September 03, 2016

World Cup of Hockey Previews: North America

Yes, they're gimmicky.

I'm talking about North America's under 23 squad and the European leftovers team. But you got to admit, the young guns team not only has a chance to be the most exciting team in the tournament, but they have a chance to win it all, too.

Maybe I would not be saying that if Connor McDavid was not involved. I really believe he has what it takes to be the best player since Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux's days. Both he and defenseman Aaron Ekblad could be on Team Canada's roster right now.

McDavid aside, the team is full of speed and talent. Johnny Gaudreau, Dylan Larkin, Nathan MacKinnon, Mark Scheifele, Jack Eichel and Auston Matthews, to name but a few. These guys will all be headlining Team Canada or Team USA in the next World Cup.

The defense, headlined by Ekblad, Seth Jones, Jacob Trouba and Shayne Gotisbehere, is blessed with size and incredible mobility. They only lack experience.

Goaltending was thought to be this team's weakness. Then Matt Murray, who many had never heard of prior to last April, led the Pittsburgh Penguins to the Stanley Cup championship.

Yes, they are kids. They have an average NHL experience level of just 154 games played. But this is a young man's game now. And these kids will be highly motivated.

The rest of the world better be ready, especially if McDavid proves to be the difference maker he is capable of. Perhaps he will be anointed his inevitable title the world's best hockey player before the NHL season even begins.

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