The World Cup of Hockey doesn’t kick off until September. But the first 16-man rosters for each team were released today meaning that it’s time to make some way-too-early predictions about how this tournament is going to go. Just in case any of you need to be brought up to speed on what the World Cup of Hockey will look like this year, here’s a quick sparknotes version. The tournament will be held in Toronto starting on September 17th and will go to October 1st. So it’s a high-end international tournament that will lead right into the start of the NHL season. There are 8 teams that will be playing in the tournament. USA, Canada, Sweden, Russia, Finland, Czech Republic, a European all star team and a North American 23U team. I’ve had a lot of people ask me what the point of the European team and 23U team is. Well it’s simple; the NHL is trying to put their best talent on display at this tournament. So rather than have teams like Latvia and Slovenia and Switzerland play in the tournament, they’ve replaced them with these all star teams. Now you can showcase talents like McDavid and Eichel and Shayne Gostisbehere on the young guns teams where they may have not had a spot on the #1 USA and Canada teams. This way, you can have Anze Kopitar in the tournament without needing to put him on a team filled with 22 other guys that nobody has ever heard of. These teams are good for the tournament and they’re good for the growth of the game. So let’s take a look at these rosters now.
I haven’t seen a USA team look this good since D2 The Mighty Ducks. Not since the days of Adam Banks and Dean Portman and Russ Tyler has the USA Hockey team found a way to perfectly combine grit with grace, toughness with talent, and savages with skill. You’ve got guys like Kane and Oshie who are going to rack up a billion goals. You have forwards like Kesler and Wheeler who are going to be a pain in the ass to play against. Parise and Pavelski are the leaders out there. Then you’ve got Dustin Byfuglien to bully opponents on the blueline. Carlson can move the puck down the ice just as well as anybody else. I think the most intriguing part of this preliminary roster is the goaltenders. Obviously the net belongs to Jonathan Quick. He’s been the #1 goalie for USA hockey for a while now and he has a couple Stanley Cups to his name. But Corey Schneider will be giving him a run for his money. Realistically, however, I don’t see this being a gold medal team. More likely to go up against Russia and/or Sweden in the bronze medal game and then it’ll be a coin flip. But I like the way this team looks. Time for the jersey grade.
Rock. Flag. And Eagle. There will never be a USA jersey that isn’t the most beautiful creation that I’ve ever laid my eyes on. In regards to all the other USA Hockey jerseys that have come before, they’re not the greatest. But those away whites are so fucking clean that I can’t stand it. And the home blues will definitely grow on me once I see them on the players. Jersey Grade: US-A+.
Jesus fucking Christ. You’ve got 3 legitimate Vezina candidates in net. You’ve got 3 legitimate Norris guys on the blueline. And then up front you have a mixture of guys who could all win either the Hart, Selke or Rocket Richard award on any given year. It’s honestly not even fair. And when you think about what this team will look like when you add guys like Claude Giroux, PK Subban, Corey Perry and TJ Brodie? Well now we’re looking at the Golden State Warriors of the 2016 World Cup of Hockey. As much as it pains me to say this, I have to pick Canada to be my Gold medal favorites heading into the tournament. Time for the jersey grade.
Pretty different than anything we’ve seen from Hockey Canada recently. I think the jersey it resembles the most would be from the 1972 Summit Series
Not exactly sure how I feel about it yet. I really enjoy the maple leaf sleeves, but the logo just doesn’t really do it for me. Gonna have to wait to see how the whole look comes together. Jersey Grade: B-
Team North American 23U
I mean, come on. This lineup is just outrageous and it goes to show you how well the NHL is set up for the next decade+. Look at that roster real quick. Look at how fast and talented they are. Ekblad; beast. Seth Jones; beast. Nathan MacKinnon; beast. Brandon Saad; already has 2 Stanley Cups to his name. And now think about some of the names that have yet to be added. Nugent-Hopkins, Domi, Gostisbehere, Trouba, Scheifele. But as for the lineup that’s laid in front of us right now, it’s got Must-Watch Entertainment written all over it. I already blogged about how much fun this team is going to be to watch a couple of weeks ago. But when you have the reality of a Gaudreau-Eichel-Larkin line, well it’s hard to contain yourself. And I get that some people are going to hate the fact that Americans are playing with Canadians at an international competition. But this is what’s best for the tournament and it’s what’s best for the league. Just interesting that there are no Mexicans players on the North American roster. NHL must be racist or something. Time for the jersey grade.
You can tell that this jersey is intended for a buncha goddamn millennials. Between the logo itself, with the roman numeral XXIII, the weird textured grey zones, the numbering. It all comes together like something that you’d see on JackThreads (Promo code: KFC). And as a resident millennial, I’m a big fan. Connor McDavid isn’t exactly Derek Zoolander so I don’t think he’s the greatest person to use as a model. But overall, these make me happy. Jersey Grade: B
Pray for every goaltender in this tournament because holy balls that forward lineup is insane. Insane I tell you. Think about what a line combination of Panarin-Kuznetsov-Tarasenko can do out there. And that’s not even their top line. Just endless amounts of creativity. You have Tarasenko as your pure shooter, you have Kuzy as your set-up man and then you have the Bread Man who can do a little bit of everything. Then you get to other names on the roster like Ovechkin and Malkin and Datsyuk. Ever heard of ‘em? But that’s where Russia stops being impressive. Because their blueline is average and their goalie situation is far from optimal. When the final 7 roster spots are announced on June 1, I’d expect a couple of KHL guys to be in the mix. Kovalchuk and Radulov especially. But this is more-or-less an NHL tournament and I’m glad the Russians decided to only announce NHL players with their first 16-man roster. Plus, the tournament will be played in Toronto so playing on North American ice will give these guys a little more advantage over guys like Kovy and Radulov who are more used to the international ice right now. Time for the jersey grade.
