My friends, the preliminary games are in the books and it’s finally time for Team North America to get to work, and for our Nation-wide coverage to begin. The nice part about cheering for Team North America is that this team provides one of the few opportunities for Nation Network readers to come together and support the same team… well… unless you’re a Canucks fan. Sorry, CanucksArmy.
Is there anything in the hockey universe that can unite rival fanbases quite like an international tournament? Not only does Team North America give fans of the Oilers, Flames, Jets, Wings, and Leafs a chance to watch the young talent that will be carrying our respective teams (and league) for years to come. Although the tournament is filled with experienced NHLers, Team North America has all the skill in the world and a real chance at winning if they can play at both ends of the ice. Defense or not, they’re exciting to watch. How can you not be cheering for a team that features Connor McDavid, Auston Matthews, Johnny Gaudreau, Dylan Larkin, Jack Eichel, and so many more? Say what you will about the lack of experience, the talent level on this roster is impressive. Full stop.
It may very well be aggressive to place the Under-23 squad this high in the rankings (3rd overall), but the talent is here and they have elite skill players. The notion that these kids aren’t going to be able to compete against the best may run into problems when these brilliant young players pick up the pace.
Although TSN feels generous by ranking the youngsters third on the tournament depth chart, I can’t find another team that would make me disagree with that grade. I legitimately think these kids have a chance, becasue you never know what’s going to happen in short tournaments like the World Cup. Unless you’re a Canucks fan (did I mention that the Canucks don’t have any prospects good enough to make the team? Sorry about that.) tonight’s game will be the first time that our squad of young superheroes will be playing for keeps, and, hopefully, starting a miracle run towards the finals. Some pundits and fans don’t expect much from the under-23 team, but I expect them to be hugely entertaining, a touch unpredictable, and probably even a little bit scary. That’s good hockey, no?
- Team North America vs. Team Finland, 6pm MST, ESPN2, SN, TVA Sports.
- Sportsnet Radio Network
- Keep your eyes on our Network Twitter accounts as we’ll be providing updates throughout the game
Team North America:
Auston Matthews – Connor McDavid – Mark Scheifele
Jonathan Drouin – Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Nathan MacKinnon
Johnny Gaudreau – Jack Eichel – Dylan Larkin
Vincent Trochek – Sean Couturier – Brandon Saad
Morgan Rielly – Aaron Ekblad
Ryan Murray – Seth Jones
Shayne Gostisbehere – Colton Parayko
Patrik Laine – Aleksander Barkov – Jussi Jokinen
Mikael Granlund – Mikko Koivu – Joonas Donskoi
Valterri Filpulla – Jori Lehtera – Teuvo Teravainen
Lauri Korpikoski – Erik Haula – Leo Komarov
Olli Maatta – Rasmus Ristolainen
Jyrki Jokipakka – Sami Vatanen
Esa Lindell – Ville Pokka
Lineups subject to change
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
“It’s a different group now. We don’t have those guys who have been there for 15 years. At least on defence, there’s a kind of change in players. We take pride in it; we have to. We have to produce. I don’t think it changes the way we play, the way Finland plays. The guys are just different.” -Olli Maata
WHAT YOU NEED TO WATCH FOR
- Watch Connor McDavid. I know you’ve probably heard that 4000 times but it’s worth repeating. This kid is the future of hockey and he makes it look easy despite having only 45 NHL games on his resume. Although Connor hasn’t scored like you’re probably expecting (or at all), he’s going to take your breath away at least twice tonight. I’d bank on it. If you’re one of those people that are worried about his production or saying he sucks, then you may want to pick up another hobby.
- Even though the Team Finland would be considered the older of the two teams playing today, their roster still boasts plenty of young talent. Second overall pick, Patrik Laine, will be one player that I’ll be watching to see how he handles the speed of Team North America.
- Did you guys know that Auston Matthews can speak Spanish? I’m not sure what that has to do with anything but I thought it was worth mentioning anyway. It definitely won’t help today against Finland, but I encourage you to store that little nugget in your brain locker for later. You never know when you’re going to be doing that all inclusive thing and need translator.
- Since we’re talking about Laine and Matthews, did you know that they are the only two players drafted at the 2016 Draft to play in the World Cup? If you push that further back, they’re the first two teenagers to get drafted and then immediately play in a World Cup style (best-of-the-best) international tournament since Eric Lindros.
- Ever wonder what’s powering these kids? “I crush one or two bowls per day in the dining hall.” -Jack Eichel on Captain Crunch. Seems like a lot of sugar for a game day meal, no? That said, who am I to question a professional athlete? Captain Crunch… get it in ya.
- Despite the fact that he’s rocking a full grown beard, and the face of a 43-year old rancher, Aaron Ekblad is only 20-years old and already one of the best defensemen in the league. This kid is a warlord, and I’d expect him to play big minutes tonight, likely against Finland’s best.
GAME DAY PREDICTION
GAME DAY PREDICTION: North America wins this game with speed, skill, and a little bit of luck. Final score 4-2.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Connor McDavid registers his first point of the tournament on a coast-to-coast rush, silencing his critics and arousing fans, alike.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Not a single Teemu on team Finland. What’s up with that?