The 2016 World Cup of Hockey was one of the most exciting international hockey tournaments of all time. The St. Louis Blues saw several players attend and when the next edition comes along, expect another group of current Blues players to participate in the next one.
Reliving the Star-Filled 2016 World Cup
The 2016 version was one of the best international tournaments since the Winter Olympics in Sochi. It concluded with an epic knockout stage, as the semifinals were decided by two or fewer goals, and the gold medal game featured seven goals. Part of what made that tournament so great was the construction of the teams and that they played NHL rules on NHL ice with NHL officials. We were able to see Team Europe and Team North America storm the hockey scene as well.
Team North America saw Connor McDavid, Nathan MacKinnon, Auston Matthews, and Johnny Gaudreau on the same team. They ended up falling just short of making it to the knockout stage after failing to secure the tiebreaker over Team Russia, but they were still exciting to watch.
Perhaps the most epic game in recent international hockey history came when Team North America and Team Sweden met in their final group-stage games. The North Americans received goals from Matthews and Vincent Trocheck just 95 seconds into the game. The Swedes were down 3-1 in the third period but managed to tie the game before sending the contest into 3-on-3 overtime.
With the recent addition of the 3-on-3 overtime, to see end-to-end action was something that we had not been able to witness in a tournament like the World Cup. A total of six games went into overtime during the tournament, including Finland’s semifinal win over Sweden.
Latest News & Highlights
Some bad news came in early November when the NHL announced that the league nixed the plans to bring back this best-on-best tournament. However, there was some good news that came from NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly in Finland when the news was announced. He hinted at the possibility of bringing back the World Cup of Hockey in February of 2025.
Toronto gained hosting privileges in 2016, so you might see a US-based tournament whenever it is held next. A popular destination for NHLers on the road is Las Vegas, and throwing a tournament of this magnitude out west would do wonders for the league.
You could also see the tournament spread out over multiple cities, including some north of the border or even in Europe. There were just eight teams in the last World Cup of Hockey, so two pods might make some sense. As such, look for a west coast setting like Las Vegas and an east coast setting like New York, or even another look in Toronto.
Looking Back at Blues’ Participation at 2016 World Cup
The Blues saw seven players take the ice for their countries in the last edition of the World Cup. However, of those seven, only Vladimir Tarasenko and Colton Paryako are still on the roster six years later in 2022-23. Jay Bouwmeester, Dimitri Jaskin, Jori Lehtera, and Patrik Berglund are no longer playing in the NHL, while Alex Pietrangelo is now anchoring the Vegas Golden Knights’ blue line. It’s difficult to predict who will be on the roster in 2025, let alone which players on the Blues team will be playing well enough to earn their chance at representing their country.
The most significant question marks on the Blues’ roster in Nov. 2022 are pending free agents Tarasenko and Ryan O’Reilly. It’s almost a foregone conclusion that Tarasenko will not be back with the Blues next season, despite requesting a trade (from ‘Blues winger Vladimir Tarasenko requests a trade, per sources: Why he wants out, possible destinations, more’, The Athletic, July 7, 2021) two years ago and still remaining in St. Louis.
O’Reilly is a different story. He is the Blues’ captain and was the heart and soul of their Stanley Cup run in 2019. However, with potential captains in waiting in Robert Thomas and Parayko, it might benefit the team to move on from the 31-year-old.
There are many candidates on the current Blues’ roster that should play a role in the next World Cup of Hockey. However, only 10 active Blues made my list.
Blues on Team Canada
Jordan Binnington, Ryan O’Reilly, Brayden Schenn, Robert Thomas, Colton Parayko
The Blues have 10 players signed through 2024, and a handful of them stand out as locks for any international competition. The obvious choice in goal for Team Canada is Jordan Binnington. The Canadians don’t have a sure-fire goalie anymore. Marc Andre-Fleury will be out of the question for the next tournament, and Binnington seems like the best of the next bunch for the Canadians.
Even with the seemingly up-and-down play of Binnington since he took the hockey world by storm in 2019 with his incredible rookie season, the Canadians are not as strong at the goalie position, and the lack of two dominant goalies could be a weakness in a best-on-best format.
