As many of you know, the National Hockey League will run a World Cup of Hockey tournament at Air Canada Centre in Toronto next September. It will be the first tournament of its' kind in quite a while, if we don't count the Olympics.
For those of you unaware of the format, there will be eight squads participating . . . the six nations of Canada, the United States, Russia, Sweden, Finland and the Czech Republic plus a team encompassing the remainder of Europe and a team encompassing North Americans 23 years of age and under.
There will be two groups of four teams to play a round-robin portion of the tournament. Two teams from each group will make the semifinals of the tournament followed by a championship game. (There will be no third-place game.)
Blah blah blah, yada yada yada . . . whatever. What YOU want to know is . . . which Blues players have the best chances to make these rosters? Glad you asked! Let's take a look . . . and keep in mind, I'll explain omissions at the end.
Of note, each roster will be made of 23 players. We assume each team will take 20 skaters and three goaltenders. But you know what happens when we assume . . .
Also of note . . . these are my predictions, and these do not reflect the opinions of the entire St. Louis Game Time staff. So, yeah.
Anyway, here we go:
- Jay Bouwmeester
- Alex Pietrangelo
- Jaden Schwartz
Schwartz will be 24 when the tournament begins, meaning he will not be eligible for the NA U-23 roster. Making Team Canada would have been a major long-shot for him in 2014, though he had a slight chance. Following a season in which he could have arguably been named the Blues' MVP if it weren't for one of his linemates tearing a new asshole into the NHL (you know who I'm talking about, and we'll discuss him rather briefly when we get to Team Russia), Schwartz is well-positioned to make a loaded Canada roster.
Bouwmeester, a shoo-in in years' past, may end up being a long-shot this time around. He is still a very good option in an international setting, provided he's recovered from his injury problems from last season. That is a very tough provision, though.
Pietrangelo won't be an anchor on a Team Canada defensive corps, but a second- or third- pairing guy behind Drew Doughty and Mark Giordano is not a terrible thing.
At the moment, ZERO Blues players are projected by Arpon Basu in this piece to make Team Canada's roster. Obviously, I do not expect that to hold, particularly in Schwartz's case. We'll see, though.
- Kevin Shattenkirk
- Paul Stastny
Shattenkirk is a no-brainer following what would have been a career season had it not been for that pesky abdominal issue, not to mention racking up a shit-ton of apples in the postseason. If he's healthy, he's on the squad.
Stastny has become known as a very good international player in years' past. It would be hard to imagine Team USA brass overlooking him.
- Vladimir Tarasenko
Do I have to explain this pick? It would be silly of Team Russia to omit him at this point.
- Alexander Steen
His scoring touch, versatility and strong two-way play should get him on Sweden's roster. There is an outside chance Tre Kronor will go elsewhere, though, as Steen is now on the wrong side of 30. Though I consider that to be a VERY outside shot.
- Jori Lehtera
Again, there's a chance Suomi goes elsewhere with their lineup. But they've trusted Lehtera in international play before (he was a top-nine guy for them in Sochi, before he'd even tested NHL waters), so it would not be hard to imagine them going with Jori again.
- Dmitrij Jaskin
This . . . might take a bit of projection. The Blues have a top-six spot available for Jaskin this year if he's up to take it, and if he takes it AND succeeds in the role, it's not going to be a huge long-shot to see the big winger make the Czech squad.
This roster will be loaded with Anze Kopitar plus some Slovaks, Austrians, Germans, Norwegians and Danes. The Blues don't really have anyone of that group up for taking a spot here, unless someone like "Big Fuckin' German" Konrad Abeltshauser goes absolutely bananas on the blue line this year.
TEAM NORTH AMERICA (U-23)
- Robby Fabbri
This, just like the Jaskin pick, will take a little bit of projection. He would really have to shine in the professional ranks this year, and we know how our current coaching staff does with youngsters (and some of us, like yours truly, don't trust their promise to change in that regard). However, if he makes the squad AND does well, it would not be a big leap to see Fabbri on the U-23 NA roster.
KEY OMISSIONS FROM THESE ROSTERS
- Jake Allen
- David Backes
- Ivan Barbashev
- Patrik Berglund
- Carl Gunnarsson
- Petteri Lindbohm
I'm not totally sold on Allen missing Team Canada. But with the likes of Carey Price, Braden Holtby and Roberto Luongo ahead of him, it would probably take a catastrophic injury or two AND a remarkable season from the New Brunswick youngster to make the squad. I won't bet on that happening until those things DO happen. Even then, Team Canada probably will not . . . "Ride the Snake" . . . unless they absolutely must.
Backes is, obviously, the biggest omission from this list. He would be useful in a tournament such as the World Cup of Hockey, but I'm betting on the USA roster being too loaded for him this time around. I hope I'm wrong.
Barbashev has an outside shot to make Team Russia, but that would take a considerable amount of advancement from him, and that's not happening this year. Maybe next time.
Berglund's injury will hold him back from making Team Sweden, even if he will almost assuredly be healthy by then. They've trusted him in international play in the past (Sochi 2014, for instance), so it wouldn't be a massive long-shot to see the team select him again. I just doubt it happens.
I know you're laughing about Gunnarsson's mere inclusion on this list. Fact is, though, that he's not a terrible option for the Swedes on the blue line in a tournament such as this. But with that squad's depth on the blue line, they just won't have room for him.
Lindbohm, though, is not as much of a laugher for Team Finland. Right now, projections see Petteri making the squad. I'm not as sold on it as they are, though it would be nice if his skills advance enough with a probable full year in the NHL to make it happen.