Sunday, May 29, 2016

2016 World Cup of Hockey Pool

This week, we saw the announcement for the final rosters for the World Cup of Hockey, which will take place in September, which will give a selection of the world's best players a chance to get up to game speed with a short tournament, featuring six individual countries, a continental mish-mash and the future of North American hockey players.

By no means, should this tournament be considered as a measuring stick of international hockey, but it will give us all an extra glimpse at our favourite players, in an exhibition tournament, where just about anything can happen.  Oh yeah, don't forget the money.  The NHL and NHLPA, the organizers of this tournament, are set to make a killing on this one.

So, if they're set to make a killing at this, why can't we, right?  At some point during the Summer, for those aching to get a little bit more hockey into their lives, I will put together a hockey pool, to which I am thinking an absolute free-for-all pool.

I am not expecting many of my poolies to be too interested in this sort of thing, but I do reckon that there are going to be a few.  With only eight teams of 23 players, 184 players in total, I am thinking of putting together a draft, likely taking all the players that are available, in a no holds barred, no position limit, depending on the number of people who decide to jump on.

If there is one great thing about this tournament, as we head into the Summer, we will get to see some good talent, before they hit the ice in the NHL, some of which will likely be picked out in this post, as we see the teams below.  There were some new signings from Europe already and let's not forget about the two draft eligible kids, they'll get good looks too.

Forwards P-16 Defense P-16 Goalies P-16
Jamie Benn 89 Brent Burns 75 Braden Holtby 103
Sidney Crosby 85 Shea Weber 51 Corey Crawford 85
Joe Thornton 82 Drew Doughty 51 Carey Price 24
Tyler Seguin 73 Duncan Keith 43
John Tavares 70 Jake Muzzin 40
Patrice Bergeron 68 Marc-Edouard Vlasic 39
Claude Giroux 67 Alex Pietrangelo 37
Steven Stamkos 64
Ryan Getzlaf 63
Jeff Carter 62
Brad Marchand 61
Matt Duchene 59
Jonathan Toews 58

We'll kick off with Canada and of course, there are going to be plenty of names that one could argue, should be there, but isn't.  I'm not terribly interested in those arguments, because this tournament means nothing to my pride as a Canadian, since this team will be playing against other Canadians on the Under-23 North American team.

This is a straight-forward team, built to win this tournament and that doesn't necessarily mean throwing all the big guns onto the sheet and calling it a team.  No, the inclusion of a Muzzin or Vlasic to the back end, means that there are going to be some role players, who won't necessarily have to eat a bunch of minutes and play along as good soldiers.

Forwards P-16 Defense P-16 Goalies P-16
Patrick Kane 106 Dustin Byfuglien 53 Jonathan Quick 93
Joe Pavelski 78 Ryan Suter 51 Ben Bishop 83
Blake Wheeler 78 John Carlson 39 Cory Schneider 62
Max Pacioretty 64 Ryan McDonagh 34
Zach Parise 53 Matt Niskanen 32
Derek Stepan 53 Erik Johnson 27
Ryan Kesler 53 Jack Johnson 14
T.J. Oshie 51
Brandon Dubinsky 48
David Backes 45
Justin Abdelkader 42
James Van Riemsdyk 29
Ryan Callahan 28

The Americans are aiming to be an exceptionally tough team to play against, when you stop to consider a lot of the size they have chosen, somewhat over a lot of the skill that they boast at an international level.  This side will boast quite a bit of speed and grit, two things that their brain trust believes will be an asset on the North American ice.

There are certainly some curious names on this list, especially at the bottom end of the forwards and defense, but a tweet I had seen on Saturday morning was suggesting that the Americans wanted to be a 'heavier' team, which they certainly get in Abdelkader, Callahan and the Johnson boys.  If there are holes among the skaters, they certainly have the goalies to back them up.

