Continuing through midseason World Cup roster projections we hit the Team North America World Cup roster, née North American Young Stars. Every player on this team has to come from the United States or Canada and be 23 or younger as of Oct. 1, 2016.
The first roster announcements for all teams must be made by March 1. Every team will additionally need to announce the first 16 players on their roster, laying the foundation of the team.
Below is a full Team North America World Cup roster projection, designating the 16 players who should be a part of the Mar. 2 roster announcement in bold.
Johnny Gaudreau – Sean Monahan – Nathan MacKinnon
Alex Galchenyuk – Connor McDavid – Dylan Larkin
Brandon Saad – Ryan Nugent Hopkins – Mark Scheifele
Max Domi – Jack Eichel – Boone Jenner
Possibilities: Sam Bennett, Anthony Duclair, Robby Fabbri, Jonathan Huberdeau, Auston Matthews, J.T. Miller, Sam Reinhart, Ryan Strome
One of the more surprising parts of looking this group over is noting how many would likely make the U.S.or Canadian team if there is no Team North America. Johnny Gaudreau, Jack Eichel, Connor McDavid and Brandon Saad would have a great chance. Guys like Nathan MacKinnon, Dylan Larkin and some others would at least by on the watch lists for their respective teams.
The interesting thing about this roster is that obvious choices could easily change simply due to age. There are some comparative “vets,” guys like Gaudreau, MacKinnon, Sean Monahan and Alex Galchenyuk coming in on the older side of this group and they probably have their spots locked up. But younger guys like McDavid, Larkin, Eichel, and Max Domi have such a small sample that their season (and career so far) could have a very different look if the bottom fell out on their season.
It’s necessarily likely to happen. Yet, if Anthony Duclair goes off for the rest of the season and Max Domi disappears, it’s easy to see how those guys switch spots. And that’s really the case for all the young players.
The sleeper in all of this is Auston Matthews. He can’t be super likely to make the squad, but he’s been dominant in the NLA and was at the 2016 World Junior Championship as well. There’s no doubt he could step into this lineup if management sees something that they’re missing. On the above roster, Sean Couturier serves as the extra skater and a guy who can jump into a center or wing position, plays good defensive hockey and can take on a role position. Easy to see how that job would fall to Matthews.
Morgan Rielly – Aaron Ekblad
Ryan Murray – Seth Jones
Shayne Gostisbehere – Dougie Hamilton
Possibilities: Nathan Beaulieu, Matt Dumba, Cody Ceci, Noah Hanifin, Ben Hutton, Colin Miller, Xavier Ouellet, Colton Parayko, Brett Pesce, Damon Severson
This is a tough situation for Team North America management. I don’t believe that the seven defensemen above represent the seven best defensemen 23 and younger. However, handedness plays a factor here, especially considering that this squad is starting at a disadvantage on defense because of their age.
Getting players in their most comfortable spots, where they’re the most successful, is going to matter. To that end the entire left side is a little questionable. Shayne Gostisbehere probably doesn’t make the roster if he’s not left-handed. He’s been great so far this season, but he wasn’t even on the radar before the season.
Meanwhile, outside the top three pairings, Jacob Trouba, Matt Dumba, Cody Ceci, Colin Miller, Coloton Parayko and Damon Severson are all right-handed. There’s a lot more depth there and if you don’t have to consider handedness you’re maybe looking at Murray and Gostisbehere being challenged for those spots a little more forcefully.
Meanwhile, in reality, Ben Hutton could challenge Gostisbehere with a strong stretch run for Vancouver. That’s particularly true if Team North America management believes that they’ve got a power play pilot on the roster already. Gostisbehere has been solid in even strength play, but where he’s really catching eyes is on the power play. He’ll need management to want him on the point for the top power play unit if he’s going to break through and onto the roster.
Possibilities: Eric Comrie, Thatcher Demko, Zach Fucale, Malcolm Subban
Before the season started there was concern that Team North America wouldn’t be able to compete because of weak goaltending. That fear has been alleviated to some extent.
Circumstances have conspired to see the top candidates get good NHL ice time and this trio has thrived in the spotlight.
John Gibson earned himself an All-Star entry, while Connor Hellebuyck stole the starting job in Winnipeg from Michael Hutchinson after Ondrej Pavelec went down with an injury.
Even Matt Murray grabbed a bit of NHL time and proved he’s ready for the show. He’s penciled into that third slot. It could change, particularly if something happened to get Malcolm Subban some NHL ice time where he proved himself in a big way. Nonetheless, it’s Murray’s spot to lose.
More Midseason World Cup Roster Projections:
Team Canada World Cup Roster Projection
Team Czech Republic Roster Projection
Team Europe World Cup Roster Projection
Team Finland World Cup Roster Projection
Team Russia World Cup Roster Projection
Team Sweden World Cup Roster Projection
Team USA World Cup Roster Projection
Dustin Nelson writes about news and the Minnesota Wild for The Hockey Writers.