With the management staff of Team Europe gathering in New York for talks ahead of next year’s World Cup of Hockey tournament, here’s a look at how this multinational squad might come together:
Frederik Andersen, Denmark
The play of the the 25-year-old keeper (2.33 GAA, .924 save percentage) has been the one consistent bright spot during Anaheim's early-season struggles and it has established him as the clear favorite to earn the starting job. Andersen has twice represented his homeland at the World Championship (2010, 2011). He hasn’t had much success (3-7-0) but he has never been surrounded by the kind of talent he will be next September in Toronto.
Jaroslav Halak, Slovakia
With two Olympic Games (2010, 2014) and three World Championships on his résumé, the 30-year-old Halak can provide a steadying presence between the pipes. He’s off to a great start with the Isles, where his 1.87 GAA and .928 save percentage match up with some of the best numbers of his career.
Kristers Gudlevskis, Latvia
He may be a bubble NHLer but Gudlevskis knows how to make the best of a big opportunity. His 55-save effort against Team Canada in the crossover round might have been the highlight performance of the 2014 Sochi Winter Games.
Also in the mix: Jonas Hiller, Switzerland; Philipp Grubauer, Germany; Reto Berra, Switzerland
Roman Josi, Switzerland
A favorite to challenge for the Norris Trophy this season, Josi will serve as the anchor of the European blueline. The 25-year-old has represented Switzerland at the Sochi Olympics (2014) and the World Championship (2015), registering three goals and 11 points in 15 games. His ability to make plays in all three zones will be key to this team’s success.
Zdeno Chara, Slovakia
Chara has made 76 international appearances for Slovakia, twice leading his homeland to silver medals at the World Championship (2000, 2012). Though there’s not much left in his tank at 38, that experience will be critical.
Andrej Sekera, Slovakia
The 29-year-old has been a constant for Team Slovakia in recent years, appearing in two Olympics and five World Championships. His ability to move the puck and make good decisions in his own zone could allow him to fill a top-four role.
Dennis Seidenberg, Germany
The 34-year-old has yet to play a game this season because of a lingering back injury and at this point it’s probably best to use a pencil when writing him in as part of the roster. But if he’s healthy, his physical presence combined with 40 games of international experience (including three Olympic appearances) guarantees him a spot.
Mark Streit, Switzerland
The 37-year-old has worn the C for Switzerland on multiple occasions, but will be his ability on the power play, more than his leadership, that earns him a spot on this squad. Few players can match his panic point, a valuable trait on a team that might have trouble generating offense and will need every break with the extra man.
Christian Ehrhoff, Germany
He has the size, the experience and the heavy shot, but Ehrhoff’s effectiveness is clearly waning. But with few high-end options available to the team’s management, he’s likely to snag a spot on the third pair.
Maybe not the most talented option to round out the blue line, but Weber brings one sorely needed element to this group: a right-handed shot.
Also in the mix: Luca Sbisa, Switzerland
Anze Kopitar, Slovenia
The two-time Stanley Cup winner is one of the top two-way forwards in the game. He’ll be Europe's go-to in every situation. There’s probably some concern at this time given his slow start with the Kings, but Kopitar has scored at least 60 points in each of his first eight full NHL seasons. That consistency speaks volumes. He’ll be ready when the puck drops.
Marian Hossa, Slovakia
By the time this tournament kicks off, Hossa will be a member of the NHL’s 500 Goal Club (he’s currently at 487) and he could have a fourth Stanley Cup on his mantle, but at 36 he’s finally showing signs of winding down. He’s been a stalwart for Slovakia through the years, though, scoring 29 goals and 67 points in 71 international matches.
Thomas Vanek, Austria
That nifty between-the-legs goal he scored this week against the Jets shows that Vanek still has a little magic left in the twig. And with 12 points through 14 games, he looks to be recovering the form he flashed when the starred for the Sabres. He could fill a first-line role.
