Here at Pucknology we plan to ramp up our hockey coverage for the 2016-17 season by covering the 2016 World Cup of Hockey with many of our writers dedicated to cover specific teams throughout the tournament. Team North America will be covered by myself and Pucknology’s newest writer Keegan McNally.
Recently I had a conversation with friend and fellow sharks writer MJ Kasprzak who you can find over at the always excellent Blades of Teal. MJ said that there is always the joke about the idea that Canada could ice two teams and have both of them could medal and now we will find out if it’s true. My response was that I wouldn’t underestimate the American contribution to this team and the more I look at this roster and those who call the USA home the more I think that the USA will not only contribute but could also carry the offensive load for Team North America.
First I’m not trying to say the Canadian contribution to this team is bad. Obviously, all eyes will be on Connor McDavid and players like Aaron Ekblad, Sean Monahan, Nathon MacKinnon, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins are elite talents already at their young ages. Matt Murray fresh off his Stanley Cup victory could easily be the starter for this team. With players like Morgan Rielly Colton Parayko, Sean Couturier, Ryan Murray and Mark Scheifele are all rising stars in the league. What excites me most about the American contribution is how dynamic some of the players are and some of these players are the most fun to watch. Jack Eichel and Auston Matthews will obviously get a lot of attention among American Forwards but don’t sleep on Johnny Gaudreau, Dylan Larkin or Brandon Saad or J.T. Miller. The defense core is rounded out by Seth Jones, Shane Gostisbehere, and Jacob Trouba and should Matt Murray get the starting job and stumble John Gibson and Connor Hellebuyck who I hold in very high regard will be waiting to for their shot to run with the job.
Now reading those names the Canadian contribution may still seem more impressive but if you look at the forward point totals from last year’s NHL regular season, the American players accumulated more points than their Canadian counterparts. Obviously the quality of linemates, team and injuries do play a factor here but I think the numbers do speak for themselves.
*Auston Matthews numbers are not included in the calculations of the totals for the American Forwards because they are not from the NHL. I included them on their own because with the competition being higher than he would have faced in the NCAA or CHL they are still impressive.
*Jonathan Drouin was added to the team based on his far more impressive playoff run where he scored 5 goals and 9 assists in 17 games.
While injuries to McDavid and Nugent-Hopkins were significant and could increase have increased the Canadian forwards totals it still wouldn’t be enough to significantly outshine their American counterparts. I think that the inclusion of team North American probably hurt team USA in their selection possibilities but also gives guys that likely wouldn’t make the team a chance to really shine. When the team was announced I felt it was gimmicky and maybe it still is but as the tournament approaches, I can’t help find myself being more excited to watch this team more than any other team in the tournament including Canada. The future of hockey is here and while they may not be wearing the stars and stripes this is a team that I think American fans should not only be interested in but will likely very proud of the contributions that American players will likely make. While this tournament does little to “help” hockey in Canada I think that this team will show that USA Hockey has come a long way and is probably better than it has ever been.