WCOH Game 1: North America vs Finland

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My friends, the preliminary games are in the books and it’s finally time for Team North America to get to work, and for our Nation-wide coverage to begin. The nice part about cheering for Team North America is that this team provides one of the few opportunities for Nation Network readers to come together and support the same team… well… unless you’re a Canucks fan. Sorry, CanucksArmy. 

Is there anything in the hockey universe that can unite rival fanbases quite like an international tournament? Not only does Team North America give fans of the Oilers, Flames, Jets, Wings, and Leafs a chance to watch the young talent that will be carrying our respective teams (and league) for years to come. Although the tournament is filled with experienced NHLers, Team North America has all the skill in the world and a real chance at winning if they can play at both ends of the ice. Defense or not, they’re exciting to watch. How can you not be cheering for a team that features Connor McDavid, Auston Matthews, Johnny Gaudreau, Dylan Larkin, Jack Eichel, and so many more? Say what you will about the lack of experience, the talent level on this roster is impressive. Full stop.

From TSN:

It may very well be aggressive to place the Under-23 squad this high in the rankings (3rd overall), but the talent is here and they have elite skill players. The notion that these kids aren’t going to be able to compete against the best may run into problems when these brilliant young players pick up the pace. 

Although TSN feels generous by ranking the youngsters third on the tournament depth chart, I can’t find another team that would make me disagree with that grade. I legitimately think these kids have a chance, becasue you never know what’s going to happen in short tournaments like the World Cup. Unless you’re a Canucks fan (did I mention that the Canucks don’t have any prospects good enough to make the team? Sorry about that.) tonight’s game will be the first time that our squad of young superheroes will be playing for keeps, and, hopefully, starting a miracle run towards the finals. Some pundits and fans don’t expect much from the under-23 team, but I expect them to be hugely entertaining, a touch unpredictable, and probably even a little bit scary. That’s good hockey, no?

BROADCAST DETAILS:

  • Team North America vs. Team Finland, 6pm MST, ESPN2, SN, TVA Sports. 
  • Sportsnet Radio Network
  • Keep your eyes on our Network Twitter accounts as we’ll be providing updates throughout the game

PROJECTED LINEUPS

Team North America:

Forwards

Auston Matthews – Connor McDavid – Mark Scheifele

Jonathan Drouin – Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Nathan MacKinnon

Johnny Gaudreau – Jack Eichel – Dylan Larkin

Vincent Trochek – Sean Couturier – Brandon Saad

Defense

Morgan Rielly – Aaron Ekblad

Ryan Murray – Seth Jones

Shayne Gostisbehere – Colton Parayko

Goalie

John Gibson

Matt Murray

Team Finland:

Forwards

Patrik Laine – Aleksander Barkov – Jussi Jokinen

Mikael Granlund – Mikko Koivu – Joonas Donskoi

Valterri Filpulla – Jori Lehtera – Teuvo Teravainen

Lauri Korpikoski – Erik Haula – Leo Komarov

Defense

Olli Maatta – Rasmus Ristolainen

Jyrki Jokipakka – Sami Vatanen

Esa Lindell – Ville Pokka

Goalie

Penna Rinne

Tuuka Rask

Lineups subject to change

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

“It’s a different group now. We don’t have those guys who have been there for 15 years. At least on defence, there’s a kind of change in players. We take pride in it; we have to. We have to produce. I don’t think it changes the way we play, the way Finland plays. The guys are just different.” -Olli Maata

WHAT YOU NEED TO WATCH FOR

Watching

  • Watch Connor McDavid. I know you’ve probably heard that 4000 times but it’s worth repeating. This kid is the future of hockey and he makes it look easy despite having only 45 NHL games on his resume. Although Connor hasn’t scored like you’re probably expecting (or at all), he’s going to take your breath away at least twice tonight. I’d bank on it. If you’re one of those people that are worried about his production or saying he sucks, then you may want to pick up another hobby. 
  • Even though the Team Finland would be considered the older of the two teams playing today, their roster still boasts plenty of young talent. Second overall pick, Patrik Laine, will be one player that I’ll be watching to see how he handles the speed of Team North America. 
  • Did you guys know that Auston Matthews can speak Spanish? I’m not sure what that has to do with anything but I thought it was worth mentioning anyway. It definitely won’t help today against Finland, but I encourage you to store that little nugget in your brain locker for later. You never know when you’re going to be doing that all inclusive thing and need translator. 
  • Since we’re talking about Laine and Matthews, did you know that they are the only two players drafted at the 2016 Draft to play in the World Cup? If you push that further back, they’re the first two teenagers to get drafted and then immediately play in a World Cup style (best-of-the-best) international tournament since Eric Lindros. 
  • Ever wonder what’s powering these kids? “I crush one or two bowls per day in the dining hall.” -Jack Eichel on Captain Crunch. Seems like a lot of sugar for a game day meal, no? That said, who am I to question a professional athlete? Captain Crunch… get it in ya. 
  • Despite the fact that he’s rocking a full grown beard, and the face of a 43-year old rancher, Aaron Ekblad is only 20-years old and already one of the best defensemen in the league. This kid is a warlord, and I’d expect him to play big minutes tonight, likely against Finland’s best. 

