With the conclusion of the NHL regular season, the league has split in two. The top 16 teams will battle it out, while the remaining 16 teams and the players are done for the season. Most of them anyway, because some have the chance to extend their season via the IIHF World Championship in Finland this next month. The World Championship is a tournament that is notoriously being viewed as a tournament of lower standing when it comes to the international hockey scene. Especially in North America since it won’t become a true best of the best tournament due to the players from the Stanley Cup playoff teams.
This view has not been helped by the tendency that teams of both the USA and Canada rarely get everyone able to join the roster, and while Europeans have historically been better at getting players back for the Worlds. A shame really, because the tournament does hold more value internationally than a lot gives it credit for, and if the USA and Canada were able to get a full lineup of players available, both would offer something very close to a best of the best tournament.
While the teams I made are very unlikely to be what end up going to, I do think it shows the talent that could be going to these tournaments. If the view of the Worlds is upped to something that isn’t just a bad consolation prize after missing the playoffs, the quality of the games would be upped exponentially, and it would become a lot closer to an almost best of the best tournament.
Before getting into the teams, I want to quickly go over the requirements I had when making the list. Firstly, the team of a player had to be knocked out of the playoffs. Secondly, any player who was in a contract year or had injuries within the three weeks was excluded. I can fully understand from a player’s perspective why they wouldn’t go to make sure they either heal or are staying home to avoid potential injuries and a hit to the new contract. Now with all that said. Meet the ideal IIHF Worlds roster for Team Canada:
- Jonathan Marchessault – Matt Barzal – Jordan Eberle
- Jeff Skinner – Nick Suzuki – Drake Batherson
- Yanni Gourde – Logan Couture – Jared McCann
- Travis Konecny – Jonathan Toews – Chandler Stephenson
Extras: Adam Henrique, Josh Andersson
Let’s start with the offensive firepower, where you got a team filled with strong leaders and first-liners. Especially down the middle where Barzal, Suzuki, Couture, and Toews bring a ton of skill and leadership to drive the offense. On the Wings, there is a lot of top 6 forwards and especially with the Kraken and Golden Knights, there is a lot of potential for goals. One of the good stories of the team would be Jordan Eberle, who has a great history with Team Canada. In 2015 he won gold with the national team and who can forget his famous last-minute game-tying goal against Russia in the semi-finals of the 2010 Juniors.
- Alex Pietrangelo – Shea Theodore
- Josh Morrissey – Adam Pelech
- Jamie Drysdale – Jake Bean
- Owen Power – Brent Burns
Arguably the biggest strength of the team Canada would be the defense. They have a ton of great options, and it shows up and down the lineup. From the Vegas Golden Knights first pair of Pietrangelo and Theodore to a mix of young and old on the fourth line with Owen Power and Brent Burns. Every combination works and would probably be the best backline of the tournament and one that almost wouldn’t look out of place at a best of the best tournament like the Olympics.
Overall, it has a great mix of both offensive defensemen like Morrissey and Burns along with defensively reliable players like Adam Pelech, which could be a key component of a gold medal-winning Team Canada.
If there is a weakness on the usual team Canada, I would normally argue that the netminders. Historically it has been a weak point for Canada over the years with lackluster netminding. However, if everyone joins up, having a starting goalie of James Reimer would help settle some of the worries of the team, considering how well he did this season. On a less than stellar San Jose Sharks team, he posted a .911 save percentage and was one of the brighter spots on the team.
Backing up Reimer or even starting would be the breakout player of the Vegas Golden Knights this season. While the end of the season was heartbreaking for the team, one of the positive stories was the one of Logan Thompson, who played fantastic when starting goalie Robin Lehner got injured. While his heroic efforts weren’t enough to get Vegas to the postseason, it more than earned him a chance to represent Canada if he wish to go.
With those two in net and Driedger as a third option, a historic weakness does become a lot better. Especially in front of the defense of Canada. This team more than likely won"t be the team that goes, but in my opinion, it’s the one that should be going. It’s the strongest possible lineup and would send a signal of a more serious Canadian attitude towards the tournament, which is also a part of the prestigious triple gold crown of hockey.
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