With the first-round of the NHL post-season nearing its conclusion, the countdown to the start of the 2016 IIHF World Championship in Russia is well under way. While we will see a handful of players who have been bounced from the playoffs be added to Team Canada’s lineup over the coming days, the Edmonton Oilers trio of Taylor Hall, Connor McDavid, and Cam Talbot could prove to be key pieces of the puzzle for head coach Bill Peters and the rest of his coaching staff.
Simply take a quick peek at the 18 names who have already committed to dressing for Canada at next month’s event and you will see just how young this group truly is. Again, while there will be reinforcements added to the roster over the next week or so, it appears highly unlikely that many of this country’s top end veteran talent will be taking part in this year’s festivities thanks in large part to the first installment of the World Cup of Hockey. In other words, an opportunity is there for the taking and look for all three to seize the moment.
Time For Hall To Shine On National Stage
Outside of New York Rangers’ forwards Eric Staal and Rick Nash, both who are considered to be long shots at best when it comes to earning a spot on Mike Babcock’s squad in September, Philadelphia Flyers centre Claude Giroux will likely be the only forwarded added into the mix with a chance at cracking said squad. With that being the case, it looks as though the group of Matt Duchene, Giroux, Hall, Brad Marchand, McDavid and Ryan O’ Reilly will be counted on to do much of the scoring for Team Canada.
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While the Oilers rookie phenom is already slated to lead Team North America at the World Cup, the other five names mentioned are hoping a good showing at this tournament will help solidify a potential spot on Canada’s final roster to be announced in early June. It is no secret that Hall made quite the impression on Hockey Canada at last year’s event with how well both he and Jordan Eberle looked playing alongside Sidney Crosby…which is something few have been able to accomplish in international play with No. 87.
#Oilers winger Taylor Hall is left off Canada's preliminary roster. Can be added by the June 1 deadline where rosters must be finalized.
— Dave Campbell (@Dave_CHED) March 2, 2016
Add that to his much-improved play away from the puck, the speed and explosiveness he brings to the rink on a nightly basis and the ability to produce points at an elite level at even strength, Hall has everything stacked in his favour and the kid is well aware of the situation. Should he go out and put together a solid showing at the World Championship, the 2010 first overall pick will guarantee himself a spot at the World Cup. In my mind, a potential trio of Duchene, Hall and Giroux could be a line Peters’ considers going with from Day One.
McDavid Will Impress…Guaranteed
When it comes to No. 97, would anyone be surprised to see McDavid steal the show? Anyone who watched him with any sort of regularity during his rookie campaign is fully aware of the fact he is already one of the best players in the game and has all of 45 games on his resume. Considering his knack for delivering his best when the spotlight is squarely on him, chances are pretty darn good the 19-year old will take his game to another level in this sort of setting. Also, the thought of seeing him on a line with O’ Reilly is a frightening one…and in a good way.
— 630CHED (@630CHED) April 12, 2016
As far as Talbot is concerned, the keys to the car are there for the taking and it will be up to him to grab them. At the moment, youngster Calvin Pickard is the only other goaltender currently on Canada’s roster but chances are they will be joined by one of Jake Allen, Devan Dubnyk or Brian Elliott in short order. With that said, there is absolutely no reason why the Oilers No. 1 netminder can’t wrestle away the starting job from whichever one ends up making the long journey over after suffering what will certainly be a painful playoff defeat.
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After playing his entire career with the Rangers, it should have surprised no one that Talbot needed time to adjust to tending goal for a team as defensively challenged as Edmonton. While it may have taken longer than much of this fan base would have liked, the 28-year old was among the best netminders in the league over the final four months of the season. This despite playing behind a backend that was among the worst in the league. With all due respect to Allen, Dubnyk, and Elliott, none of three have proven to be clear-cut better options than the Oilers No. 33.
Rob Soria is the Author of Connor McDavid: Hockey’s Next Great One. He has chronicled the Orange and Blue since creating his Oil Drop blog in 2011 and has also had his writings featured over at HometownHockey.ca and Vavel USA, where he has covered the NHL, MLB and ATP Tour. Rob was born, raised and still resides in Edmonton, Alberta and can be reached via twitter @Oil_Drop.