It has been far too long since the world of men’s hockey has seen a quality “best-on-best” tournament. This week marks seven years since the beginning of the 2016 World Cup of Hockey, the last tournament that saw the best men’s players in the world representing their countries (most of them) and putting on a world-class display of talent. The tournament in 2016 was the revival of the World Cup of Hockey that was previously played in 1996 and in 2004, and took place right before NHL teams began training camp ahead of the 2016-17 season. It was the last time a tournament like it has been played for the men’s game with the NHL not participating in the 2018 or 2022 Winter Olympics. For far too long, we as hockey fans have been robbed of seeing these players play for something incredibly meaningful in a best-on-best setting and the players have been barred from representing their countries in meaningful ways.
With the rumors that the NHL would be participating again in the olympics in 2026 swirling, and the “plan” for the World Cup of Hockey to return as an in-season tournament in 2025, it got me thinking about who could play in that tournament and which Blackhawks, if any, would be representing their countries? But why wait for a hypothetical 2025 or 2026 roster? Let’s live in the here and now.
How would the rosters look, right now, if the World Cup of Hockey were to return this September?
For this exercise, I’m implementing two rules:
1) The 2016 “Nations” (USA, Canada, Russia, Sweden, Finland, Czechia, Team Europe, and Team North America) return
2) 25-player rosters to allow for expanded representation and roster rotation
First of all, I LOVE the Swedish colors for their uniform setups. The blue and yellow matchup so well and I love that they use both as primary colors for their home and away sets, instead of using a white sweater setup. Imagine if the Blackhawks had the red home setup and then the all black setup for away games? Sexy. Anyways, I’m getting side-tracked.
While the other Nordic representative nation of Finland had unassuming and underrated talent, their counterpart in Team Sweden has a well-known and stacked roster to take into this hypothetical World Cup of Hockey. You could probably make a second roster of players that wouldn’t be taken by the Swedes and that team could probably make it out of the group stage.
Filip Forsberg – Elias Pettersson – William Nylander
Jesper Bratt – Mika Zibanejad(A) – Adrian Kempe
Lucas Raymond – Elias Lindholm – William Karlsson
Andre Burakovsky – Joel Eriksson Ek – Viktor Arvidsson
Mikael Backlund – Niklas Backstrom
Two-way forwards, playmakers, play-drivers, and scorers all over the board for the Swedish forwards group. Almost every player could play a top-line role or a bottom-six role and you’d be happy with it. The roster flexibility and matchup capabilities of the Swedish forwards makes them an elite group. I almost put Lucas Raymond on the top-line for this exercise with William Nylander and Elias Pettersson because that would be appointment television, but I stuck with Filip Forsberg on seniority. There’s a ton of speed and creativity up-front in this group that I’d like to think they could win their group on the forward talent alone, but luckily their defensive group is solid enough that they wouldn’t have to.
Victor Hedman(A) – Erik Karlsson(C)
Rasmus Dahlin – Rasmus Andersson
Hampus Lindholm – Mattias Ekholm
Jonas Brodin – John Klingberg
Two of the top ten defensemen in the NHL right now being paired together as your top blue-line pair is never a bad thing. With Hedman and Karlsson, two Norris Trophy winners, the Swedes boast one of the best top-pairs in the tournament and a versatile attack with Karlsson being the offensive dynamo and Hedman being able to be the defensively-responsible player who could also jump into the attack whenever he wanted to. Beyond those two, you have four solid defenders headlined by another potential future- Norris Trophy winner in Rasmus Dahlin. You know things are good with your defensive group when you can confidently scratch Jonas Brodin and John Klingberg.
It’s not great, but it’s definitely not bad for Team Sweden in net. Linus Ullmark is the reigning Vezina Trophy winner coming into this hypothetical World Cup of Hockey tournament, but he was playing behind a historically great Boston Bruins team last season. Still, winning the Vezina is not done by mistake. I think Ullmark is the best option for Sweden as their starter and, like playing with the Bruins last season, the guys in front of him are capable of pulling their weight and then some when it comes to helping their goaltender out. This would be the first time since 2004 that a Swedish team, in a best-on-best format, would not have Henrik Lundqvist as their top option in net.
Leo Carlsson, Rikard Rakell, Gustav Forsling
I really like Sweden’s chances in this tournament. I feel like I’ve said that for almost every team in this exercise, but I truly mean it with this group. If Ullmark is solid in net, I fail to find a way where Sweden can’t be looked at as a legitimate tournament favorite right along with Canada and the U.S. If I were to poke a hole in the Swedish team, it would be that their forwards group almost has too many options to mix-up the lines and combinations and there would be a difficulty finding a rhythm. But that’s up to the coach to figure out. I’m just the hypothetical GM of all these rosters.