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.
|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|
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.
|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|
|James Van Riemsdyk||29|
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.
|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|
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.
|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|
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.
|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|
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.
|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|
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.
|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|
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.
|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|
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.