The third World Cup of Hockey will begin in September, finishing 11 days before the puck drops on the 2016-17 NHL season. The International Ice Hockey Federation announced eight teams will compete in this year’s instalment of the competition. The eight squads will be split into two groups, playing each other once. The top two teams from each group will move on to the semifinals on September 24 and 25.
The 2016 edition of the World Cup of Hockey has been long in the waiting, with the last competition taking place 12 years ago. Canada won that edition in 2004, beating Finland in the finals. Ten years prior, the USA took top prize after beating Canada in a best of three final. This year’s tournament will see the return of the best of three final after it was omitted from the 2004 World Cup of Hockey.
The former champions come in with a strong squad. The team will be led by Chicago Blackhawks’ forward Patrick Kane. The forward tallied 106 points for Chicago last season. The USA is looking for ice hockey revenge after coming up short of a medal at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. US coach John Tortorella will have a lot of pressure on his shoulders to bring home another World Cup trophy 20 years after the USA’s first.
Canada is looking to continue its excellent international play following its gold medal win at the Olympics in 2014. Twelve of the team’s core players won gold at the Olympics and will have a major say in Canada’s play during the tournament. Steven Stamkos will be healthy and should be one of the team’s key players at the World Cup.
Stanley Cup winners Carl Hagelin and Patric Hornqvist of the Pittsburgh Penguins will represent Sweden at the World Cup. The two forwards combined for 36 goals and 54 assists during the regular season. Sweden was eliminated in the quarterfinals at the 2004 edition of the tournament, while the 1996 episode saw the Swedes eliminated at the semifinal stage. The team is looking for a strong performance this time around in Canada.
Four players of the team’s 23-man roster were selected from the KHL. Evgeny Dadonov, Vadim Shipachyov, Ivan Telegin and Slava Voynov will represent the KHL, while the other 19 members of team ply their trades in the NHL. Shipachyov is the top play of the four as he finished fourth in the KHL in scoring last season. Russia was defeated by the US in the semifinals of the 1996 World Cup and was again beaten by the US in 2004, this time in the quarterfinals.
The Czechs finished the first World Cup with zero points from three games, but made amends by making it to the semifinals of the 2004 tournament. That World Cup saw the Czechs destroy Sweden 6-1 in the quarterfinals. Can the Czech Republic repeat that run deep into the World Cup knockout stages? The team will need young NHL stars like Radek Faksa to step up and play better hockey than what he did in last year’s NHL season if the Czechs want to continue to improve on their World Cup outings.
Finland was 2004’s beaten finalists and the team has a lot to prove at this year’s tournament. One player looking to make his mark on the tournament is Patrik Laine, who is the top prospect for the Winnipeg Jets. Laine was selected second overall in June’s draft and will have the World Cup stage to show the Jets’ top brass what he can.
With neither Slovakia nor Germany taking part in 2016, a European team of nations not represented by the other squads has been assembled. A solid group of skaters has been put together with Mikkel Boedker, Marian Gaborik and Tobias Rieder all being top selections to represent Europe at the tournament.
Team North America
Todd McLellan’s Team North America is made up of US and Canadian internationals at the U-23 level. The team will be headlined by Auston Matthews, the first overall pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. The Maple Leafs center will have all eyes on him as the 18-year-old looks to make his mark on the tournament and get a quick call-up to the Leafs.
The World Cup of Hockey will begin on September 17th and run until October 1st at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto. ESPN will air all the games in the US, while Sportsnet and TVA will broadcast the games in Canada. For
By Drew Farmer