Zemgus Girgensons, Latvia
A big, strong forward, he’ll bring some much-needed physicality to a roster that’s a little heavy on the finesse. Girgensons had two points in five games with Latvia at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
Lars Eller, Denmark
With only six points in his first 17 games, Eller’s been a bit of a lightning rod in Montreal this season, but he’s been productive for Denmark at the World Championship in 2010 and 2012 (five goals, 10 points in 14 games) and brings some versatility up front.
Nikolaj Ehlers, Denmark
At 19 he would be the youngest player on Team Europe, but don’t underestimate what Ehlers could mean to this club. With his speed, creativity and finishing touch, he’ll be a staple of the power play and a possible first liner.
Frans Nielsen, Denmark
The veteran Islanders forward has skated for Denmark at five World Championships. He’ll likely play a bottom-six role while contributing to both special teams.
Tomas Tatar, Slovakia
With just three goals through his first 15 games, Tatar is well off last season’s pace when he led the Red Wings with 29. Still, it’s hard to imagine the 24-year-old not making the cut. He’s already played 33 games internationally at the senior level, scoring nine goals and 19 points over one Olympic and four World Championship appearances.
Mats Zuccarello, Norway
The Hobbit has become a mainstay for Norway internationally, skating in the past two Olympics as well as three World Championships. He’s proving this season that he’s a gifted finisher as well as a creative playmaker, scoring seven goals in his first 15 games with the Rangers.
Nino Niederreiter, Switzerland
El Nino was playing for his country at the men’s worlds when he was still eligible to skate with the juniors, so he has plenty of experience in high pressure games. He’ll be called on to provide some jam and some finish in a bottom-six role.
Leon Draisaitl, Germany
Though he’ll likely start the tournament as Europe’s 13th forward, he could work his way into a more prominent role before it’s over. With four goals and 10 points in just six games for the Oilers since his recall from the minors, he’s shown tremendous improvement since last season in his discipline and decision making.
Marian Gaborik, Slovakia
No way to sugarcoat it: He's been awful this season for the Kings and there’s a very good chance that there will be 13 better options for his roster spot when it comes time to make the final decision. That said, his old teammate Miroslav Satan is calling the shots as Team Europe’s GM, and given that Gaborik is one of the most accomplished players in Slovakian history—24 goals in 52 games, including seven goals in the past two Olympics—he’ll probably be gifted a spot.
Antoine Roussel, France
He’s best known as a premier agitator, but Roussel also is a gifted defensive player whose relentlessness makes him an asset on a checking line and on the PK. Has high-end speed and some surprising finish in his game as well.
Also in the mix: Mikkel Boedker, Denmark; Michael Raffl, Switzerland; Michael Grabner, Austria; Mikhail Grabovski, Belarus; Tobias Rieder, Germany; Marko Dano, Slovakia
The numbers game
• On Wednesday night the Penguins won after entering the third period trailing their opponent for the first time since Jan. 5, 2014 when they beat the Jets, a schneid of 37 straight defeats in that scenario. In the process they improved to 10-3-2 in their past 15 games against the Canadiens dating to the start of the 2011-12 season.
• There have been 57 goals scored in the opening minute of any period this season (229 games)–11 in the first period, 24 in the second, 15 in the third, and seven in overtime.
• Corey Perry scored his 300th goal to tie Paul Kariyafor second place in Ducks franchise history, and now trails only Teemu Selanne(457). Perry also became the third member of his 2003 draft class to reach 300: The others: Eric Staal(316) and Thomas Vanek(304).
• Former bubble player Andrew Gordon offers a revealing first-person account of what it’s like to give up on his NHL dream and move on to a career playing in Europe.
• Tie Domi talks about the evolution of the enforcer, banning fighting and raising a young superstar.
• A new approach to statistical analysis is changing the way goalies can improve their performance.
• Could a lousy team and the league’s worst attendance lead to this organization being relocated?
• After hearing his name frequently mentioned as an option to replace troubled coaches in the NHL, it’s no surprise to hear that former Lightning bench boss Guy Boucher will leave Switzerland at the end of this season. He’ll be a hot commodity next summer.
• An actor who played a pivotal role in the film Miraclewas killed in a car crash over the weekend. Our condolences to his family.