By Tom Hunter (@)
Every year in mid-December, Canadian hockey fans begin to get excited about Junior hockey. People start to get eager about their team’s prospects getting a chance to shine in the spotlight, whether we’ll ever see them succeed in the NHL or not – I hear that Justin Pogge kid is going to be a star.
As is tradition, when the rosters begin to take shape, we see the inevitable reference to players that are absent from their World Junior teams because they are in the NHL.
These references are usually made to discuss how good Team Canada could be – in order for the home media to drum up the idea that they start the tournament at a disadvantage.
This year more than most it seems the field at the World Juniors is being hit hard by the NHL’s ‘youth movement’.
Finland will be without the best three players from last year’s tournament – Jesse Puljujarvi, Sebastian Aho and Patrik Laine. Sweden could be missing Alex Nylander – though he might still be released from the AHL to play. The Czechs will be without Pavel Zacha and Switzerland won’t have Florida Panthers rookie Denis Malgin.
While those are big losses, none of it compares to the amount of eligible talent that will be missing from Canada and Team USA.
World Jr eligible players in the NHL:
USA: Matthews, Werenski, Tkachuk, Hanifin
CAN: McDavid, Marner, Chychrun, Konecny, Beauvillier, Crouse
— Tom Hunter (@PuckDontLie) November 29, 2016
Everyone remember’s Canada’s 2005 Wold Junior ‘All Star’ team. Thnks to the NHL lockout, we saw a collection of superstars playing in the tournament that we will likely never see again.
Crosby, Bergeron, Carter, Getzlaf, Perry, Seabrook, Phaneuf, Weber – the team was a whos-who of junior stars, most of which turned into NHL superstars.
So let’s daydream for a second. There is eventually going to be another NHL lockout – it’s inevitable. Let’s take a look at how incredible this year’s rosters would look for Canada and the US had the NHL been fighting over a new CBA.
The addition of the NHL players to both teams would make for an unforgettable tournament that would have the added bonus of watching Maple Leafs fans’ heads explode when they have to choose between Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner.
In any normal circumstance, hockey fans in Toronto would be going wild for Mitch Marner and Team Canada, though I have a feeling they’d have a much harder time than normal cheering against Team USA with the face of the franchise suiting up for the Americans.
Whether he’s the best player in the world or not, he’s in the top-2. Connor McDavid is showing he’s worth the hype that started when he was 15. The most astounding part of it all is that at only 19-years old, Connor McDavid is still World Junior eligible.
After seeing what he was able to do against the best in the best in the world during the World Cup, I’m terrified to think what McDavid would do in an under-20 tournament.
Then there’s Mr. Marner. He was dazzling last year on the powerplay, but when playing 5 on 5, Marner – like the rest of Team Canada – was very underwhelming. That said, the young winger has been incredible for the Leafs this season and further along in his development than many had expected. Two scoring lines based around McDavid and Marner and Team Canada might be scarier offensively than some NHL team.
|Lawson Crouse||Connor McDavid||Travis Konecny|
|Pierre-Luc Dubios||Dylan Strome||Mitch Marner|
|Tyson Jost||Mathew Barzal||Julien Gauthier|
|Anthony Beauvillier||Michael McLeod||Mitchell Stephens|
That is four lines of players that were drafted in the first 33 picks of the NHL Entry Draft and five full-time NHLers.
Lawson Crouse would be on his third World Junior team and could play the role Milan Lucic usually fills on McDavid’s wing.
A second line made up of players that were drafted no later than 4th in the draft. The combination of Marner and Strome lining up against the opposition’s second defense pairing is something that could get very ugly, very quickly.
This team would score a lot….like an absurd amount.
|Jakob Chychrun||Samuel Girard|
|Thomas Chabot||Noah Juulsen|
|Jake Bean||Dante Fabbro|
There isn’t the same kind of crazy star power on the blueline as there is up front. That said, adding Chychrun to the lineup pushes guys like Chabot and Bean down into roles that they should be dominant in.
Jakob Chychrun has spent some time in the press box in Arizona this season but his game is far too mature, both physically and mentally for Junior hockey. The Coyotes aren’t going to release him to Team Canada but if they had, he would have the potential to have a 2005-Dion-esque tournament.
As far as goaltending goes, there aren’t any unavailable guys to save the day. The trio of Hart, Ingram and McNiven are the ones that the team will be relying on in any scenario.
Thanks to Jake Baskin (@) for this lineup.
|Mathew Tkachuk||Auston Matthews||Brock Boeser|
|Jordan Greenway||Clayton Keller||Jack Roslovic|
|Luke Kunin||Colin White||Christian Fischer|
|Alex DeBrincat||Logan Brown||Jeremy Bracco|
This is another forward group that is unbelievably deep. If anyone could possibly line up against a McDavid-led top line, it’s the trio of Matthews, Tkachuk and Boeser.
The group isn’t quite as impressive as the Canadian forwards but the addition of the currently unavailable Tkachuk, Matthews and Fischer makes Team USA a powehouse in their own right.
|Noah Hanifin||Charlie McAvoy|
|Zach Werenski||Adam Fox|
|Ryan Lindgren||Casey Fitzgerald|
Where Team USA is better than Canada in this fantasy tournament is on the blueline. The one/two punch of Hanifin and Werenski is better than anything other combination in the tournament – by a wide margin.
Add in Fox and McAvoy on the right side and it’s a top-4 that might rival any you’ve seen at the World Juniors in recent memory.
Like with Canada the current trio of Tyler Parsons, Jake Oettinger and Joseph Woll are still the guys you’d see between the pipes.
Who would win in a showdown of these two super-rosters? My money is on Canada but I’m a little biased.