World Cup Power Rankings: Take a wild guess who’s No. 1

Sidney Crosby  (Photo by Martin Rose/Getty Images)

Now that the rosters for the World Cash Grab of Hockey™ have been finalized, we can now set about to devoting our energies to predicting everything that’s going to happen. After all, the tournament is only four months away and time is of the essence.

With that said, here’s our stab at World Cup of Hockey Power Rankings. Remember, these are Power Rankings and have no bearing on how a team will finish, so stop it with the hate mail and nasty tweets just because your team didn’t do well in this little exercise. That goes double for all you Team Europe fans out there, all three of you.

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Finland’s international golden era has just begun

Finland's Jesse Puljujärvi (Markku Ulander/AFP/Getty Images)

Call him The Narrative Slayer.

When Connor McDavid charged the net for what turned out to be the game-winning goal in Canada’s 2-0 golden performance at the World Championship in Russia, the young Oilers star punctured a pretty good storyline in the making. That being, of course, that a Finland victory would have given Suomi all three major IIHF men’s titles this year.

But while Finland may have lost at the worlds, the country’s gold medals at the world juniors and world under-18s were reason enough to believe that Finland is entering a golden era of hockey.

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Jesse Puljujarvi and world-killing Finland just did it again

Jesse Puljujarvi (Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

Finland has won gold again – get used to it.

Led by superstar 2016 draft prospect Jesse Puljujarvi, the Finns dusted off archrival Sweden in the final of the World Under-18 Championship in North Dakota on Sunday. Puljujarvi scored a hat trick in the 6-1 demolition, while the home-side Americans earned bronze with a 10-3 walloping of a disorganized Canadian squad.

If it sounds like the Finns have been on the podium a lot lately, it’s because they have. This is the third junior-level gold in three years for Suomi, when the 2016 and 2014 world junior titles are added in. So how are they doing it?

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A coach’s challenge might have changed history for Flyers and Pat Quinn

Pat Quinn  (Photo by Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

Sadly, we cannot ask Pat Quinn what he thinks of the NHL’s implementation of a coach’s challenge for offside calls. As it was with almost any subject from World War II strategy to the neutral zone trap, it would have been very interesting to hear the former coaching great’s perspective on it.

Your trusty correspondent has been covering this game for almost 30 years and they have never seen a coach who had a deeper disdain for officials than Quinn did. And the roots of that go back to May 24, 1980. And if you want to talk about how one of these overturned calls can change a game or a series, consider the fact that not one, but two were not overturned that day had an enormous impact on a series, a career and a legacy.

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European Hockey Alliance wants a better NHL transfer agreement

Jesse Puljujarvi and Patrik Laine (MARKKU ULANDER/AFP/Getty Images)

The three top prospects for this year’s NHL draft all played in Europe this season and they’re all projected to become enormous stars in North American and make millions of dollars over the course of their careers. And if things go as planned, they’ll be a cash cow for their NHL employers, as well.

But what about the teams they’re leaving? In the case of Patrik Laine and Jesse Puljujarvi, the Tappara and Karpat teams in the Finnish League will not only be losing their best players, they’ll also be parting with two young men in whom they’ve invested an huge amount of resources. And once they sign deals with the NHL teams that select them, they’re receive a one-time payment of about $240,000. That’s it. Nothing more. Do not pass Go. Do not collect any more money. And in the case of the Zurich Lions in the Swiss League, they won’t receive a cent.

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Russian Hockey Federation acknowledges meldonium behind U18 World Championship swap

German Rubtsov (Dennis Pajot/Getty Images)

Two days after news broke that the U17 Russian team would be replacing the U18 squad at the U18 World Championships due to a meldonium doping scandal, the Russian Ice Hockey Federation (RIHF) has acknowledged that the swap was made in order to “protect the athletes.”

The official statement from the RIHF says that players training with the U18 have used mildronate, which is the trade-name for meldonium, “as to protect the heart muscle in periods of high exertion. Supplies of the drug were carried out officially in accordance with the Federal Medical-Biology agency.”

However, the RIHF said reports that as many as half of the Russian U18 team tested positive for meldonium are false, and said the players have not been using the drug since fall 2015, when the World Anti-Doping Agency made the decision to add meldonium to the banned substances list. That ban took effect Jan. 1. Read more

How a car fire ignited one of the most spectacular comebacks in hockey history

Ken Hitchcock. (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)

Ken Hitchcock’s St. Louis Blues have given up seven goals in their past seven games. But there was a time, almost 30 years ago to the day, that a team coached by Hitchcock gave up that many goals in just a touch more than a half of one game. Then it scored nine of its own in just over 26 minutes.

In one of the more wild games in Western League history, heck in the history of the game at any level, Hitchcock and his Kamloops Blazers went into the Seattle Center Ice Arena leading their best-of-nine – yes, best-of-nine – playoff series by a 2-0 margin over the Seattle Thunderbirds on the night of April 3, 1986. To give you an idea of what junior hockey was like at that time, the Blazers went into the playoffs with 449 goals in 72 games in the regular season. That’s an average of 6.23 per game, which is more than both teams in the NHL score in a game these days.

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Prospect Need to Know: Boston’s latest shutdown threat

Brandon Carlo (Photo by Marissa Baecker/Getty Images)

Everything is happening right now, as Bob Cole would say. You’ve got the Jimmy Vesey saga in Nashville, Zach Werenski signing with Columbus and Pittsburgh grabbing college free agent Ethan Prow out of St. Cloud State. Plus, the CHL playoffs are in full swing, with a couple upstarts threatening the top seeds. In the OHL for example, Sarnia is in trouble thanks to a surging Sault Ste. Marie squad, while Edmonton is giving powerhouse Brandon fits in the WHL. Oh, and the Frozen Four is set, with Quinnipiac, Boston College, North Dakota and Denver all in the mix for April 7. Let’s keep the prospect party going:

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