We’re creeping up on the first roster announcements for the 2016 World Cup of Hockey. On Mar. 2, the first 16 players of the Team Europe World Cup Roster will be announced, laying the foundation of the multi-national team.
With the odd format of the reborn World Cup, only eight teams are going to be a part of the tournament. To keep it as NHL-centric as possible, there are six nation teams as well as a European team built out of all European players who do not play internationally for Russia, Sweden, Finland or the Czech Republic. The eighth team is Team North America, built of North Americans who are 23 or younger.
Below is a Team Europe World Cup roster projection, with the 16 players who should be announced first marked in bold.
Thomas Vanek – Anze Koptiar – Marian Hossa
Mikkel Boedker – Leon Draisaitl – Marian Gaborik
Antoine Roussel – Lars Eller – Nino Niederreiter
Nikolaj Ehlers – Frans Nielsen – Mats Zuccarello
Possibilities: Sven Baertschi, Marko Dano, Zemgus Girgensons, Michael Grabner, Tomas Jurco, Tomas Kopecky, Richard Panik, Michael Raffl, Tobias Rieder, Tomas Tatar
There aren’t too many spots up for grabs with 10 of those spots looking like locks to me.
One of the big questions is whether the management group values the kind of game Antoine Roussel can bring. In a tournament like this most teams don’t play overly physical, so maybe there’s an edge in having Roussel on the team’s depth chart. On the other hand, he’s prone to taking bad penalties and there really isn’t room for that kind of play in a best-on-best tournament.
If they include Roussel, the extra forward almost has to be picked with an eye on a player who could jump into his spot if he needs to be sat for undisciplined play. Mikhail Grabovski offers some additional center depth, which is crucial, but he’s also a lefty and could jump into the roster on the wing in place of Roussel without disturbing the center depth.
Of the guys on the outside looking in, they’ll need a strong run down the stretch in the NHL to make their case. Tomas Tatar is the easiest to see jumping up into the roster instead of Grabovski. A left-handed center himself, he’s got a lot of talent and is having a solid season. Michael Grabner is another name that many thought would be a little more in the mix, but a rough season probably has him watching from home.
Possibilities: Raphael Diaz, Arturs Kulda, Mirco Mueller, Luca Sbisa, Lubomir Visnovsky, Yannick Weber
The pickings are a little slim on the defensive front. The top six are all but a lock. It’s really just that last spot that is up for grabs.
Luca Sbisa is the odds-on favorite to take the final spot, but Martin Marincin might be a more inspired choice. He’s capable of driving play and gives them a better weapon at even strength than Sbisa does. Marincin isn’t scoring, but his underlying defensive numbers are very impressive.
Sbisa’s play is inconsistent. He gets a lot of credit for being a 1st round draft pick, despite not performing like it and consistently being a drag on possession for his teams. Marincin gives them a stay-at-home guy, which might be appreciated by management with so many offensive-minded guys on the roster.
The race for that last spot is really between those two though. Raphael Diaz hasn’t managed to crack the NHL lineup this season, Lubomir Visnovsky is playing in the KHL and Mirco Mueller hasn’t been able to maintain a spot on the Sharks depth chart with the emergence of Dylan DeMelo.
Possibilities: Peter Budaj, Kristers Gudlevskis, Jonas Hiller
Hiller has had a pretty bad season. Thought he may have entered the season as the frontrunner, it’s hard to see his performance this year earning him a spot.
Meanwhile, Berra has had a nice year when healthy and seems like, if he gets healthy, the spot could be his.
More World Cup Roster Projections
Team Canada World Cup Roster Projection
Team Czech Republic Roster Projection
Team Finland World Cup Roster Projection
Team North America World Cup Roster Projection
Team Russia World Cup Roster Projection
Team Sweden World Cup Roster Projection
Team USA World Cup Roster Projection