The final spots on the World Cup of Hockey rosters will be announced tonight. Each team will be adding seven players to the roster to join the initial 16 announced back in March. The final spots on each team are highly debated and difficult decisions for the management in charge.
One of the players on the bubble for a roster spot is Buffalo Sabres defenseman Jake McCabe. The 22-year-old is in the discussion for one of the final spots on team North America. The young star team will likely add three more defenders with only four currently on the roster.
If the North American General Managers Peter Chiarelli and Stan Bowman do indeed add three more blueliners it would appear that two of those spots are a lock. Philadelphia Flyers defender Shayne Gostisbehere and St. Louis Blues defenseman Colton Parayko will get two of the three potential openings on the blue line. Gostisbehere has a good chance to win the Calder Trophy this year and would have been added in the first round had he started the season in Philadelphia. Parayko also joined the Blues later in the season. In the playoffs the 23-year-old was a pivotal part of St. Louis getting to the Western Conference Finals.
I believe the final spot in the defense is between McCabe and Calgary Flames defenseman Dougie Hamilton. The former Boston Bruin has the name recognition over McCabe. Hamilton also has the better numbers statistically. Many are predicting that Hamilton will receive that third and final spot in the North American defense group. On paper it seems to be an easy decision to go with Hamilton over McCabe, but I don’t think paper tells the entire story in this case.
The biggest thing working in McCabe’s favor right now is his strong performance on the international stage over the last few weeks for team USA in the World Championship. The former Wisconsin Badger played top pair minutes for the Americans with Arizona Coyotes defenseman Connor Murphy. Chiarelli and Bowman may have liked what they saw from McCabe playing top minutes for team USA at the international level.
McCabe isn’t going to wow you with his offensive numbers, but he does have that potential. Only scoring 14 points in 77 games for the Sabres this past season may tell you different, but he’s aggressive in the offensive zone. The former second round pick also is a great skater and can carry the puck on the rush. He showed this skill off numerous times in Russia for the Americans. What I think helps separate McCabe from Hamilton is his reliability in the defensive zone. If you look at the current defense group a lot of the players may be more offensive minded in Seth Jones, Morgan Rielly and Gostisbehere.
The last piece working in McCabe’s favor is that he’s American. On the initial roster eight Americans and eight Canadians were selected. If the North American management team wants to have an even mix of national representation, that works in his favor. If Jonathan Drouin, Auston Matthews, Robby Fabbri, Mark Scheifele, Parayko and Gostisbehere are six of the seven players added that is four Canadians and only two Americans. Adding McCabe would give a more even mix of four Canadians and three Americans, as opposed to five Canadians if Hamilton is added.
McCabe is certainly deserving of one of the final rosters spots for Team North America. We’ll see if the management team agrees a little after 6 PM EST.