The eight teams taking part in this fall’s World Cup of Hockey named their preliminary 16-man rosters and four Winnipeg Jets were named to those clubs.
Ondrej Pavelec once again is named to the Czech Republic, Blake Wheeler and Dustin Byfuglien will represent Team USA and Connor Hellebuyck was tagged to join the North American 23 year old and younger team.
Pavelec has been a reliable pick for the Czech Republic team for years now as he’s played in multiple World Championships and Olympics for his country, but don’t expect to see him have any game action as he’s clearly third on the team’s depth chart behind Red Wings goalie Peter Mrazek and Flyers goalie Michal Neuvirth.
If we’re being honest, Pavs would also be behind KHL star Alexander Salak as well but Pavelec’s familiarity with the smaller North American rink and NHL players that will be in the tournament likely gave him an edge.
Connor Hellebuyck meanwhile may not only just see playing time for Team North America, but could be it’s main starting goalie. Connor already had a strong first showing in men’s international play helping Team USA to bronze in the 2015 World Championships and posting the best save percentage among all goalies in that tournament.
While the other two goalies joining Connor on Team N.A. – John Gibson of the Ducks and Matt Murray of the Penguins – will be with their pro teams in the NHL playoffs, Hellebuyck should be getting more time for USA in this spring’s World Championship and another strong showing there resulting in a medal finish again should go a long way to convincing North American coach Todd McLellan to give him the chance to be the team’s #1 starter.
It’s no secret that the Jets are stocked with American talent and two of it’s core players were named to Team USA as Blake Wheeler was named as a forward and Dustin Byfuglien named to USA’s defense.
Wheeler previously was on Team USA for the 2014 Olympics as well as their junior team back in 2006 and should fit in very well in their middle 6 forward lineup. Byfuglien meanwhile will have his first taste of international play after missing out on being named to the 2014 team – partly because the Jets had just converted him back to defense after a couple of seasons with him at forward and even though Buff’s ability on the blue line was obvious, Team USA wanted to go with more established defensive talent back then. This time around, having Dustin as one of the top 4 defensemen was a no-brainer.
Three Jets who didn’t get their names called for the time being who many may have expected to be named are Nik Ehlers (Team Europe), Jacob Trouba and Mark Scheifele (Team North America) but Jets fans shouldn’t panic yet – both teams will have seven more spots to fill come June 1.