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

Mario Tirabassi Avatar
September 4, 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

After finishing as runner-ups in 2016 to Team Canada, the conglomerate of Team Europe returns looking to “shock the hockey world” again and maybe finish what its predecessor started seven years ago. There’s a good amount of players from that 2016 roster still around now seven years later.

Forwards

Tim Stützle – Leon Draisaitl(A) – Timo Meier

Mats Zuccarello – Anže Kopitar(C) – Nino Niederreiter

Kevin Fiala – Nico Hischier – Oliver Bjorkstrand

Nikolaj Ehlers – Yegor Sharangovich – Daniel Sprong

Lukas Reichel – Tomáš Tatar

Sep 25, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Team Europe forward Anze Kopitar (11) warms up prior to the semifinal game against Team Sweden in the 2016 World Cup of Hockey at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

You’re going to have a hard time finding a better trio of centers in this hypothetical World Cup of Hockey than what Team Europe could put together. Yes, in international tournaments it’s not uncommon for centers to play win because most of the best players on teams are centers, but Team Europe’s depth at wing is good enough that the top three centers on the team don’t need to load up on a top line. Draisatil, Kopitar, and Hischier provide an incredible two-way trio down the middle with skilled guys like Stützle, Meier, and Fiala having play-making and scoring abilities to drive the offense. And yes, I do have Lukas Reichel here because he’s one of the best German players on the planet right now.

Defense

Roman Josi(A) – Moritz Seider

J.J. Moser – Jonas Siegenthaler

Erik Černák – Martin Fehérváry

Tim Berni – Šimon Nemec

Sep 14, 2016; Washington, DC, USA; Team Europe defenseman Roman Josi (59) skates with the puck as Team Sweden forward Carl Hagelin (62) defends in the second period during a World Cup of Hockey pre-tournament game at Verizon Center. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Speaking of some of the best German players on the planet, Team Europe’s defense is likely going to have to rely heavily on a top-pairing of Norris Trophy winner Roman Josi and star-in-the-making Moritz Seider. Beyond those two, this is maybe one of the weakest defensive groups in this hypothetical World Cup of Hockey. I could be convinced that Šimon Nemec is better than a “fourth-pair” option, but that doesn’t help this core all that much in the grand scheme of things.

Goalies

Philipp Grubauer

Frederik Andersen

Elvis Merzļikins

All three of these goalies, when healthy, are very, very good goaltenders. Luckily for Team Europe, the World Cup of Hockey isn’t much longer than two weeks long. Take your pick for a starter as the difference between these guys isn’t that wide of a gap, but if it were up to me, I’m going with Grubauer to begin.

Last Cuts

Lars Eller, Juraj Slafkovsky, John-Jason Peterka

I love the forward group of Team Europe, but I don’t think this group has the depth defensively or the trustworthy starter in net that could see them get out of the group stage in another edition of the World Cup of Hockey in 2023. Then again, they weren’t given much of a chance in 2016 and made it to the Final against Team Canada, so who knows in this kind of tournament. My next job for Team Europe is redesigning a better logo for them.

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