I love the idea of having a team comprised of U-23s to compete against the older players. Putting together the greatest emerging hockey players in North America is so appealing to me and I imagine to countless others because I’m a huge fan of the younger players in the NHL these days. They bring so much creativity and athleticism to the game that has been lacking for some time.
I seen that TSN’s Craig Button has taken a stab at Team North America’s roster for the upcoming World Cup in 2016. If you’d like to check that out it is here.
I’d like to throw my projections out there too! So here goes nothing!
This was the hardest to pick and most likely will be the team’s achilles heel due to a lack of experience and the fact that there are no Carey Prices out there right now. The closest thing we have to a sure bet between the pipes is probably playing in Lethbridge right now for the Hurricanes. A guy named Stuart Skinner.
Anyways, I went with the following trio: John Gibson (ANH), Connor Hellebuyck (WPG), and Laurent Brossoit (EDM).
I tossed around the idea of adding Malcolm Subban (BOS), Matt Murray/Tristan Jarry (PIT), and there’s also Thatcher Demko (VAN) to consider but I felt in the end that what little performances I’ve witnessed at the NHL level were what I had to go on and reputation of course.
Gibson and Hellebucyk are locks leaving Brossoit as the third man in. Its probably a bit of a homer pick because I’m exposed to him more than the other players and I’m well aware of what Matt Murray did in Wilkes-Barre this past season and it was hard not to pick him but where’s the fun in copying Button’s team player for player? Brossoit is a stellar netminder and we seen a flash of that last season when he stonewalled the San Jose Sharks stopping 52 shots in a loss. That’s a hell of a lot better than Subban’s introduction to the pros…
On defence I’ve got Aaron Ekblad (FLA), Darnell Nurse (EDM), Seth Jones (NSH), Doug Hamilton (CGY), Morgan Reilly (TOR), and Jacob Trouba (WPG) as the starting 6 with Noah Hanifin (CAR) and Cody Ceci (OTT) on the taxi squad.
Pairing these guys up was a bit of a chore but I like them as such:
With these pairings we’ve got skill, we’ve got meat and potatoes, and we’ve got down guys who’ll lay the smack down on some candy asses. These are the new era of defencemen. The blueliner that can skate and think the game like a forward but are big and strong enough to handle to toughest assignments. They move the puck well and are or will be top pairing defenders on their respective NHL clubs.
I struggled with Darnell Nurse being on this squad. He hasn’t played even a half season of professional hockey to date but he’s teeming with talent and in my opinion has a ceiling that would match the other 4 players above him. Remember the WWF tag team “Demolition” or “The Road Warriors”? That’s what I think about when I think about a Nurse/Trouba pairing… They’ve got an… Appetite for Destruction.
As it always is with these teams, there are far too many talented forwards and some notable names will be left off. Here are my forwards for Team North America:
Connor McDavid, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (EDM), Sean Monahan, Sam Bennett, Johnny Gaudreau (CGY), Brandon Saad, Boone Jenner (CLB), Mark Scheifele (WPG), Nathan MacKinnon (COL), Jack Eichel (BUF), Curtis Lazar (OTT), and Auston Matthews (USA).
On the taxi squad I’ve got Jonathan Huberdeau (FLA), Sean Couturier (PHI), and Alex Galchenyuk (MTL).
I like the bigger forwards to go on the smaller ice surface and the NHL officiating. Also a number of the players are actually natural centers giving the team more options on the faceoff dot when going up against some of the best in the game.
I really couldn’t see Sam Reinhart on the team. I think he’ll play in the NHL this year but he’s a couple years from becoming what everyone is expecting of him. The Strome brothers were on my mind as well and surprisingly it was Dylan who I was considering more than Ryan. I rate the younger Strome’s size and faceoff ability over the elder. Mitch Marner was also bugging me a bit. I think he’s going to be an amazing hockey player for Canada/North America someday but not at this World Cup. There was Jonathan Drouin but he’s got a ways to go before any GMs give him a look at an international roster spot. Bo Horvat and Warren Rychel were also on my short list. Did I miss anyone?
Oh and you’re probably wondering about Auston Matthews. Look, this guy was only a few days from being drafted this year and the pundits had him giving Eichel and McDavid a run for no.1. That tells us something. It tells us he’s ready to go now and by the time next summer roles round and he’s got a year of professional hockey under his belt, that he’ll fit right in with the rest of these guys.
I’ve re-written the lines over and over and it’s been hard to come to a conclusion but I’ll let you in on my final lineup.
Saad – Nugent-Hopkins – MacKinnon
Gaudreau – Monahan – Matthews
Bennett – McDavid – Scheifele
Jenner – Eichel – Lazar
I reckon the offense is pretty spread out here and as I said earlier there are multiple centers on each line. I tried to include a two-way player and a bigger body on each line. Slotting Matthews above McDavid and Eichel is probably something I’d consider changing. Perhaps swapping him with Bennett or Jenner. I don’t want to take him out because I think he’s that good. A pure sniper in every sense of the word. Maybe the American Stamkos would be a good way to describe him.
I don’t know if this squad could come out of the group stages but I can see them giving the other teams in Group B (Finland, Sweden, and Russia) a helluva time and if there’s one team that could surprise anyone, it’d be this band of rowdies.
I’m thinking the ones that are actually used will be better and possibly influenced by a major sponsor of the tournament. Think back to the All-Star game last year which was sponsored by Draft Kings… The color scheme of the sponsor’s website and the jerseys looked awfully similar…
If you’re heading out to the World Cup of Hockey in Toronto next summer you should do it in style. The Beer League Heroes Merch Shop has all your favorite players in 16-bit and on a t-shirt. But not only that, they come in a plethora of color and sizes! Men’s, women’s, and kid’s styles are all available!
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Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed the piece. Let me know in the comments section who you’d put on your U23 Team North America!