It’s been about six years since the last time the World Cup of Hockey was played. It was quite an exciting preseason tournament. Like most international tournaments that the NHL allows its players to attend, the tournament was a hit with fans.
One of the biggest draws of the 2016 World Cup of Hockey was the two gimmick teams, Team North America and Team Europe. This was a way for NHL players from European countries with poorer hockey development to play albeit just lumping them and only “representing their countries” with a flag patch of their home country on their shoulder. The belle of the ball was Team North America though. This would be Auston Matthews’ first action against other NHL-caliber teams, and he would be on a team with Connor McDavid, who had just finished his rookie season. Those two names alone were a big enough draw, but they also had Nathan MacKinnon and Calder runner-up Shayne Gostisbehere. The premise of this team was North American players aged 23 and younger. Those two teams will not be in the next World Cup of Hockey, much to a mixed reception from fans.
The other teams in the tournament were Team USA, Team Canada, Team Russia, Team Finland, Team Sweden, and Team Czech Republic. Team USA and Canada both comprised of players from their countries that were 24 and older. Deputy Commissioner of the NHL, Bill Daly, has said that they will have eight teams compete like last time. Those six teams are a lock to play in the tournament again, which leaves two more teams. Germany is a country that comes to mind. They have one of the best players in the league, Leon Draisaitl, along with other rising NHL stars in Tim Stützle and Moritz Seider. Switzerland will probably get the second nod. Switzerland boasts the talents of Nico Hischier and Roman Josi, both of which are names the NHL would like to have play in it. Denmark is another nation that has a real shot at getting in the tournament with the likes of Nik Ehlers and Frederik Andersen. The best bet is that two of those three nations will have a team in two years.
Why now? Well, with the NHL having not sent players to the last two winter Olympics, NHL players have expressed interest in representing their countries in an international tournament. While this isn’t the Olympics, it is something to get them to 2026. This is also a way for the NHL to get more money through jersey and ticket sales since they will be running the whole shebang. With two more full seasons before the World Cup of Hockey, it’s too difficult to narrow down exactly what the rosters could look like, especially with potential generational talents like Shane Wright and Connor Bedard having not even been drafted yet.
As for Flyers players that could go, it’s a couple years from now, so things can change, but the most likely candidates would be Couturier and Hart possibly representing Canada, Joel Farabee and Cam Atkinson could be USA candidates, Ivan Provorov would most likely be high on Russia’s radar, and Ristolainen could represent Finland. Lindblom could be a dark horse candidate for Sweden depending on how he plays these next two seasons. Also, there are 3 drafts that will take place between now and then, and the Flyers seem to be on a trajectory to have high picks that could be candidates for teams.
By Noah Caplan (@Phlyers24)
photo creds: nhlpa.com