The SportsCrew | World Cup Of Hockey Team Previews Part 3
Team Finland & North America Team Previews
World Cup, Hockey, NHL
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2016 World Cup of Hockey Preview Part 3 – Team North America/Team Finland

2016 World Cup of Hockey Preview Part 3 – Team North America/Team Finland

This is part 3 of a 4-part series previewing the 8 teams in the World Cup of Hockey

Part 1: Team Canada/Team Europe –

Part 2: Team Sweden/Team Czech Republic –


Here’s a look at the World Cup preview for #3 North America and #6 Finland:

#3. Team North America


Left to Right: Jonathan Drouin, Auston Matthews, Nathan MacKinnon, Johnny Gaudreau and Aaron Ekblad

Head Coach: Todd McLellan (EDM)

Assistant Coaches: Jon Cooper (TBL), Peter DeBoer (SJS), Dave Tippett (ARI), Jay Woodcroft (EDM)

General Manager: Peter Chiarelli (EDM)

Forwards: Sean Couturier *A*, Jonathan Drouin, Jack Eichel, Johnny Gaudreau, Dylan Larkin, Nathan MacKinnon, Auston Matthews, Connor McDavid *C*, J.T. Miller, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Brandon Saad, Mark Scheifele, Vincent Trocheck

Defense: Aaron Ekblad *A*, Shayne Gostisbehere, Seth Jones, Ryan Murray, Colton Parayko, Morgan Rielly, Jacob Trouba

Goaltenders: John Gibson, Connor Hellebuyck, Matt Murray

Injuries: Sean Monahan (replaced by Vincent Trocheck)

5 Players to Watch: Aaron Ekblad, Johnny Gaudreau, Nathan MacKinnon, Auston Matthews, Connor McDavid

X-Factor: Connor McDavid

Left to Right: Jonathan Drouin, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Captain Connor McDavid

Left to Right: Jonathan Drouin, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Captain Connor McDavid

How Can Team North America Win The World Cup?


  • Captain Connor  All eyes are on the 19-year old phenom heading into the World Cup, and he has the pressure of leading the exciting and youthful North America against the best competition in the world. Despite being the 2nd youngest player on the team (and 3rd youngest player competing in the World Cup), Head Coach Todd McLellan picked him as team Captain and he seems to be embracing the leadership role. This is a great experiment for McLellan, McDavid’s Head Coach in Edmonton, who many think will name him the next Captain of the Oilers following this. We all know the skill that #97 has, and he can be a difference maker in this tournament that could very well lead Team North America to winning the World Cup.
  • Fountain of Youth – One of the obvious advantages that Team North America has is their roster full of young, talented players that are no older than 23 years old. While some can argue that their inexperience will catch up to them, they are talented group that seems to have meshed quickly being similar ages. I must admit that when they announced the format of this tournament Team North America immediately caught my attention, I was very curious to see how the young team will do against the best in the world. This team has some of the brighest young prospects in the NHL, guys like McDavid, Auston Matthews and Aaron Ekblad to name a few. Time will tell, but they are going to be a fun group to watch.
  • Speed, Speed and More Speed – One thing that was on display early and often for Team North America in the preliminary round? Speed. This roster is deep with some of the fastest skaters in the world, including the two fasters players in the NHL in Connor McDavid and Nathan MacKinnon. Add in guys like Johnny Gaudreau, Jonathan Drouin and Jack Eichel and this team is scary fast, one that could cause nightmares for opponents. They outscored Team Europe 11-4 in 2 preliminary games, a team significantly older than them. It will be interesting to see if the best teams will be able to handle the speed these young guns have, but there’s no question that they will use their speed to their advantage as early and often as they can.


What Would Keep Team North America From Winning The World Cup?


  • Lack of Experience  Above you can see how the youth of Team North America might give them the edge to win this tournament, but you could make an equally convincing argument how the lack of experience might hurt them. The fact is that the majority of these guys have never competed in international hockey besides the World Hockey Championship/World Juniors in their early professional careers. They are going up against teams that have players with years of international experience, let alone the skill to match them. It will be interesting to see if their lack of experience will catch up with Team North America.
  • Older Competition  The average age of players on Team North America is 22.7 years old, which is very young considering the average player in the tournament is 27.6 years old. It’s even crazier put into perspective with Team Europe, the oldest team in the tournament with an average age of 30.1 per player. North America will have a difficult task of playing some much bigger, stronger teams that have the experience to back it up. This was evident in their 3-2 loss to Czech Republic in the preliminary, a much less talented team but very gritty and they shut them down. It’s not going to be easy for the young team.
  • Which Goalie Will it Be?  From the looks of it Todd McLellan is still not sure of his goaltending situation, he’s got 3 solid young goalies in Matt Murray, John Gibson and Connor Hellebuyck that he needs to choose from. The obvious choice would be the Penguins’ Murray, the guy who lead his team to a Stanley Cup in his 1st NHL season at the age of 22. But in a tournament where things could go right or wrong so quickly, McLellan has the tough task of deciding to stick with just Murray or give the other 2 guys their chance. This is definitely a situation to monitor heading into the tournament.


