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Hypothetical "World Cup of Hockey 2023" Best-on-Best Roster: Team Canada

Mario Tirabassi Avatar
September 10, 2023

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

Previous: Team Europe, Team North America, Team Czechia, Team Finland, Team Russia, Team Sweden

The defending champion Canadians could very well be looked at as favorites to repeat again as World Cup of Hockey champs in this hypothetical tournament with the amount of talent they could put together in their 22 skaters. The tricky part comes with their three goaltenders, but we’ll get to that part soon. Still, this iteration of a Men’s best-on-best Team Canada finally gets to see Sidney Crosby and Connor McDavid playing on the same team representing the Great White North, a sight we were robbed of seeing for the first time when the NHL pulled out of the 2022 Winter Olympics. With how much we (I) have hyped up the six teams already put together in this tournament with how well they could do in the elimination rounds, is any of it enough to top this Canada team?

Forwards

Nathan MacKinnon – Connor McDavid(C) – Mitch Marner

Steven Stamkos – Brayden Point – Ryan Nugent-Hopkins

Zach Hyman – Sidney Crosby(A) – Brad Marchand

Jonathan Huberdeau – Bo Horvat – Mark Stone

John Tavares – Mat Barzal

Sep 29, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Team Canada center Sidney Crosby (87) holds up the World Cup of Hockey championship trophy after defeating Team Europe 2-1 in game two of the World Cup of Hockey final at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Bennett/Pool Photo via USA TODAY Sports

Who do you want to win games for you, Canada? Crosby? McDavid? MacKinnon? Marner? Seriously, take your pick. There’s an incredible amount of talent for the Canadians, so much that the “B” team that Canada could field could still legitimately be considered true contenders to repeat as World Cup of Hockey champions. I’m not sure if there are many shocking omissions from this roster, you tell me, but I will say that I made it a point to put Zach Hyman on this roster because I feel like he is one of the most underrated and under-appreciated two-way forwards in the NHL and could (would) play an under-the-radar “x-factor” role for this Canadian team. So much so that maybe this hypothetical World Cup of Hockey would be a reintroduction for Hyman to the broader NHL fanbase.

Defense

Shea Theodore – Cale Makar(A)

Devon Toews – Alex Piertrangelo

MacKenzie Weegar – Josh Morrissey

Brandon Montour – Dougie Hamilton

Jun 26, 2022; Tampa, Florida, USA; Colorado Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar (8) celebrates with the Stanley Cup after the Avalanche game against the Tampa Bay Lightning in game six of the 2022 Stanley Cup Final at Amalie Arena. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

You have your defensive do-it-all with Cale Makar for the Canadians, and then everyone else can do a little bit of everything and can play any kind of offensive or defensive role you need. Let Makar do his thing, and then everyone else fall in line. The Canadian defensive group is great and probably the most well-rounded in the tournament. Yes, I left out Drew Doughty out of spite.

Goalies

Carter Hart

Darcy Kuemper

Marc-Andre Fleury

Yeeesh. Hey, remember all the great things I was saying about the forwards and defensive groups for Canada? How about the opposite for their goaltending group. It’s not good. It might be one of the worst in the tournament. Canada, as a nation, has not produced a goaltending prospect that has lived up to the hype in a long time. You don’t have Carey Price anymore and Marc-André Fleury is well-past his prime days. Carter Hart is their best option if you ask me and he’s coming off the last two seasons in the NHL where he posted .907 and .905 save-percentages for the Flyers. If you’re looking for a hole in the Canadian armo(u)r, here it is.

Last Cuts

Darnell Nurse, Thomas Chabot, Jordan Kyrou, Jordan Binnington

I also left out Jordan Bennington out of spite.

If the Canadians could get average goaltending, they’re going to be just fine and likely have their ticket punched to the semifinals at least, likely even all the way to a spot in the World Cup of Hockey final again. The star-power is off the charts with McDavid, Crosby, Makar, and MacKinnon all on the same squad, not to mention Stamkos, Marner, Marchand and the like. I’m hesitant to call them the clear-cut favorites because of what their goaltending could cost them, but if I had one single dollar to place on this hypothetical tournament, I’m thinking it goes on the Canadians. Have to make that bet with my head and not my Red, White, and Blue heart.

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