Expect familiar names to fill initial WCup of Hockey slots
Doug Armstrong suggests it would be unfair to tip his hand in revealing who might make up Canada's World Cup of Hockey roster.
There are exceptions, of course, such as when Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby's name is broached.
The St. Louis Blues general manager, who doubles as Canada's GM, laughed and said: ''I think Sidney's resume speaks for itself.''
Don't expect many surprises Wednesday, when each of the eight teams announces its initial 16 selections for what will become 23-player rosters.
Many of the usual suspects are widely anticipated to be chosen, such as: Crosby and Jonathan Toews (Canada), Patrick Kane (United States), Alex Ovechkin (Russia), Daniel and Henrik Sedin (Sweden) and Connor McDavid (North America).
''I don't think that anybody named in the 16, people won't be saying, `Why was he named?''' Armstrong said, noting he expects to lose more sleep over making the final seven selections on June 1.
USA Hockey's Jim Johansson agrees, predicting there'll be far more second-guessing once the final cuts are made for the tournament that will be played in Toronto in September.
Johansson's biggest concern is how players might react to not making the initial 16.
''I think all of us are concerned about the unintended messaging that might lead to,'' he said. ''It's going to lead to a lot of speculation, but I hope it's all positive speculation.''
After a 12-year absence, hockey's World Cup is back and will feature some new twists.
Six nations will be represented, including the Czech Republic and Finland. And the tournament will include two all-star teams, one combining North America's top players 23 and younger, and the other comprised of European players whose nations weren't invited. The goal is to ensure a majority of the NHL's top talents, both young and old, and players from Europe's non-traditional hockey powers are showcased during the three-week event to be broadcast in the U.S. by ESPN.
What's unchanged is the focus of attention. As usual, it will fall on Canada, which has won the past two Olympic gold medals, last year's world championship and five of seven Canada Cup/World Cup events since the tournament debuted in 1976.
The challenge for Armstrong is rediscovering the chemistry management had in building the past two Canadian Olympic teams. In 2014, Canada was praised for its collection of speedy puck-moving, two-way players who had a commitment to playing defense and created relentless pressure with highly effective breakouts.
''From Sochi, we generated offense but we couldn't capitalize on goals,'' Armstrong said. ''That's way too drastic a statement, but it's something where we hope to score at an easier clip. But I look at it as a glass half full. We understand we can defend with anybody.''
Team USA is motivated to prove 2014 was an anomaly. After winning its first four games by a combined score of 20-6, the Americans finished fourth by failing to score a goal in each of their final two games - a 1-0 semifinal loss to Canada and a 5-0 loss to Finland in the bronze medal game.
It was a disappointing finish after the U.S. won silver at the 2010 Vancouver Games.
''Obviously, we're feeling a lot of pressure to get over the hump,'' said Johansson, who is assisting USA GM Dean Lombardi in selecting the team. ''I guarantee, any of our returning guys are going to be looking for redemption to how Sochi finished.''
The one drawback for the U.S. and Canada is they can't select from the Team North America pool of players.
It's a group that includes several highly rated Americans, such as Calgary's Johnny Gaudreau, Detroit's Dylan Larkin, and Columbus' Brandon Saad and Seth Jones. For Canada, Edmonton forwards McDavid and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Florida defenseman Aaron Ekblad are off limits.
Armstrong isn't concerned, noting 20 of the Canadian players he initially projected to select are 24 and older.
What intrigues him is how big of a threat the North American team might be.
''One of the advantages they have, and maybe the European team as well, is they're playing on house money,'' Armstrong said. ''They're walking into a tournament where they're not trying to live off of anything.''
North America GM Peter Chiarelli's biggest challenge is projecting how some younger candidates will mature over the next six months. That places an emphasis on zeroing in on 22- and 23-year-olds with established NHL credentials. It also makes it difficult to determine if a player such as U.S.-born forward and this year's projected No. 1 draft pick, Auston Matthews, might fit.
''We're a young team, and we just have to make sure we don't rule out experience, too, wherever we can get it,'' said Chiarelli, who also serves as the Oilers GM. ''There's a lot of picks that seem natural and easy, but it's not.''
He catches himself, and laughs when referring to evaluating ''young'' players.
''Young, everyone on the team's young,'' Chiarelli said. ''When you see guys bubble up, you kind of have to change your whole outlook on the roster. It's challenging because it's fun.''
AP Sports Writers Stephen Whyno and Larry Lage contributed to this report.