#6. Team Finland


Mikael Granlund celebrates a goal with his teammates in the preliminary round

Head Coach: Lauri Marjamaki

Assistant Coaches: Teppo Numminen, Waltteri Immonen, Kalle Kaskinen

General Manager: Jere Lehtinen

Forwards: Sebastian Aho, Aleksander Barkov, Joonas Donskoi, Valtteri Filppula *A*, Mikael Granlund, Erik Haula, Jussi Jokinen *A*, Mikko Koivu *C*, Leo Komarov, Lauri Korpikoski, Patrik Laine, Jori Lehtera, Teuvo Teravainen

Defense: Jyrki Jokipakka, Sami Lepisto, Esa Lindell, Olli Maatta, Ville Pokka, Rasmus Ristolainen, Sami Vatanen

Goaltenders: Mikko Koskinen, Tuukka Rask, Pekka Rinne

Injuries: none

5 Players to Watch: Aleksander Barkov, Mikko Koivu, Patrik Laine, Rasmus Ristolainen, Sami Vatanen

X-Factor: Patrik Laine

Olli Maatta's OT winner vs. Sweden in the preliminary round

Olli Maatta’s OT winner vs. Sweden in the preliminary round

How Can Finland Win The World Cup?


  • Lookout for Laine One of the most talked about players over the past year has been the 18-year old Laine, a guy who is about to become the face of Finnish hockey for the foreseeable future. He’s had an impressive year winning the World Juniors, Finish Elite League (Playoff MVP too) and capping it off being drafted #2 overall by the Winnipeg Jets this summer. Laine has elite skill and a wicked shot, someone who is going to be a key part of the offense in this tournament for Team Finland. While he’s the youngest player in this tournament, his confidence makes him one of the players to watch and can he be a difference-maker for the Finns in his tournament.
  • Center-Ice Strength  Finland is known for playing tough two-way hockey, and it starts at center ice where the team is the strongest. This is a talented group of centers starting with Captain Mikko Koivu, Alternate Captain Valtteri Filppula and young guns Aleksander Barkov and Teuvo Teravainen. With a group that is full of offensive firepower with North America, Sweden and Russia, this will be a busy group of centers both offensively and defensively for Team Finland. While there is certainly skill throughout the lineup, center ice is the most important position for Coach Lauri Marjamaki and these are guys that he will lean on in all situations of the tournament.
  • Between the Pipes – Another strong quality of Finnish hockey is elite goaltenders, and Finland has two if them in Predators’ Pekka Rinne and Bruins’ Tuukka Rask. Both of these goalies have had very successful NHL careers and are very capable of being the #1 for Team Finland. It will be interesting to see who Marjamaki decides to go with; Rask has the upper hand in international play having lead Finland to a bronze medal in Sochi 2014, but Rinne has played better than Rask of late in the NHL. The good thing about this situation is that neither guy is more deserving then the other, and both guys are certainly capable of leading Finland to a win in the World Cup.


What Would Keep Finland From Winning The World Cup?


  • Inexperienced Blueline – Team Finland is one of the younger teams in the tournament, with 13 of their 22 players aged 25 or younger including 6 of the 7 defenseman on the team (4 of 7 are 22 or younger). The blueline has little to no international experience, with just Sami Lepisto, Olli Maatta and Sami Vatanen being on the team 2 years ago in Sochi. Marjamaki’s group really lacks a veteran leader on defense, and he is going to rely heavily on Sami Vatanen and Rasmus Ristolainen in this tournament. While this is a young, exciting blueline their inexperience might catch up with them.
  • Stiff Competition  I’ve talked about this with most of the teams in group B, but the fact of the matter is the young Finnish team has a tough group with North America, Russia and Sweden to compete with. These are three of the most offensively-gifted teams in the tournament, and Finland will need to play their best defensive hockey if they want to advance. This Group B is really a toss up, all 4 teams have the talent to win but it remains to be seen which team will make it out. Either way, it won’t be an easy task for the young Finnish team to advance to the medal round.
  • Lack of Leaders – I mentioned above how Team Finland is lacking a veteran on their defense, but this is a team that really doesn’t have many leaders in general. For so many years guys like Teemu Selanne, Kimmo Timonen and Saku Koivu were the veteran leaders for Team Finland, but none of them are around anymore. Mikko Koivu is the Captain of this team, and he’s the only player on the roster that is a Captain of their NHL team as well. With a young roster that has little to no veterans to lean on, this could be a team that struggles to compete with the offensive juggernauts in Group B.


Part 1: Team Canada/Team Europe –

Part 2: Team Sweden/Team Czech Republic –

Keep an eye out for 4: Team Russia/Team USA next

-Joel Forman

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