Editor’s note: Welcome to our World Cup of Hockey preview series! Every day we’ll be previewing a different position group for a team competing in this fall’s tournament.
Team North America, a youth team for all intents and purposes, may boast the most intriguing group of forwards in the tournament. Players ranging from those established (Johnny Gaudreau) to those who haven’t played in the NHL yet (Auston Matthews) make this a team I’m pretty excited to watch.
There aren’t any Sharks in this group, but four Pacific Division players (Gaudreau, Connor McDavid, Sean Monahan, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins) fill out the roster. I don’t love this team’s chances against the likes of Canada, but I think North America could surprise some people given the pedigree of their forwards.
At the very least we should see some pretty spectacular offensive plays and beautiful goals from the likes of McDavid and Gaudreau — and honestly, that’s why we’re watching anyway, right?
North America Forwards
Sean Couturier, Philadelphia Flyers
Jonathan Drouin, Tampa Bay Lightning
Jack Eichel, Buffalo Sabres
Johnny Gaudreau, Calgary Flames
Dylan Larkin, Detroit Red Wings
Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche
Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs
Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers
J.T. Miller, New York Rangers
Sean Monahan, Calgary Flames
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Edmonton Oilers
Brandon Saad, Columbus Blue Jackets
Mark Scheifele, Winnipeg Jets
PLAYERS TO WATCH
The forward hasn’t played in an NHL game yet ... and that’s exactly why he’s on this list. Our first look at Matthews (against other NHL players) will be in this tournament and I can’t wait to see what he’s got to offer. The savior of the Leafs will be under a microscope, and it starts to zoom in during this tournament.
We saw what Drouin can do in the NHL playoffs and now he gets a fresh start after a drama-filled regular season that saw him demoted to the AHL. He’s one of the best forwards in the NHL and I’m looking forward to seeing him play with other young, talented players.
It feels like MacKinnon has been around forever. Okay, not really, but he’s the old veteran of the group and will be looked to for leadership on this young squad. The Avalanche forward is another fun, speedy player that can help North America surprise in this tournament.
Group: B (Team Finland, Team North America, Team Russia, Team Sweden)
First Game: Team North America vs. Team Finland, 5 p.m. PT, ESPN2