So, you’ve probably heard about this strange contraption by the NHL called the Team North American Youngstars, a team built up of the best players 23-years and younger from Canada and the United States. In an international event like the World Cup, it’s a really strange feeling. To think that someone like John Gibson, a former USA World Junior goaltending star, would have to potentially beat his own birth nation is quite weird to think about.
But, it’s the NHL rules, and we’ll see a new “nation” taking over for a real country instead. This creates for one of the more interesting story lines heading into the tournament. Instead of having players like Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel playing against each other, the tournament will see some of the rising young talent from North America working together to steal a gold medal. Let’s take a look at the potential back end of the roster for the revived World Cup event, with a lot of focus on who’s next for their respective nations in advance to the NHL’s iffy participation at the 2018 Olympics.
Check out our previews for Europe’s All-Star team:
John Gibson – Malcolm Subban – Zach Fucale
Analysis: Nobody is going to question that this team has some talented options between the pipes. However, it’s going to be hard to argue that the experience level between the three chosen will be much lower than pretty much every other goalie in the event. While top end players usually can get to the NHL in a year or two, it’s not everyday that goaltenders really make their mark by the time they are 23.
One goalie with a bunch of pro experience already is John Gibson. The Anaheim Ducks goaltender has the potential to be one of the better NHL goaltenders for years to come, but with Frederik Andersen doing a stellar job between the pipes now, there is no reason to rush Gibson right away. He already has international experience at both the junior and senior level, and he’s proved to be very important in both events. He was named the Most Valuable Player at the 2013 World Junior Championships, an event that saw the Americans grab the gold for the Americans after posting a stellar 5-2-0 record. A few months later, Gibson took over as starter mid-tournament during the 2013 World Championships, this time securing a bronze medal for an American team that wasn’t up to par with some of their European opponents. By the time the tournament rolls around, Gibson will likely have developed into a very serviceable goaltender as he continues his rise as one of the best young hockey netminders in the world.
An option to sit on the bench is Malcolm Subban, Canada’s goalie when Gibson and the Americans went all the way to the top of the Juniors. Subban’s only NHL game to date couldn’t have gone much worse, as the 21-year-old prospect allowed three goals on six shots in his first NHL game for the Boston Bruins in late February. However, Subban is still fairly young and needs more experience in the AHL before making the jump to Tuukka Rask’s backup. Regardless, he has the skill to become a solid goaltender one day, and he may be able to steal the starting role away from Gibson come 2016. It would surely be an interesting senario if that was to be the case, as it’s expected that Malcolm’s brother, PK, will represent Team Canada at the World Cup. If they were to meet at some point in the event, it would be just the third time that two brothers have ever battled each other in a major international event, with the the last time being the Reichel brothers at the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake, Utah.
The third and final goalie on this list is Zach Fucale, a QMJHL star goaltender that recently won World Junior gold with Team Canada. The current Quebec Remparts puckstopper was traded from the Halifax Mooseheads a few months back, where he was able to win both a President’s Cup as QMJHL champions and a Memorial Cup as the Canadian Hockey League champion. Fucale, currently property of the Montreal Canadiens, will likely not be rushed to the NHL thanks to Carey Price manning the pipes at the Bell Centre, but he could be used as trade bait before the World Cup comes around. Could he be an NHL goaltender by 2016? Probably not, but he has a tremendous amount of potential and will likely fight to make Team Canada in international events in the near future.
Dougie Hamilton- Aaron Ekblad
Jacob Trouba – Seth Jones
Ryan Murray – Morgan Rielly
Codi Ceci – Connor Murphy
Analysis: The first defensive pairing contains two of the most exciting young blue liners in the game today. Dougie Hamilton is one heck of a back end man. The 21-year-old had 10 goals and 42 points in 72 games, a solid number for a defenseman that will likely continue to climb the ranks the older he gets. By then, he’ll likely have a very hefty contract to go along with his play, so we may see Hamilton really start to hit his stride as a number one defenseman by the time the tournament rolls around. When lined up with 2014 first overall pick Aaron Ekblad, the U24 team may have their own Shea Weber-Drew Doughty pairing. Ekblad is likely going to take home the Calder Trophy once the season comes to a close this year, largely due to his solid offensive output and ability to flatten anyone who tries to get past him. This may not be one of the more experienced defensive pairs in the tournament, but if anything, it’s likely going to be a great chance to showcase their talent to Hockey Canada for a chance at playing for the team in the long run.
After a very strong World Championship effort with the Americans, Seth Jones will be a big addition to the squad in 2016. A lock for the roster, Jones is a wonderful two-way defenseman that can join the rush and score a goal after making a great deflection in his own zone. Jones will be a longtime star in the NHL, and could easily be one of the better defensemen in this tournament. Joining him as a potential second line defensive partner is Jacob Trouba, a stud on the Winnipeg Jets blue line. The Jets are going to be a contender for a long time thanks to their impressive prospect pool, and after posting seven goals and 22 points in 65 regular season contests in a rather conservative role, there’s a lot to like from him. He did have hand surgery in May following Winnipeg playoff demise to the hands of the Anaheim Ducks, but that won’t effect him in a year from now. Look for Trouba to learn from Tyler Myers during the upcoming season, and hopefully, he’ll be ready for a prominent role in 2016.
After a somewhat rough start for Rielly in Toronto, the 21-year-old Vancouver native has become one of the biggest bright spots on a team that struggle to find anything positive these days. A tremendous two-way defenseman, Rielly provides offensive from the point and could likely act as a top anchor on the power-play for this team. Murray’s season this year, however, was very tough. A former first round pick by the Columbus Blue Jackets, Murray missed all but 12 games this year due to injury issues, something that probably set back his development a bit. There probably wont be any reason to fret come 2016, however as the youngster does have a ton of skill and should be a decent depth defensemen for the young squad.
If Hockey Canada’s track record continues in their traditional path, the team will use seven defensemen and 13 forwards. That leaves the seventh D spot up for grabs, potentially in a rotating situation. Cody Ceci from Ottawa and Arizona’s Connor Murphy both have experience with their respective countries at international hockey and could very well get their first chances against the best of the best. Murphy’s WJC and World Championship experience, paired with his all-around defensive strengths will likely give him the nod, but Ceci continues to improve and will likely shoot up the Senators depth chart in the near future.
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