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September 05, 2016

World Cup of Hockey Previews: United States

There were no secrets left untold as to what the Americans were hoping to accomplish when they named their roster.

Beat Canada.

The Americans have assembled an impressive and like-minded group of physical forwards that is designed to wear down Canada's big boys. Guys like Brandon Dubinsky, Ryan Callahan, Justin Abdelkader and James Van Reimsdyk were brought in for their grit and grind, leaving more highly skilled talent such as Phil Kessel, Kyle Okposo and Nick Foligno at home.

Aside from Patrick Kane and Joe Pavelski, there is not a lot of top end talent as opposed to grizzled, big-bodied warriors. Ryan Kesler, Max Pacioretty, Zach Parise, David Backes and Blake Wheeler will lead the way.

It is an interesting gamble by the Americans. With second-to-none goaltending (you can't go wrong with Cory Schneider, Ben Bishop or Jonathan Quick), perhaps a grind 'em out team approach is the best way for them to approach this tournament. It is a team tailored for their coach John Tortorella, though he is his own wild card.

Yet it is a dangerous tactic that the Americans are attempting. They very well might beat Canada with this approach. But are they forgetting about the many other speed and skill teams in the tournament? Last I checked they still hand out that hideous-looking World Cup trophy to the team that wins the whole tournament, not to the team that beats Canada.

The Americans are disadvantaged in the sense that so much of their top talent is on the under 23 North American squad. 

Had the Americans had full access to their players you would have to think Jack Eichel, Dylan Larkin, Johnny Gaudreau and Auston Matthews would have all been given serious consideration. 

It would have been a similar story on defense, too. Seth Jones, Jacob Trouba and the Shayne Gostisbehere would have transformed the American blue line from solid to dynamic and mobile.

The Americans are trying something a little different in this tournament. In some ways they are borrowing from Canada's past Olympic strategies of bringing the most cohesive team rather than just all the best players.

At the same time Canada has gone a little bit away from that strategy that brought them back-to-back Olympic gold medals.

It will be very interesting to see how this all plays out. Hopefully neither team forgets the rest of the world is gunning for both of them.

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