Previewed by Brayton Wilson, with an assist from Ryan Wolfe
Preview – Team Canada may pack the biggest punch of any team in this tournament with more than 14,000 NHL games played combined. Canada has been the powerhouse hockey program worldwide for the past two Olympics, and also in the past two IIHF World Championships. Although the roster up front is mostly all centers, Canada has the ability to flex its muscles by moving players around and creating a bunch of different units with some of the most talented players in the league. Led by Sidney Crosby, Canada is also filled with a ton of leadership, with nine NHL captains on the roster. While Canada may not have the most notable names on the blue line, they are very fundamentally sound on both ends of the ice. In net, it is a three-headed monster with the combination of Canadiens goalie Carey Price, Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford, and most recent Vezina Trophy winner, Braden Holtby.
Keys to victory – Carey Price. He says he is 100-percent healthy and ready to go for the World Cup. If he can stay at 100-percent and can be the goalie he was before his injury, Canada should be all set. And as long as Canada continues to dominate teams like they did in the pre-tournament play, they should be a lock for the finals.
Chances of winning – Very high. Sports Illustrated simmed the World Cup of Hockey on NHL 17 and Canada won, so we should just cancel the tournament.
Preview – After losing guys like Tomas Hertl and David Krejci to injury, many people had written off the Czech Republic from having any chance at winning in this tournament. However, in three pre-tournament games, the Czechs have shown some resilience that may make people second guess themselves. The Czechs have a nice group of veteran leadership on offense with captain Tomas Plekanec, and others like Ales Hemsky, Martin Hanzal, and Milan Michalek. To go along with the veterans, the Czechs have some youth with the presence of guys like 19-year old David Pastrnak, and others like Ondrej Palat, Jakub Voracek, and Vladimir Sobotka. The biggest concern for the Czechs is on defense. While they can play physical and take guys out of plays, can they keep up with the speed of the other teams in the tournament? Goaltending may be a pleasant surprise with either Petr Mrazek or Michal Neuvirth in goal. Just as long as Ondrej Pavelec does not see any net time, the goaltending gives the Czechs a chance.
Keys to victory – Defense. If their defenders can string together a few good games, this team may be able to sneak into the later rounds and shock a few people. They’ll need some things to line up for advancement. Also, a Dominik Hasek-like performance in the 1998 Winter Olympics would be a boost for the Czechs.
Chances of winning – Unlikely, but not impossible.
Preview – This team is a weird mix of weird. That feels like the best way to put it. The best of the best “European” hockey players, we find ourselves staring the barrel of mixed talent. Leading the way is the line of Anze Kopitar (Slovenia), Marian Gaborik (Slovakia) and Mats Zuccarello (Norway). This is not so bad, you know? Then the depth of Europe shows up and it might get ugly. What will players like Thomas Vanek (Austria), Tobias Rieder (Germany) and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare (France) bring to the bottom six? That’s important to find out. Also, through a few pre-tournament friendlies, we have discovered that Zdeno Chara (Slovakia) is slowly losing more of a step. Not all is good for Team Europe. And while Roman Josi (Switzerland) is one of the best defensemen in the NHL, the rest of the group is a bunch of aging has beens in the league. In net, it will likely be Jaroslav Halak (Slovakia) the whole way and it should be. If he happens to go down to injury, can Thomas Greiss (Germany) or Philipp Grubauer (Germany) carry the load? Will not be an easy task.
Keys to victory – Hold on for dear hope. Just like the Czech Republic, Europe will need a decent amount of things to go right for them to be a contender in Toronto. May be lucky to win just one game in a difficult Group A.
Chances of winning – Slim to none, just happy to be here.