GAME DAY PREDICTION

TeamNA

GAME DAY PREDICTION: North America wins this game with speed, skill, and a little bit of luck. Final score 4-2.  

OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Connor McDavid registers his first point of the tournament on a coast-to-coast rush, silencing his critics and arousing fans, alike. 

NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Not a single Teemu on team Finland. What’s up with that?

  • DoubleDIon

    I feel bad for Schiefele and Matthews having to haul McPassengers carcass all over the ice. He’s been the worst player on his line all pretournament and now he’s doing the same thing in the games that matter. Good thing team NA has Johnny Hockey to save their bacon.

  • Oil drop

    Also. It is my personal theory that hockey fan is in fact an oiler fan. This is his alt account for the express purposes of trolling the site.presumably out of boredom…perhaps even one of the authors here

    • Hockeyfan

      yah that’s it, we are all secret fans of a useless NHL team that drafts in top 5 for 7 years and can’t get above a 63 point avg. in those 7 years. The oilers are a welfare team and throughly disrespected and disregarded by fans and hockey people alike.

  • Arminius

    In typical Oilers style Nugget is standing in front of the net watching the puck go past him into the crease leading in a goal. Hilarious. Talbot feels your pain Murray

  • RedMan

    Wow, McDavid totally asleep at the wheel… that goal was totally the result of McDavid coasting and puck watching… cost his goalie a shutout. Pathetic lapse

  • Toronto and Vancouver are set to bottom dwell for a few years.

    Winnipeg, Calgary and Edmonton have outside chances at the playoffs

    Montreal plays in the weakest Division and has the best shot to make it.

    There’s a better chance no Canadian team makes it again, Just like Bettman wants. We’re all chumps funding a Hobby sport in the States.

  • Hockeyfan

    At Harry, piscera.infada is one of FN’s most knowledgeable posters. Insult me all you want, i do it enough to you guys (in fun) on ON, leave him out of it. Seriously, congrats on your coming baby and have a good night.

    • Harry2

      That weirdo attacked me first. And thanks for pointing that out ill be sure to harrass the both of you whenever I can. If insulting people personally from behind a screen is your idea of fun you really need to get a life.

      Thanks for the congrats but Get bent (for real).

      • Randaman

        Dear moderator, this is really becoming a royal pain in the a$$! All this childish back & forth gibberish is taking away from what was a very good performance by a HOCKEY team. We are trying to discuss same HOCKEY game on a HOCKEY blog.

        These cross nation posts are just an invitation to idiocy in my opinion.

        @ Hockeyfan, get a Fing life. You are even an outsider on Flames Nation. I mean if you want to pretend to be tough, go to a bar and mouth off by telling someone you do his MOM as you so eloquently put it.

        LOSER

  • Randaman

    A well played game by team NA tonight. Tomorrow should be tougher and I would expect a lot more physical. Markov & Emelen had better get their rest tonight. LOL

    P.S. Has Ovi lost a step or two or is that just my imagination?

  • madjam

    The freight train NA keeps rolling along . They all played well tonight , with Eichel being probably the most impressive of a good lot . It will be difficult for any other team to play at the speed NA is making them play at .

  • madjam

    Such a unique situation the boys are riding being on team NA. It may be the only time they will have an opportunity/ attempt to play with one another again , or in the future . Must be a wonderful experience for entire club , and a unique treat for all hockey fans . Hard not to cheer for them to win it all .

  • ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    Regarding the 50/39 game, Gretz scored 2 in the 1st, 1 in the second, and 2 in the 3rd including the empty netter.

    His 3rd goal of the game was at 3:54 of the 2nd period.

    Amazing that he had 50 before anyone else even had 30. This is likely to be one of those records that never gets broken, along with the record of 3 seasons of scoring at least 50 goals in 50 games.

  • #97Train/McDavidCopperfield

    As far as McDavid goes.. He had two good rushes along the boards, set up the first goal and got one called back and his line had 10 shots on goal. Pretty good night if you ask me and I thought Gaudreau looked really good in the second period.

    • FlamesFanOtherCity

      Set up the first goal by passing to a player that took it behind the net and then another player whacked it in. Called back goal was another goalmouth scramble where the goalie was pushed in with the puck.

      Sure, he had a few rushes that resulted in shots, but that doesn’t mean he was one of the best on the ice. How about the relentless pressure from Saad’s line? Or Larkin’s many chances? Or Nuge’s in a shutdown role? Or MacKinnon’s performance?

      Nobody is going to fault McJezzub if you don’t talk like he was the best player on the ice or in the game.
      He’s still raw.