By Evan Presement
This team would have probably been really, really good five years ago – not so much now.
While Hossa, Gaborik, Vanek, Chara, Steit, Sekera, and Streit are all fine players, let’s not pretend that they’re all not well past their primes. That’s not to say that there’s no elite talent on this team, though. Kopitar, Zuccarello, Draisaitl, and Josi are all some of the best players in the game, and who knows, maybe the vets can turn back the clock and pull off a few surprises.
L1: Boedker – Kopitar – Zuccarello
L2: Tatar – Nielsen – Hossa
L3: Gaborik – Draisaitl – Niederreiter
L4: Vanek – Bellemare – Hansen
D1: Chara – Josi
D2: Sekera – Streit
D3: Erhoff – Sbisa
One thing that this team has going for it, if you believe in this kind of stuff, is ‘veteran presence’, ‘veteran savvy’, whatever you want to call it.
Sure, that may be a made up concept, but there is something to be said for a team full of guys who have represented their countries multiple times on the international stage, as well as have played years upon years in the NHL.
This is most likely going to be the last international tournament for a number of these players, so why not go out with a bang?
It’s most likely going to be one of the team’s youngest players, though, that makes the biggest impact on the team.
Leon Draisaitl really burst on to the NHL scene last season, and through a few pre-tournament games, has picked up right where he left off. He’s a dynamic forward who may actually end up being more important to this team than Anze Kopitar.
In terms of goaltending, although many are sour on Halak, I’m not too sure why. Sure, he’s coming off of an injury-riddled season, but he’s always posted good numbers, and is widely regarded as an average – above average starting NHL goalie. Even still, if all else fails, Thomas Greiss posted fantastic numbers last season with the Isles. Their goalie situation isn’t as dire as it may seem.
PROJECTED TOP PERFORMERS
Leon Draisaitl will almost surely be Team Europe’s top forward. He’s already put up some crooked numbers in a few pre-tournament games. Team Europe goes as far as he takes them.
It’s kind of weird to have Zdeno Chara on your team and not automatically pick him, huh? Well, that’s what happens when you’ve got a d-man like Roman Josi playing alongside him. Josi has emerged as one of the NHL’s finest, scoring at least 55 points in each of the last two seasons. Chara’s just not that guy anymore – Josi is.
WHERE WILL THEY FINISH?
Team Europe is in a pretty good position. Sure, they’re in Canada’s group, but they also in USA and Czech Republic’s group. Basically, though they’re in the same group as the best team in the tournament, they’re also in the same group as arguably two of the worst. Just because of that, by default, they should do well. Prediction: Places 2nd in their group.