World Cup of Hockey 2016: projecting Finland’s roster

Matt Larkin
Tuukka Rask is a lock to make Finland – but has competition for the starting goalie job. (Chuck Myers/MCT via Getty Images)

The Finns have performed consistently well in recent international competition. They’ve medalled in four of five Olympic tournaments since NHL participation began. They won the 2011 World Championship and finished second last year.

But the Finns are witnessing a changing of the guard, saying goodbye to Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu. They’re a team in transition that must rely on new, younger pillars. Their 2014 world junior gold suggests they can do so successfully. What type of roster might they field at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey? Here’s a rough projection.

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World Cup of Hockey 2016: Projecting the North American Youngstars

Matt Larkin
Good friends Nathan MacKinnon and Seth Jones should compete together on the North American Youngstars squad. (Getty Images)

The dust has finally settled on the next World Cup of Hockey, set to commence Sept. 17, 2016. The rumored format came to fruition, with the eight-team field including Canada, USA, Russia, Sweden, Finland, the Czech Republic, a Euro all-star squad and the North American Youngstars team.

The latter two groups are highly polarizing, of course. Will the Euro all-stars have any motivation to succeed without playing for their nations? Is the Youngstars team a cheap gimmick? I’m fine with both entries – It’s not like we know this tournament replaces the Olympics – though it’s surprising to learn any players 23 and younger can only play for the Youngstars. That means a Nathan MacKinnon or Johnny Gaudreau can’t even make Canada and the U.S, respectively, on merit.

After forecasting Canada, the U.S. and the Euro all-stars, it’s time for the difficult task of predicting the 23-and-under group. Here goes. I’ll deploy 25 players again, even though the official designation is 23, as I’m factoring in the taxi squad members. Also worth noting: the league has not yet designated an age cutoff date. In this case, we’ll go with players 23 and younger on Sept. 17.

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World Cup of Hockey 2016: projecting USA’s roster

Matt Larkin
Phil Kessel, Zach Parise and Ryan Suter would be staples on a Team USA 2016 World Cup roster.  (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

It was crazy enough to project a Team Canada roster before the 2016 World Cup of Hockey was even officially unveiled. And heck, that came more than a month after forecasting the Euro all-star team. Why stop there? Let’s explore the American team, which includes much more agonizing decisions because the talent gaps are so tiny between the top players at each position.

Players are alphabetized by position. Keep in mind the forecast is for summer 2016. Also, some roster choices may change if the NHL announces players under 23 years old cannot play for their country and must suit up for the under-23 team.

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World Cup of Hockey 2016: projecting Canada’s roster

Matt Larkin
P.K. Subban, Jonathan Toews, Ryan Getzlaf and John Tavares should all return for Canada in 2016. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)

Admit it – you missed this game. It’s been more than a year since Canadians have done what they love to do most over a couple beers: play Steve Yzerman and build a national team roster for the next best-on-best tournament.

With the World Cup of Hockey announcement dropping this all-star weekend, giving the NHL a nice new revenue stream, we can finally start projecting Team Canada again. Let’s get down to business on a 25-man roster, alphabetized by position, keeping in mind it’s for summer 2016, meaning some vets age out and some youngsters age in.

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Toronto Maple Leafs trade candidate power rankings

Matt Larkin
Jake Gardiner's talent, contract term and reasonable cap hit make him an appealing trade target. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

You know things are really bad when you’re so bad, you’re bad at being bad.

That’s where the Toronto Maple Leafs find themselves as they return from a four-game road trip through California and Missouri bruised, sunburned and winless. As James Mirtle points out, the Leafs essentially prolonged their playoff-bubble misery by signing a bunch of spare parts in the off-season. They were destined all along to scratch and claw to, say, a 10th-place finish in the Eastern Conference. At the same time, by signing the likes of Daniel Winnik and Mike Santorelli to highly tradable one-year deals, GM Dave Nonis and president Brendan Shanahan covered their bottoms in case the bottom felt out. If they lacked confidence in the team then, was it worth the slap-dash solution? Why not let the whole thing collapse and guarantee a high pick in a phenomenal draft class?

Either way, each loss puts the Leafs closer to full seller mode, with the March 2 trade deadline visible on the distant horizon. Leaf Nation will start to buzz over who should stay and who should go. Here are 10 candidates to consider, starting with the least likely.

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THN’s mid-season NHL awards: Predators shock the world

Matt Larkin
Pekka Rinne (Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)

It’s that time of year when we pretend it’s that time of year.

Mid-season awards don’t really mean much, but they provide a strong sense of what to expect when the NHL hands out the real hardware in June. We held a vote between eight THN staffers for the Hart, Vezina, Norris, Calder and Selke trophies and the Jack Adams Award. Each voter submitted a top three for each award. Finalists received three points for a first-place vote, two for second place and one for third place.

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World Cup 2016: What would the Euro all-star team look like?

Matt Larkin
Anze Kopitar would be the Eurostar team's lone Slovenian, but the top forward nonetheless. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Nothing beats the best-on-best excitement of the Olympics. But, hey, World Cup organizers for 2016 deserve credit for tabling something interesting. The new tournament would be self-serving for the NHL, as it would collect the revenue it doesn’t receive from the IIHF’s Winter Games. But it’s more than that. The proposed format creates an intriguing fantasy-draft scenario that would be fun for the fans.

The World Cup would give us the six staple nations: Canada, USA, Russia, Sweden, Finland and the Czech Republic. Rounding out an eight-team pool would be two All-Star squads. One would draw from the remaining pool of nations, including Slovakia, Germany, Austria and Kopitarville Slovenia. The other remains shrouded in mystery but could be comprised of the best young players in the game.

The Toronto Sun’s Mike Zeisberger took a brief crack at a proposed all-star roster a couple weeks ago. I tip my hat to him as I attempt to take the idea further. Let’s focus on the concrete idea: the Euro squad. How would this team look as a 25-man roster? And could it compete with the big dogs?

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Who’s for real – the Flames or the Predators?

Adam Proteau
Pekka Rinne and Shea Weber (Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

Calgary and Nashville have some things in common: they’re the epicenters of their country’s country music scene; they’ve had Terry Crisp, Olli Jokinen and a defenseman named Suter working for their respective NHL team; and those two organizations currently are shocking the hockey world by being tied for third place in the Western Conference.

The expectations for the Flames and Predators were considerably different coming into the 2014-15 campaign: the latter made a slew of veteran additions on the ice and behind the bench in the hope of getting back into the playoffs for the first time since 2011-12, while the former was in full-on rebuild mode. But with both off to such a strong start, the natural question is: which of the two will be ahead of the other in the standings by the end of the season?

My answer: the Predators. And here’s why.

For one thing, Norris Trophy-nominated defenseman Shea Weber. For another thing, Vezina Trophy-nominated goalie Pekka Rinne. Nothing personal against Mark Giordano or Jonas Hiller, both of whom are enjoying all-star-caliber seasons for the Flames, but neither Calgary player has elevated his game to be considered among the best of the very best. Until Giordano and Hiller demonstrate consistency at that level, it’s fair to give the benefit of the doubt to the team that has the two better players on its roster. Read more