The 2016 World Cup of Hockey begins next week, but not many are expecting much from Team North America. As a matter of fact, they have the third-worst odds to win gold—but don’t tell them that.
“A lot of people are probably counting us out with a lot of inexperience,” Team North America forward Jack Eichel told multiple reporters in Montreal. “I think we know in the room we can be really good and if we do the things we need to do than we should be successful.”
The team is made up of players from the United States and Canada, 23-years-old and younger. That means, players like Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel and Edmonton Oilers superstar Connor McDavid will play on the same team. The roster is inexperienced, especially compared to its competitors, but where they lack in experience they make up for with pure ability.
“I don’t think there’s a more skilled team than ours,” Team North America forward Nathan MacKinnon said in Montreal as well. “I’ll go against anybody's roster and put ours against them for speed and skill. This isn’t a full season or playoffs. This is one and done, so we have the talent and ability to beat anybody.”
Although that remains to be seen, there’s no denying this team will be fun to watch. In a few years, the players on this roster will likely be the superstars of the league -- and some already are. A quick glance at the line combinations during practice shows just that:
— Amanda Stein (@amandacstein) September 6, 2016
So here’s what I’m thinking about Team North America:
First and foremost getting out of the tournament without any injuries should be the number one priority for every player participating, and for every fan watching at home. A major injury would pretty much assure skepticism from NHL organizations and players in the near future about participating in the event moving forward.
While knocking off Team Canada or even Team USA seems like a tall task-- Team North America should compete in every game they play. The team is way too talented to be blown out by anybody.
Regardless if they’re any good, they’ll be incredibly exciting to watch. These games should be must-see TV. It may be a little unrealistic to think they’ll win a gold medal, but there’s no reason they can’t make some noise.
Team North America starts playing games Thursday when they take on Team Europe at 8 p.m. on ESPN 2 (for our friends in Canada, the game with be on SportsNet and TVA).
Tournament games begin for Team North America on August 18 when they take on Team Finland. That game will feature two of Buffalo’s best— Jack Eichel and defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen. Here’s the full Team North America Schedule:
Sunday, Sept. 18
Team North America vs. Team Finland, 8 p.m. (ESPN2)
Monday, Sept. 19
Team Russia vs. Team North America, 8 p.m. (ESPN2)
Wednesday, Sept. 21
Team North America vs. Team Sweden, 3 p.m. (ESPN)
Semifinals begin Saturday, Sept 24