Blues alternate captain Parayko should also be on the roster. He’ll join the likes of Cale Makar, former teammate Pietrangelo and Shea Theodore on the blue line. While they won’t be locks with their current career trajectory, Brayden Schenn, Robert Thomas, and Jordan Kyrou could play their way onto a loaded forward group as well. Kyrou and Thomas will be in St. Louis for at least the next eight years and are highly touted players in the NHL.
Two Current Blues Should Handle Defensive Duties for Team USA
Justin Faulk, Torey Krug
The Blues should feature two players on Team USA in the next World Cup of Hockey, and expect to see them on the same defensive pair. Justin Faulk will be 33 years old when the tournament comes around, and Torey Krug will be in his age-34 season, but both should be able to sneak onto Team USA’s roster on the blue line.
Both defensemen for the Blues saw very similar starts to their careers in St. Louis. Krug was brought in to replace a fan favorite in Pietrangelo and had very high expectations from the start after signing a seven-year $45 million deal that took the Blues out of the running to re-sign their captain. After posting three 50-point seasons in his nine-year career with the Boston Bruins, he netted 32 points in his first season with St. Louis. He played 51 games for the Blues in 2020-21, which was a career-low for him, and recorded just two goals and 30 assists.
Krug seemingly turned a corner with the Blues in his second full season with the team in 2021-22 as he reached the 40-point plateau for the seventh time in his career. He finished the campaign with nine goals and 34 assists, and if he had been fully healthy for the playoff series against the Colorado Avalanche, the Blues’ postseason might have gone differently.
Faulk, meanwhile, was acquired from the Carolina Hurricanes right before the 2019-20 season. The trade saw the Blues ship Joel Edmundson and top prospect Dominik Bokk to the Hurricanes, along with a seventh-round pick. General manager (GM) Doug Armstrong was able to lock up Faulk immediately to the identical contract Krug received.
The two-time All-Star also jumped out to a slow start with his new team, as he played in 69 games for the Blues and recorded just 16 points in his first season. Faulk, more than Krug, however, may have a better alibi than his teammate because of the pandemic and the shutdown of the season.
Still, his 2020-21 season was not much better, as he posted just 25 points in 56 games and many Blues fans were growing impatient with the expensive blueliner. He then turned the corner during the 2021-22 campaign and received his first trip to the All-Star Game since 2014-15 after posting a 47-point season which was two shy of his career best.
Russian Line Should Lead the Russian Offense
Vladimir Tarasenko, Pavel Buchnevich, Ivan Barbashev
Pavel Buchnevich is the only Russian on the Blues’ roster that is signed through 2025. Whether or not Ivan Barbashev and Tarasenko will be in St. Louis in 2025 remains to be seen, but expect the Russian trio to make the team regardless of who Barbashev and Tarasenko are playing for in two years.
The Buchnevich trade has been one of Armstrong’s best in his career. The Blues sent Sammy Blais and a 2022 second-round pick to the New York Rangers in exchange for the forward and like Faulk, they signed Buchnevich to an extension.
Unlike the newly acquired defensemen, Buchnevich has had no trouble adjusting to life with the Blues. In his first season in St. Louis, he set a new career best in goals and netted his first 30-goal campaign. He also finished the season with 76 points which was good for third on the team.
First on the team last season was Tarasenko’s 82 points in the superstar’s first healthy season since the 2018-19 campaign. Prior to last season, he had played a combined 34 regular season games in two years. The former 16th overall pick was back to his old self last season, netting his sixth 30-goal campaign and tallying a career-high in points.
Barbashev’s candidacy for a roster spot presents one of the most intriguing conversations. He had a breakout season in 2021-22 after totaling a career-high in points (60) and goals (26). Prior to last season, his career bests came with a 14-goal, 26-point effort in 2018-19. If the second-round pick can continue his career trajectory into the upcoming season and beyond, expect the winger to play an important depth role for his country at the next World Cup.
The Blues will be well represented by current and former players in the World Cup of Hockey the next time we see a best-on-best international tournament. It remains to be seen what kind of roster juggling potential Team Canada GM Armstrong can do for the Blues before then. Still, fans will have plenty of rooting interest for each game in the tournament.
Covering the St. Louis Blues at The Hockey Writers, Jason Martin has spent time covering professional and college sports for almost a decade, including stops at Troy University and Auburn University at Montgomery. He currently resides in Alabama with his wife, Matty.