite defenseman will almost certainly doom the Czechs in the preliminary round of the tournament unless their goaltenders can steal the show. 

In net, the Czechs do have a small glimmer of hope in a pair of young and upcoming netminders, Petr Mrazek, and Michal Neuvirth. Both Mrazek and Neuvirth have taken over the starting jobs for their respective NHL teams in 2015-2016 and for the most part have played extremely well. Neither is quite on the same level as Jonathan Quick, Braden Holtby, or Henrik Lundqvist, but both would be reliable options for the Czechs to turn to in this tournament. Nevertheless, Neuvirth and Mrazek are going to have to play the best hockey of their lives just for the Czechs to make it out of the preliminary round. 

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Team Russia

Forward

Artem Anisimov (CHI), Pavel Datsyuk (DET), Nikita Kucherov (TB), Nikolay Kulemin, (NYI), Evgeny Kuznetsov (WAS), Evgeni Malkin (PIT), Vladislav Namestnikov (TB), Alex Ovechkin (WAS), Artemi Panarin (CHI), Vladimir Tarasenko (STL)

Defense

Dmitry Kulikov (FLA), Andrei Markov (MON), Dmitry Orlov (WAS)

Goaltending

Sergei Bobrovsky (CBJ), Semyon Varlamov (COL), Andrei Vasilevskiy (TB)

Similarly to the Canadians, the Russian forward core is built to perfection with its speed, toughness, and chemistry. Ovechkin and Kuznetsov will likely be on the first line with Malkin as Artem Anisimov will likely center the second line alongside NHL-linemate and likely 2015-2016 Calder Trophy-winner Artemi Panarin, and Vladimir Tarasenko. The speed and skill the Russians have at forward make up for any voids they have in other areas of their roster.

On defense, the Russians only announced three stay at home defensemen on their preliminary roster in Orlov, Markov, and Kulikov. It will be interesting to see who fills out the final three starting defensive spots on the Russian roster, but right now it seems like Team Russia is very depleted on defense. This team could be in some serious trouble on the blue line if these are the top three d-men the Russians have (assuming they announced their best three on the preliminary roster). A lack of defensive depth in this tournament for any team, no matter who is manning the pipes, could prove fatal. 

In net, the Russians certainly have their options with Semyon Varlamov and Sergei Bobrovsky as both have developed into stellar franchise goaltenders for the Colorado Avalanche and Columbus Blue Jackets. Andre Vasilevski is still well behind Ben Bishop in Tampa, but it never hurts to have depth at goaltender. Both Varlamov and Bobrovsky should see time in this tournament, but maybe more for Bobrovsky due to him being the reigning Russian National Team starter. 

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Team Europe

Forward

Mikkel Boedker (COL, Denmark), Leon Draisaitl (EDM, Germany), Jannik Hansen (VAN, Denmark), Marian Hossa (CHI, Slovakia), Anze Kopitar (LA, Slovenia), Frans Nielsen (NYI, Denmark), Tomas Tatar (DET, Slovakia), Thomas Vanek (MIN, Austria), Mats Zuccarello (NYR, Norway)

Defense

Zdeno Chara (BOS, Slovakia), Roman Josi, (NSH, Switzerland), Dennis Seidenberg (BOS, Germany), Andrej Sekera (EDM, Slovakia), Mark Streit (EDM, Switzerland)

Goaltending

Frederik Andersen (ANA, Denmark), Jaroslav Halak (NYI, Slovakia)

From first glance, Team Europe appears to be very fast at forward, and very slow on defense. The youngest defenseman on Team Europe is Roman Josi (25) and the average age of the remaining European defenseman on this roster is 34. With Chara, Seidenberg, (both with a history of knee issues) and Streit heading towards the end of their careers, the Europeans could be in for some major challenges against the fast, young, and tough forwards from the likes of Russia, USA, and Canada. 

Anze Kopitar is clearly the most skilled forward on this roster, and unlike his appearance in the 2014 Sochi Olympics with Slovenia, he will actually be given a supporting cast of real NHL talent. Team Europe will score its fair share of goals, but its offense is clearly a step behind the majority of the teams in the tournament. 

In net, the Europeans have Frederick Anderson and Jaroslav Halak, who have both had their moments of ups and downs in the NHL in 2015-2016. Anderson has been overshadowed by the play of John Gibson in Anaheim while Halak seems to be on his way to completely winning back the starting job in Brooklyn from Thomas Greiss. It will be interesting to see which of these two gets the call in Toronto in September, but right now both would need to play out of their minds just to get the Europeans out of the preliminaries. 

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Team Finland

Forward

Mikko Koivu (MIN), Jori Lehtera (STL), Aleksander Barkov (FLA), Mikael Granlund (MIN), Jussi Jokinen (FLA), Valtteri Filppula (TB), Leo Komarov (TOR), Joonas Donskoi (SJ), Lauri Korpikoski (EDM), Teuvo Teravainen (CHI)

Defense

Olli Maatta (PIT), Rasmus Ristolainen (BUF), Sami Vatanen (ANA), Esa Lindell (DAL)

Goaltending

Tuukka Rask (BOS), Pekka Rinne (NSH)

Clearly the biggest strength of the Finnish Roster for this tournament is at goaltender with Tuukka Rask and Pekka Rinne, who are arguably two of the top-five goaltenders in the world. No matter who it is starting between the pipes for the Fins, this team is going to have a solid last line of defense in net and will always have a chance to win. 

At forward, the Fins are relatively young with Lehtera, Teravainen, Granlund, and Donskoi. However, the experience from players such as Mikko Koivu and Jussi Jokinen should give this club some solid leadership. The Fins may not have the most complete set of forwards but they certainly have one of the fastest and most dynamic in this tournament. 

The weak area of this Finland team is on defense. This group of Vatanen, Ristolainen and Maatta is very skilled in the offensive zone, but none of these three are known for their exceptional play in their own end. This team’s lack of a one-way defensive defenseman could come back to bite them when they face an offense such as Russia’s or Canada’s and they need to go into the corners and win puck battles against the best forwards on the planet. 

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