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2016 World Cup of Hockey: Team North America preview

Say hello to the young phenoms of the tournament.

There are two wildcard teams thrown into the eight-team mix for the 2016 World Cup of Hockey. Team Europe encompasses players from any European country, with the exception of Finland, Czech Republic, Russia and Sweden (who already have teams in the tournament).

Team North America is a whole different beast. The team consists of 12 Canadian players and 11 from the United States (also with teams entered). The extra caveat is, the pool is limited to players who will be 23 years of age or younger as of October 1, 2016, and no player in that age range was eligible to play for either Team Canada or Team USA.

This team is full of youthful enthusiasm and talent, but some think they’ll be out of their depth and lack the drive that comes with wearing your home country's colours. It may feel a little strange playing against their native land, but Calgary Flames superstar Johnny Gaudreau is all in.

"It’ll be hard to try to beat your own country, but I think we have to embrace it and enjoy it."

Player Position League Team
Matt Murray G NHL Pittsburgh Penguins
Connor Hellebuyck G NHL Winnipeg Jets
John Gibson G NHL Anaheim Ducks
Connor McDavid F NHL Edmonton Oilers
Sean Couturier F NHL Philadelphia Flyers
Jonathan Drouin F NHL Tampa Bay Lightning
Johnny Gaudreau F NHL Calgary Flames
Jack Eichel F NHL Buffalo Sabres
Dylan Larkin F NHL Detriot Red Wings
Nathan MacKinnon F NHL Colorado Avalanche
Auston Matthews F NHL Toronto Maple Leafs
J.T Miller F NHL New York Rangers
Vincent Trocheck F NHL Florida Panthers
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins F NHL Edmonton Oilers
Mark Scheifele F NHL Winnipeg Jets
Brandon Saad F NHL Columbus Blue Jackets
Aaron Ekblad D NHL Flordia Panthers
Morgan Rielly D NHL Toronto Maple Leafs
Ryan Murray D NHL Columbus Blue Jackets
Shayne Gostisbehere D NHL Philadelphia Flyers
Seth Jones D NHL Columbus Blue Jackets
Colton Parayko D NHL St. Louis Blues
Jacob Trouba D NHL Winnipeg Jets

Strengths

This team of young phenoms are going to look totally badass in their black, grey and red uniforms.

Fierce uniforms aside, the depth of their offence should have the other teams quaking in their skates. The level of speed and skill is formidable, with eight forwards scoring 20 or more goals during the 2015-16 season.

Led by Connor McDavid, they also have: Jonathan Drouin, who’s proving to be quite the play-maker with impressive power-play skills; Dylan Larkin, the NHL’s reigning fastest skater after the 2016 All-Star Skills Competition; one of Team USA’s best players during the World Championship, Auston Matthews, and; Johnny Gaudreau, a top-10 scorer last season — just to name a few.

Weaknesses

Initially, goaltending was said to be their biggest challenge. So much so, that co-GMs Stan Bowman and Peter Chiarelli petitioned for an age exemption in goal for fear they wouldn’t have a candidate that would allow them to compete against the best players in the world.

Well, after their performances last season, Matt Murray and John Gibson threw that worry right out the window.

Inexperience could be a weak area for the youngsters. While many have previous international experience, they don’t have extensive track records in the NHL or high-level international play.

X-Factor

In a team loaded with the next generation of hockey stars, McDavid shines just a little brighter than most. He missed 37 games last season due to a cracked clavicle and still managed to come back and finish with the third-highest points-per-game average. Even after his shortened season, it’s highly probable that the 19-year-old will be named captain of the Edmonton Oilers, if not this coming season then the next. As one of the best offensive players in the league, he will no doubt be in the spotlight.

What these young guns lack in experience, they make up for in skill and exuberance. It’ll be interesting to watch these contenders go up against their more seasoned opponents.

I’m curious though. If they do cross the finish line first, which anthem will be played first?