The Under 23 elite from North America look to live up to their billing as they start their round robin play with a show down against Finland.
The World Cup of Hockey offers a unique twist on international play as Team North America features the very best skaters from Canada and the United States who are under the age of 23 and while some of these players could very well crack the roster of their respective senior teams they are instead compiled together here to offer another competitive team to the field. North America features a handful of top end draft picks including the last three first overall picks in Auston Matthews, Connor McDavid, and Aaron Ekblad and a number of other NHL cornerstones who are on their way to making a name for themselves on the big stage and could very well be auditioning for a future position with their senior national teams. Johnny Gaudreau, Jack Eichel, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Nathan Mackinnon, and Dylan Larkin are all a part of the North American forward crop while their blue line is anchored by Ekblad, Seth Jones, Morgan Rielly, and Jacob Trouba. John Gibson of the Anaheim Ducks is expected to be the team’s starter in goal and this team is young of course, but they can play and should be considered a threat to land on the podium in this tournament.
Finland meanwhile remains at a stalemate on the international scene and while they have a very bright future considering their success at the World Juniors this past year and the presence of guys like Sebastian Aho, Patrik Laine, and Jesse Puujuljarvi in the system and the first two on this World Cup roster. However, the rest of the Finnish roster leaves a lot to be desired and while they are filled to the brim with NHL talent they just seem to be a little bit behind the rest of the upper echelon teams and bring a roster to this tournament that spells an early round exit despite having Pekka Rinne in goal. Finland does have two bright young defenders in Olli Maata and Rasmus Ristolainen but the rest of their blue line is thin and against a speedy, very skilled team like North America in this one I think they could be in big trouble. There is a lot of hype pouring in for this North American side, but for good reason and with the play making ability of this group I think they are worth a flier on the puck line at a very serviceable price.