This is the team that I am most looking forward to watching in the tournament. Unlike team Europe, a lot of these guys have played together before either for Canada or USA, or against each other. They’re the brightest young talents in the league, and will be carrying it in the future. Five number one draft picks feature in this team, with the majority of the others at least being chosen in the first round. The pre-requisite of the team is the players must be under 23 therefore their average age is 21.6 years old. Despite their youth, the team is actually the tallest in the tournament and holds an average weight of 200lbs.
Amongst this all star line up is Auston Matthews. He was selected first overall pick in the most recent draft and has not played a single NHL game yet, so all eyes will be on him to prove his mettle. That being said, he chose to move to Switzerland aged 17 to compete in their professional league as he was two days too young for the 2015 draft. Although he lacks NHL experience, he at least has played alongside various ages in the Swiss league. Along with Matthews, 2015’s number one and two draft picks Connor McDavid and David Eichel also lead the attack against the other teams. McDavid’s first season was not a dream start to his NHL career following a broken collarbone which required surgery; despite this, McDavid posted 48 points in 45 games, not bad. Included in this team is Dylan Larkin who won the fastest skater competition at this year’s All Star Game, Johnny Gaudreau was the linchpin to the Calgary Flames successful run in the 14/15 season, and Nate Mackinnon who counts Sidney Crosby as one of his good buddies and training partner.
Whilst some may say lack of experience is the kryptonite of this time, there are still players who have played plenty of NHL games. Couturier and Nugent-Hopkins have logged over 300 games, Saad has over 250, Miller, Monahan, Trouba, and Scheifele all have 200 or so games under their belt. Saad also won the Stanley Cup twice with the Blackhawks in 2013 and 2015. Besides, as these players are younger, they’re less likely to be stuck in their ways and perhaps more open to new advice etc that they will receive in this tournament. There are plenty of teammates linking up in this
North American team with Saad, Murray, and Jones coming from Columbus, Scheifele, Trouba, and Hellebuyck of the Jets, Monahan and Gaudreau of the Flames, Nugent-Hopkins and McDavid from Edmonton, and finally Gotisbehere and Couturier from the Philadelphia Flyers. Playing alongside somebody you’re already comfortable with will be a huge help on the ice, especially in this tournament where you need to create chemistry in a very short space of time.
Matt Murray will likely be the team’s starting goalie following a blistering hot run in the Stanley Cup playoffs for the Pittsburgh Penguins. Murray equalled a record of 15 playoff wins for a rookie goaltender and replaced Fleury in April as starting keeper following a concussion. He was rewarded with a Stanley Cup at the end of it.
Even the defensive part of this team is pretty solid. They’ll be spearheaded by the complete beast of a player that is Aaron Ekblad. He stands at an impressive 6’4″ and 216lbs, was selected first overall, won the Calder trophy for best rookie, is only twenty years old, and has recently signed an eight year contract extension with the Florida Panthers worth a staggering $60 million. Ekblad is a monster on the ice. The defence is also backed up by Shayne Gostisbehere who narrowly missed out on the Calder trophy this year after setting two NHL records: 15 game point streak for a rookie defenseman, and the first rookie in history to record four OT goals in a single season.
It’s a hell of a team and in a couple of years, many of these guys will be pulling on the jersey for their country at the Olympics. They’re not expected to win this tournament, but you can be sure they’ll cause a few upsets.