WASHINGTON (AP) — Even though the NHL and NHLPA haven’t decided whether to go to the 2018 Olympics, they’ve decided to stage another World Cup of Hockey in 2020. Before it happens in 2016, players seem to be on board.
“You’re going to have the best players there and you’re going to have the NHL style of playing and a smaller rink, too,” Swedish center Nicklas Backstrom said. “Everything is going to be NHL-like. Some people are maybe saying it’s going to be the greatest tournament of all time.”
Count Chicago Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane as one of those people.
“It might be the best hockey ever played,” Kane said. “Considering players are going to have a couple months off, you’re going to come in, have a week to get ready for the tournament and guys will be flying, coming right off the summer.”
The World Cup is still six months away, and while the initial 16-man rosters are out, each team has at least one major issue to figure out before finalizing rosters June 1.
A look at each team’s biggest decision:
UNITED STATES: What kind of team will coach John Tortorella have? Shot blocking and stringent defense doesn’t fit with the American talent pool, but the goaltending is certainly there.
CANADA: With Carey Price’s injury situation, is he the goalie or is Braden Holtby? “I’d like to see Carey back and playing,” Holtby said. “I don’t like seeing guys struggle with injuries, especially he’s in the prime of his career. He’s going to do a lot more for our sport on the ice than he is off.”
TEAM NORTH AMERICA: Deep at center, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins would be a major boost. His general manager with the Edmonton Oilers, Peter Chiarelli, wants to make sure he’s healthy before adding him to the roster.
TEAM EUROPE: Is GM Miroslav Satan feeling lucky? Adding Latvian Zemgus Girgensons or Dane Nikolaj Ehlers might be a risk or it could put Team Europe in contention.
SWEDEN: The deepest blue line in the tournament already features two-time Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Victor Hedman, Anton Stralman, Niklas Hjalmarsson and Niklas Kronwall and there’s only one spot left. Does that go to the Dallas Stars’ John Klingberg or a more established but less dynamic player like Alexander Edler or Johnny Oduya.
RUSSIA: The first 16 players named to the roster are all from the NHL, so how much KHL representation will there be — beyond perhaps Alexander Radulov and Ilya Kovalchuk? “I’m not the coach,” Alex Ovechkin said. “You should ask him.”
FINLAND: Teemu Selanne is gone, and Finland needs a new face for a best-on-best tournament. Lauri Marjamaki has to pick a new leader beyond goaltender Tuukka Rask.
CZECH REPUBLIC: This is more of Jaromir Jagr’s decision than the national federation’s. Jagr is 44 and if he wants to play at the World Cup, he will, or else the Czechs will have to move on.