There will be plenty of water cooler debate this week as the eight teams in the World Cup of Hockey will announce their final seven roster spots on Friday.
Four Oilers are already on teams. Connor McDavid will play for North America (U24), Andrej Sekera and Leon Draisaitl are on Team Europe, while Lauri Korpikoski will skate for Finland.
Will Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins be on team Canada and North America?
RNH seemed like a lock to make the team when the format was announced, but the surprising addition of JT Miller to the team, and the play of Auston Matthews, Alex Galchenyuk, Mark Scheifele, Boone Jenner, Robby Fabbri, and Jonathan Drouin means RNH is far from a lock to make the final roster.
RNH does have experience on his side. He and Sean Couturier (already on the roster) are the only forwards who’ve played 300+ NHL games. GM Peter Chiarelli and his staff discussed the need for some experience so that bodes well for Nugent-Hopkins.
Centres McDavid, Jack Eichel, Sean Monahan and Sean Couturier have already been named to the team. Schiefele also plays centre, and he shoots right, which will help him because this group has very few right shots. Schiefele will likely play RW. I could see Chiarelli adding RNH to play third line centre and move Eichel to the wing. I don’t think he wants two rookies as his top-two centres. Monahan has had two excellent years and I suspect he will play on a line with his Calgary Flames teammate, Johnny Gaudreau
Matthews isn’t officially a member of NHLPA, but after watching him at the World Championships it is obvious he’ll play for the Toronto Maple Leafs next season after they draft him first overall on June 24th.
McDavid, Jack Eichel, Dylan Larkin and Fabbri were all NHL rookies this past season. Will Chiarelli want five rookie forwards on his 13-man roster? We will find out Friday.
When the NHL announced the tournament last September, most pundits had RNH on the team. It would be quite the surprise if he didn’t make the final roster, but today it looks like a realistic possibility due the play of his competitors.
I wrote an article about Taylor Hall that will come out later today on the Edmonton Journal website. I’ll just say I would have him on team Canada, especially after watching how Bill Peters used him at the World Championships. But Hall, like RNH, is in a really tough battle to make the final roster.
Peters’ trust in him, and Hall’s ability to score at EV have him on my roster. Over the past four seasons only Sidney Crosby (2.71 points/60) and Jamie Benn (2.54) have been more productive than Hall (2.49 pts/60) in the entire NHL. Canada has some excellent PP players, but few produce like Hall at EV and in a tournament like this where penalties are rare, EV scoring matters even more.
- Canada’s blueline depth on the right side is very deep with Shea Weber and Drew Doughty already on the team. I see P.K Subban and Kris Letang losing out to Alex Pietrangelo and Brent Burns. The latter two have been excellent in the playoffs.
- The battle for the one spot on the left side of the defence is wide open. Jay Bouwmeester plays with Pietrangelo and they were paired together at the Olympics. He’s in a battle with TJ Brodie, Mark Giordano, Jake Muzzin and possibly Karl Alzner. Mike Babcock has stated they like the left-right combos, but will they surprise everyone and fill the three remaining spots with three righties? I doubt it, but I could understand if they elected to go that route.
- My four forward spots include Corey Perry, Matt Duchene, Hall and my sentimental pick, Joe Thornton.
- North America needs to add three D-men as well. Aaron Ekblad, Morgan Reilly, Seth Jones and Ryan Murray were announced in March. Colton Parayko is lock in my eyes. He’s been incredible for the Blues. Shayne Gostisbehere likely played his way on the team and I’ll go with Dougie Hamilton as well.
- Had Oscar Klefbom been healthy all season, I think he’d have been in the mix to play for Sweden, but his freak staph infection will keep him off the final roster.
- I thought Mike Sullivan’s decision to go with Marc-Andre Fleury in game five was odd. Fleury hadn’t played in months and it showed. Now he goes back to Murray needing him to win two elimination games.
- Jake Allen really struggled last night for the Blues. The first goal was terrible. He was decent in game four, but the Blues had a 2-0 lead ten minutes in and led 4-0 midway through the second period. Last night, he looked shaky from the start. Ken Hitchcock has a tough decision in game six. I’d go back to Brian Elliott, who helped them win the first two rounds. Coaches would never bench one of their top forwards or D-men, so I find it odd how often we see them switch goalies. Elliott and Murray had been no more inconsistent than some of the Blues and Penguins better players.
- For pure entertainment, I’d argue the NBA playoffs have been more exciting than the NHL this year. I’ve watched more NBA playoffs than the NHL. What about you?
- I’m not a music expert. I like all different kinds of music. I would buy cassettes and CDs that featured multiple artists, moreso than individual bands, but I did purchase one Tragically Hip cassette. I saw them live twice. Once in a small venue in Red Deer in 1991, and again at Northlands Coliseum a few years later. I don’t recall many other concerts from 20 years ago, but I have vivid memories of both of those nights. Many of my hockey teammates were much bigger fans, and they used to play the Hip regularly in the dressing room. My friends knew the lyrics to every song. I didn’t, but I appreciated their music and they were always around many of my best memories from the early 1990s.
Gord Downie has a great voice. Their songs resonated with Canadians. Their lyrics were about our great country and they surrounded them with outstanding riffs and a wide array of beats that made their songs sound different. Their music reminds me of junior hockey and great times with my friends. For me, they are one of the few bands who evoke memories of past friendships, and it was sad to hear Gord has terminal brain Cancer. I wish him and his family all the best.
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