Forwards P-16 Defense P-16 Goalies P-16
Johnny Gaudreau 78 Shayne Gostisbehere 46 John Gibson 51
Sean Monahan 63 Aaron Ekblad 36 Connor Hellebuyck 30
Mark Scheifele 61 Morgan Rielly 36 Matt Murray 20
Jack Eichel 56 Colton Parayko 33
Brandon Saad 53 Seth Jones 31
Nathan MacKinnon 52 Ryan Murray 25
Connor McDavid 48 Jacob Trouba 21
Dylan Larkin 45
J.T. Miller 43
Sean Couturier 39
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins 34
Jonathan Drouin 10
Auston Matthews 0

Is there anyone who is not excited to see what this Under-23 team can do?

The future of the NHL is summed up in 23 players, give or take some talent that wasn't included, but this group is going to be exciting to watch.  There are 15 1st round picks on this roster today, including four 1st overall picks, and that doesn't include Matthews, who will certainly be in one or both of those categories by the end of June.

This tournament will undoubtedly tell you where Matthews should be picked in this year's hockey pool draft, especially given that he will be playing against some of the league's best players and there is an expectation that he will shine.  This tournament will certainly help a few players improve their draft position as well, so it will be the one to watch.

Forwards P-16 Defense P-16 Goalies P-16
Artemi Panarin 77 Andrei Markov 44 Semyon Varlamov 58
Evgeny Kuznetsov 77 Dmitry Orlov 29 Sergei Bobrovsky 34
Vladimir Tarasenko 74 Dmitry Kulikov 17 Andrei Vasilevskiy 24
Alex Ovechkin 71 Alexei Emelin 12
Nikita Kucherov 66 Alexey Marchenko 11
Evgeni Malkin 58 Vyacheslav Voynov 0
Pavel Datsyuk 49 Nikita Zaitsev 0
Artem Anisimov 42
Vladislav Namestnikov 35
Nikolay Kulemin 22
Evgeny Dadonov 0
Vadim Shipachev 0
Ivan Telegin 0

Definitely, one of the more intriguing teams other than the young stars will be the Russians, who are bringing a few from the KHL.  First and foremost, this is an NHL tournament, which likely means that they will have to replace Vyacheslav Voynov from their side, since he isn't quite welcome, due to his legal issues and it could even draw more into immigration at the Canadian border as well.

Still, between Dadonov, Shipachev, Telegin and Zaitsev, there are a number of wild cards on this Russian team that some of us won't necessarily be too familiar with.  Nikita Zaitsev is already signed on with the Maple Leafs for next season, so he will definitely be one to watch.

From their NHL talent, the Russians are looking fairly stacked up front, reasonable in goal, but their defense leaves something to be desired.

Forwards P-16 Defense P-16 Goalies P-16
Jussi Jokinen 60 Rasmus Ristolainen 41 Pekka Rinne 78
Aleksander Barkov 59 Sami Vatanen 38 Tuukka Rask 71
Mikko Koivu 56 Olli Maatta 19 Mikko Koskinen 0
Mikael Granlund 44 Jyrki Jokipakka 12
Joonas Donskoi 36 Sami Lepisto 0
Leo Komarov 36 Esa Lindell 0
Teuvo Teravainen 35 Ville Pokka 0
Erik Haula 34
Jori Lehtera 34
Valtteri Filppula 31
Lauri Korpikoski 22
Sebastian Aho 0
Patrick Laine 0

The Finnish hockey program has been on one hell of a run over the last year or two, taking all kinds of international hockey titles at various levels and they'll be out to impress at this exhibition, no doubt.

On the surface, it's an interesting mix of talent on this roster, which includes some NHL-ready talent and the projected 2nd overall pick in this year's draft, Patrick Laine.  We shouldn't be overlooking a kid like Sebastian Aho or Ville Pokka and if it came down to it, their World Championship number one goalie, Mikko Koskinen.

This roster may not be out to win many track meets, but the Finns have done a great job in assembling teams that compete hard and have that element of an offensive upside that scores those clutch goals in tight games.  Don't be too quick to count them out, if they don't meet the first impression test.