Preview – Dump and chase, and chase and dump. Team USA has looked mediocre at best through the first few pre-tournament games. While they beat Canada and Finland in pre-tournament friendlies, they were out-shot and out-chanced quite badly. Typical John Tortorella hockey, as it has yet to evolve from when he won the Stanley Cup in 2004 with the Tampa Bay Lightning. They boast a handful of talent, names like Max Pacioretty, Joe Pavelski, Zach Parise and T.J. Oshie. But is that enough? Also, what kind of an impact could guys like Dustin Byfuglien and Justin Abdelkader have besides being big, lunking, physical bodies on the ice? On defense, aside from Ryan Suter and John Carlson, the defense is composed of some very shaky defensemen like Jack Johnson, Erik Johnson, and Matt Niskanen. In net, Jonathan Quick has looked very solid in net, which certainly will not hurt their cause. If Quick begins to falter, the U.S. can fall back on a couple of the best young goalies in the NHL in Cory Schneider or Ben Bishop. In the grand scheme of things, Team USA’s NHL experience is not even close to that of Team Canada’s, but it could be enough to get them past the preliminary round. But no layups here, they need to earn their spot in the semifinals.
Keys to victory – Find a time machine and reverse in age? Hope Jonathan Quick can stop every single puck? I mean, it is difficult to see how this team can win past the semifinals.
Chances of winning – Low. Again, they should get to the semifinals but expect them to be dispatched quick.
Previewed by Ryan Wolfe
Preview – Always a quiet contender at international tournaments, Finland could find themselves in contention for the title with the seemingly solid lineup they bring to Toronto. Finland brings the power up top with Jussi Jokinen, Aleksander Barkov and Patrik Laine but also brings good depth throughout with Mikko Koivu, Mikael Granlund and Teuvo Teravainen, to name a few players. Finland boasts a strong defense (Olli Maatta / Sami Vatanen / Rasmus Ristolainen), coupled with two very good NHL starters in net (Pekka Rinne / Tuukka Rask).
Keys to victory – Finland could easily steal a game or two with Rinne or Rask in net. Consistency both offensively and defensively could easily propel Finland deeper into the tournament.
Chances of winning – Strong contender to get into the semifinals but after that, it is unlikely they go further.
Team North America
Preview – For the first time ever, we have a very intriguing wild card team entered into a tournament. Team North America is made up of professional hockey players under age 23, as of October 1. You know what that means? A stacked lineup, featuring big names: Connor McDavid, Jack Eichel, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Nathan MacKinnon, Auston Matthews, with Stanley Cup winning goaltender Matt Murray in net. What a team.
Keys to victory – The kids need to be game-breakers. Use speed and
skill to their advantage to outsmart and over-power opponents.
Chances of winning – 69%, because why not.
Preview – Boasting what appears to be the best all-around lineup in Group B, Russia is setup to give opponents fits defensively. Their top line features stars from three different franchises. Alex Ovechkin anchors the left side, Vladimir Tarasenko on the right, with Evgeni Malkin up the middle. Good luck with that. The ridiculous ability to hockey doesn’t stop there. The second line features Artemi Panarin and Nikita Kucherov, centered by Artem Anisimov. Again, good luck with that.
Keys to victory – Defense could be an issue, need varlamov to stay
strong, scoring shouldn’t be an issue but might need to rely a little
more on goaltending
Chances of winning – Has “win-it-all” potential, but not sure that will happen. Will be a tough out but don’t think they’ll advance.
Preview – Sweden comes into the tournament with good talent throughout. Their top line anchored by the Sedin Twins. Who else would you expect to lead Sweden into an international hockey tournament? Not to worry, Sweden has lots of talent sprinkled throughout. Filip Forsberg and Nicklas Backstrom on the second line, a tough twosome to tangle with. Swedish defense arguably boasts some of the best talent of the tournament with Erik Karlsson, Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Hampus Lindholm leading the way. In goal, a healthy Henrik Lundqvist is expected to lead the way, no questions asked.
Keys to victory – The Sedins are old, so that’s bad. Henrik Lundqvist is still one of the top goaltenders in the world. Hank will make or break Sweden’s chances.
Chances of winning – Likely just here so they don’t get fined.
After the preliminary round has completed, the top-two teams from each group with advance to a single-elimination semi-final game. The top team from Group A will take on the second team in Group B, then the top team in Group B will face the second team in Group A. The winner of the two semi-final games will then compete for the World Cup in a best-of-three final round.
Who do we have winning the 2016 World Cup of Hockey?
|Group A:||Group B:||Group A:||Group B:|
Brayton – Canada over North America; Sweden over Czech Republic
Ryan – Canada over Finland; North America over USA
Brayton – Canada over Sweden (2-0)
Ryan – North America over Canada (2-1)