By: Jordan Freeman
The World Cup of Hockey is starting to get into full swing. Although the round robin games do not start until Saturday, September 17, the pre-tournament games have shown a lot to coaches, analysts and spectators alike. And there’s been plenty to see. The teams are: United States, Canada, Sweden, Finland, Russia, Czech Republic, North America and Europe.
Four pre-tournament games are left until Group A begins its round robin. Barring a loss today, team North America is the only undefeated team thus far. So what are some stories from the pre-tournament?
Injuries. Injuries have been piling up even before the tournament begins. It’s cost several players a spot on their team. Team Sweden has lost a few big name players. Captain Henrik Zetterberg, Markus Kruger and Niklas Kronwall are a few. The ‘C’ has shifted to Henrik Sedin. Alexander Steen will also miss the tournament because he is recovering from surgery. For Team Czech Republic, forward Vladimir Sabotka was recently sidelined with an upper body injury.
Team Canada has also lost valuable players. Jamie Benn, Duncan Keith and most recently Tyler Seguin have been ruled out. Their absence has opened the door for other players. One of them being Jay Bouwmeester, who is already making an impact with a goal and a +2 rating in his only game. Injuries are certainly taking their toll, but teams are finding ways to overcome them.
Each team has its usual stars, and for the newly founded Team North America, there is no shortage of talent. The roster consists of players who are under 23 years of age and includes forwards such as: Connor McDavid, Johnny Gaudreau, Dylan Larkin, and Jack Eichel. Defense includes: Aaron Ekblad, Shayne Gostisbehere and Colton Parayko. They also have Stanley Cup champion goaltender Matt Murray alongside John Gibson and Connor Hellebuyck.
Their talent has helped them go 2-0 against Team Europe, which consists of some star players as well. However, they are still a very young team. And like most young teams, are susceptible to mistakes and inexperience that just may cost them a game. In their 7-4 win against Team Europe, they once enjoyed a 4-1 lead. They watched it shrink to a 5-4 lead before Gaudreau put the game out of reach for Team Europe.
Team Europe has two games left to straighten out all of the wrinkles before their round robin. With players like Anze Kopitar, Drew Doughty, Jaroslav Halak, Zdeno Chara, Tomas Tatar and Mats Zuccarello. They have been given low odds to win the tournament and are the only team without a win in the pre-tournament games. But is their more to this group than what we have seen?
Team USA and Team Canada are 1-1 against each other – the two powerhouse teams from the Western Hemisphere. These two teams practically bleed talent and with both in Group A, it will be interesting to see how they play in their round robin game. For Team USA, players include: Jonathan Quick, Ben Bishop, T.J. Oshie, Patrick Kane, Zach Parise, Ryan McDonagh and James Van Riemsdyke.
Team Canada has players such as: Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews, Johnathan Taveras, Steven Stamkos, Alex Pietrangelo, Shea Weber, Cary Price and Braden Holtby. Obviously both Team USA and Team Canada will be heavy favorites to win it all.
Teams Sweden, Finland, Russia and Czech Republic each have a slew of players who make a huge difference for their team as well. Team Russia includes: Alexander Ovechkin, Vladimir Tarasenko, Artemi Panarin, Evgeni Malkin, Semyon Varlamov and Dmitry Kulikov.
Team Sweden: Daniel and Henrik Sedin, Patrick Berglund, Filip Forsberg, Nicklas Backstrom, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Anton Stralman and Henrik Lundqvist.
Team Finland: Jori Lehtera, Patrik Laine, Teuvo Teravainen, Jyrki Jokipakka, Mikko Koivu, Pekka Rinne and Tuukka Rask.
Lastly Team Czech Republic: Michael Frolik, Ales Hemsky, Dimitrji Jaskin, Roman Polak, Zbynek Michalek, Petr Mrazek and Ondrej Pavelec.
There is talent spread across all teams. And the pre-tournament will help to judge where each team is. But roster moves and injuries are always looming so changes could be made at any time. With possible upsets and clashing rivals it will be interesting to see how things match up when the tournament really gets underway.
(Featured image: Tim Lenz, Flickr)