The less-heralded portion of team North America, the defense group is a little less polished and a bit less explosive than their goal-scoring counterparts. I dig the top four of this team (some combination of Ekblad, Gostisbehere, Jones and Rielly) but North America lacks depth here.
Still, you can do a lot worse than an Ekblad-Gostisbehere top pairing. I think this area is where North America will struggle against more experienced, and frankly more skilled, forwards from other countries. Still, as with the rest of the team there are fun players to see here.
Team North America Defenders
Aaron Ekblad, Florida Panthers
Shayne Gostisbehere, Philadelphia Flyers
Seth Jones, Columbus Blue Jackets
Ryan Murray, Columbus Blue Jackets
Colton Parayko, St. Louis Blues
Morgan Rielly, Toronto Maple Leafs
Jacob Trouba, Winnipeg Jets
PLAYERS TO WATCH
He’s way younger than you think he is. No, really. Think in your head how old you think he is and then go look it up, it’ll blow your mind. Ekblad is extremely skilled and a surprisingly solid defender given his age.
The Flyers have something in “Ghost Bear.” He scores a ton and plays pretty good defense to boot. He’s also got one of the best names in hockey, which can’t possibly hurt his popularity any.
Freed from the Nashville Predators only to be stuck with the Columbus Blue Jackets, Jones is the next great hope for America’s blue line. He has all the potential in the world — whether he’ll unlock it playing for a mediocre Columbus team remains to be seen.
Group: B (Team Finland, Team North America, Team Russia, Team Sweden)
First Game: Team North America vs. Team Finland, 5 p.m. PT, ESPN2