These were the first jerseys that I got a good look at the Adidas striping so far and I have to admit, it’s not as bad as I anticipated. The side panel is barely even noticeable and I’m glad Adidas went the right way and didn’t try to fuck around with things too much. Personally, I like the color blocks and this is pretty reminiscent of the Stadium Series jerseys this year. But it’s also Russia. And fuck Russia. Jersey Grade: C+. (B+ if it’s any nation besides Russia)
First thing’s first, this team is going to have some impeccable hair. You take a look at this initial 16-man roster and you see at least 8 really really ridiculously good hair guys. Once you get past the hair, you see the blueline is fucking stacked. Think about this real quick. John Klingberg is one of the most explosive defensemen in the NHL this year and he won’t be named to the team until June 1. That’s what happens when an entire nation of hockey players grows up idolizing Nick Lidstrom. All of Sweden’s best youth players went to the blueline because they wanted to be like Lid. You have an aging but still crazy talented core of forwards and obviously when you have Hank in between the pipes, you’re going to be in a good spot. I’d bet my left nut that Sweden medals in this tournament. Time for the jersey grade.
You had to figure Sweden wasn’t going to let Adidas fuck around with their uniforms, which are some of the best jerseys in all of sports. We’ve got the stripes down the side but other than that, this is just your classic Team Sweden jersey. And there’s nothing wrong with that at all. Jersey Grade: A
Finland is getting younger. That’s a good thing. When you look back at their Sochi Olympics roster, they had Selanne, Timonen, Olli Jokinen, Sami Salo, Tuomo Ruutu. Staples of Finnish hockey but now it’s time for the torch to be passed. Barkov is going to be the guy for Finland. He’s a 200-ft hockey player who you’ll see in the Selke discussions for years to come. The blueline so far looks pretty promising with Ristolainen and Vatanen, I just don’t think that this is the year for Team Finland. Honestly, I would consider adding Jesse Puljavari and Patrik Laine to the roster on June 1 if I was team Finland. Those kids are going to go #2 and 3 at the draft this summer and they’re both legitimate studs. If Finland isn’t going to medal at this tournament anyway, why not showcase the future of the nation? Time for the jersey grade.
If it were legal in the state of Pennsylvania, I would marry this jersey right now. Having the captaincy letters on the opposite site like the Red Wings have is a little weird, but other than that, this is beautiful. Not sure if this would happen or not but I’m just picturing some white gloves and a white helmet to go along with these bad boys. Gotta imagine both will be blue at the tournament, but a guy can dream can’t he? Jersey Grade: A.
Here’s the thing. Europeans are typically a bunch of pussies. Not just in the game of hockey but life in general. They don’t work hard, they wear skinny jeans, they eat baguettes and they go to discotecas instead of slamming back some bud heavies at a dive bar. So that’s pretty much what we’re woring with here on this European team. Offensively, yes. They’ve thrown together a pretty damn talented lineup from all the misfit nations of that little continent. Kopitar is a top 5 player in the NHL. Zuccarello, while most definitely an elf, is always a player you need to watch for. Tatar can light the lamp, Boedker is a stud, I don’t even need to go into Marian Hossa. But the average age of that defense looks like the average age of the fans at a Journey reunion tour concert. They’d be golden if the tournament was in 2006 but not even close in 2016. They’re going to get SMOKED by the Young Guns. Speed kills, and these guys are so old that I wouldn’t be surprised if that is in a literal sense. Time for the jersey grade.
I’m going to need Team Europe to buy me a new laptop. Because upon looking at these atrocities, I threw up all over mine and now it’s broken. Jersey Grade: F–
Team Czech Republic
The Czech Republic Flyers look like they’re going to be in for a pretty rough tournament. Mrazek has been having an incredible season and Neuvirth has been great as well. I’m not worried about the Czechs in net. Krejci is a stud, Voracek is a stud, Pasta and Hertl have scoring abilities. They’re good not great offensively, could probably use a little more strength up the middle. But just like the European team those first 4 defensemen could easily be replaced with fecal matter from a dog. I’m hoping that by the time this tournament is underway, Gudas will no longer be a Flyer. But if he’s one of the top 4 defensemen the Czechs have to offer? Well that’s just kinda sad. Time for the jersey grade.
Looks just about as good as that blueline. Jersey Grade: C-
And before everybody really starts to lose their shit over roster “snubs”, just remember; the final additions to the rosters will be made on June 1. These are just the preliminary 16-man rosters. So don’t have a heart attack if your favorite player hasn’t been picked yet. Wait until June 2nd to get mad online.