Forwards P-16 Defense P-16 Goalies P-16
Nicklas Backstrom 70 Erik Karlsson 82 Henrik Lundqvist 82
Filip Forsberg 64 Oliver Ekman-Larsson 55 Jacob Markstrom 28
Loui Eriksson 63 Victor Hedman 47 Robin Lehner 13
Daniel Sedin 61 Mattias Ekholm 35
Henrik Sedin 55 Anton Stralman 34
Gabriel Landeskog 53 Niklas Kronwall 26
Alexander Steen 52 Niklas Hjalmarsson 24
Patric Hornqvist 51
Carl Soderberg 51
Henrik Zetterberg 50
Jakob Silfverberg 39
Carl Hagelin 39
Marcus Kruger 4

There are plenty of reasons to like the Swedish program in this exhibition tournament and a lot of that has to do with their defensemen.  Karlsson, Ekman-Larsson and Hedman and three of the best defensemen in the game right now and they are going to help form a very balanced attack through this country's lineup.

In the forward position, the Swedes are very strong in their two-way game and plenty of talent to get the job done offensively, so goal production shouldn't be much of an issue for this side, and then their goaltending does stand out, as they have three keepers that belong to underachieving teams, which don't highlight how good they are or can be.

You would certainly be wise to keep a close eye on the Swedes, when you're building your team in the pool.

Forwards P-16 Defense P-16 Goalies P-16
David Krejci 63 Andrej Sustr 21 Petr Mrazek 64
Jakub Voracek 55 Roman Polak 16 Michal Neuvirth 43
Tomas Plekanec 54 Radko Gudas 14 Ondrej Pavelec 28
Tomas Hertl 46 Zbynek Michalek 7
Martin Hanzal 41 Jakub Nakladal 5
Ondrej Palat 40 Michal Jordan 1
Ales Hemsky 39 Michal Kempny 0
Michael Frolik 32
David Pastrnak 26
Milan Michalek 16
Dmitrij Jaskin 13
Radek Faksa 12
Vladimir Sobotka 0

The Czechs are certainly a diverse bunch, which won't have the likes of Jaromir Jagr, who is getting a little too old for all of these extra competitions.  There were some curious selections on this team, but when you look at the Czech participation in the NHL these days, it isn't quite what it used to be and this team's management hands were somewhat tied.

Nevertheless, us poolies will get to have another look at forward Vladimir Sobotka, who is possibly going to come back to the NHL with the Blues next season, honouring his salary arbitration deal to play and the Blackhawks had recently signed defenseman Michal Kempny, so we'll get a look at him before the real hockey pool draft happens.

Goaltending is going to be a tipping point for the Czechs, since they have three goalies that can eat a lot of minutes, but they haven't reached that elite status in the league yet.  A good tournament in September would go a long way to helping their own status.

Forwards P-16 Defense P-16 Goalies P-16
Anze Kopitar 74 Roman Josi 61 Frederik Andersen 51
Mats Zuccarello 61 Zdeno Chara 37 Thomas Greiss 49
Frans Nielsen 52 Andrej Sekera 30 Jaroslav Halak 43
Leon Draisaitl 51 Mark Streit 23
Mikkel Boedker 51 Christian Ehrhoff 12
Tomas Tatar 45 Dennis Seidenberg 12
Nino Niederreiter 43 Luca Sbisa 8
Thomas Vanek 41
Jannik Hansen 38
Tobias Rieder 37
Marian Hossa 33
Marian Gaborik 22
Pierre-Edouard Bellemare 14

Finally, we have that mish-mash of every other country in Europe, thrown together to be some kind of All-Star squad from tier B nations.  There is a fair amount of top end talent on this roster, but the most interesting part about this is they won't have played in an international tournament together, unless those players are from the same country, so there could be a real period of adjustment going on here, before this team really gets to show off what its capable of.

There isn't anyone that we haven't seen in the NHL on this roster today, as they were able to fill this out rather easily with bodies that are active in the league.  Slovakia, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland are the countries that lead the way, in terms of participation, which is a great sign for international hockey, in actual international tournaments.  These programs are really coming along and the game is truly growing.
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