World Cup of Hockey: Team Europe preview (Puck Daddy)

Yahoo
Yahoo

The World Cup of Hockey is back, with the NHL-backed tournament scheduled for the next few weeks in lovely Toronto. Yahoo Sports will offer on-site coverage from the event; but first, here’s a look at the six nations and the two made-up teams that will battle for the funny-looking trophy.

TEAM EUROPE

Schedule
Sat., Sept. 17 vs. U.S., 3:30 p.m. ET
Tues., Sept. 19 vs. Czech Republic, 3 p.m. ET
Thurs., Sept. 21 vs. Canada, 8 p.m. ET

Vitals
Career NHL Games – 12,008
Career NHL Goals (Skaters) – 2,496
Career NHL Assists (Skaters) – 4,108
Career NHL Points (Skaters) – 6,604
Career NHL Wins (Goaltenders) – 274
Average Age – 30.3
Average Height (Inches) – 72.8
Average Weight (Pounds) – 201.9
Stanley Cups – 8

Forwards

Your Anze Kopitars, Marian Gaboriks, Mats Zuccarellos and Marian Hossas are all expected to be the main contributors for this team, but in their final pre-tournament game against Sweden, it was promising to see Leon Draisaitl tally a hat trick. After seeing his minutes reduced in their second game, the Edmonton Oilers youngster responded, which is a good sign considering the amount of secondary scoring that will be needed for Team Europe.

That secondary scoring will have to also come from the likes of Tomas Tatar, Nino Niederreiter and Thomas Vanek, who combined for two goals and six points in three games.

There’s not a whole lot of scoring depth up front for Team Europe, something that will likely be a cause for concern.

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Defense

Outside of 1990-born Roman Josi and Luca Sbisa, the blueline is an old one, with the rest of the group all over 30 years of age. Zdeno Chara is the big name here and at 39 years old, pretty much in the middle of his training camp, how much of an influence can he be?

The defense pool for Team Europe was so thin that Christian Ehrhoff and Dennis Seidenberg are on the roster while they remain UFAs. Sbisa will start the tournament as the odd man out.

Josi, Mark Streit and Andrej Sekera will be the key men in the back to get the puck up ice and out of their zone.

Goalies

Jaroslav Halak will get the start in Saturday’s opener against the U.S. with Thomas Greiss and Philipp Grubauer backing up. He played in all three pre-tournament games and ended on a high note with a 34-save performance during a win over Sweden.

Team Europe has one of the weaker trios in the crease in the World Cup, especially after losing Frederik Andersen, but Halak is the type of netminder who has shown he can get hot at the right time and steal games. He’ll need to do that in order for this team to have any chance of moving on.

Grade The Jerseys

NHL
NHL

The home two-color jerseys are very… interesting, but they should have just picked one color and ran with it. The whites are nice and clean and the different colored Adidas stripes on the sides kind of work. Not only will each jersey feature the flag of the player’s homeland, on the sleeves will be he names of the countries represented by the team.

NHL
NHL

C+ effort, mostly because the logo reminds us too much of Enron.

Special Teams

The top power play unit could do some damage with Kopitar, Zuccarello, Hossa, Nielsen, Niederreiter, Tatar, Streit, Josi and Gaborik involved. They scored five times during pre-tournament action will be expected to deliver.

Eight goals allowed wasn’t a promising sign for the penalty kill. Chara and Sekera handled the most minutes along with Jannik Hansen and Nielsen. Kopitar and Hossa will also factor in to give the unit a threat for a shorthanded goal, but so far, things haven’t looked good heading into Game 1.

Coach

Ralph Krueger is a great choice to coach this roster. He played exclusively in Europe and coached in both the NHL and for the Swiss national team. Like his team, his coaching resume is a unique mix.

Team Europe and Krueger can play the ultimate “nobody believes in us” card this tournament. In a group with Canada, the U.S. and the Czechs, there’s very little love for them to advance to the semifinals. Krueger has coached many different types of players in his career, and this roster may not have as much talent as their opponents, but anything can happen in a short tournament.

Patrick Smith/World Cup of Hockey via Getty Images
Patrick Smith/World Cup of Hockey via Getty Images

They’ll Make It Out of Group Play If … they’re able to take full points in their first two games against the U.S. and Czech Republic. Their third game could be meaningless for Canada, but it’s certainly not a game that Team Europe wants make a must-win situation.

They’ll Flop At The World Cup If … None of their three goaltenders turn into Mike Richter from the ’96 World Cup of Hockey.

Prediction

A likely three-and-out here. The oldest roster in the tournament isn’t playing for any sort of national pride considering eight are represented, and face a tall task in getting out of Group A.

Previous World Cup previews
Czech Republic
Canada
Team North America
Finland

Sweden
USA

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Sean Leahy is the associate editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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