TORONTO – For the next World Cup of Hockey in four years if the NHL and NHLPA decide to go with a similar format, Connor McDavid would prefer to not play with Team North America.
Speaking with reporters a day after North America’s thrilling 4-3 overtime victory against Sweden, McDavid said he’d like to play for his country instead.
“For me in four years I hope I can definitely represent my country. You only get a few chances to wear the Canadian logo and represent your country in events like this with ‘best-on-best. I don’t think when you grew up wanting to represent Team North America twice and I’m sure Auston (Matthews) and Jack (Eichel) would say the same thing. We’ve had a lot of fun, but in four years from now I think all of us would want the opportunities that to represent our countries” McDavid said.
Throughout this tournament, Team North America has delighted hockey fans with high-end skill and daring offensive plays. A lot of this has come from the 19-year-old McDavid and the 19-year-old Matthews, who technically would be under the age of 24 in four years if there’s another World Cup. This would make them eligible for another North American team if this is allowed under the next format.
Before the tournament started, the Globe and Mail reported that there will likely be a qualifying tournament for seventh and eighth seeds in the next World Cup, which would end the Team North America, which is a group of players from the U.S. and Canada age 23-and-under, and Team Europe concept. However, at that point Team North America hadn’t turned into the most popular team in the tournament.
“It’s a little different mentality but the entertainment level is pretty remarkable,” Team Canada forward Steven Stamkos said. “We caught the overtime before we got things going in the room, that was exciting hockey. I don’t think if there was any systems being played, but it was entertaining and that’s what we’re trying to do. The fans were into it. Guys in the room were excited to watch it. Beautiful goal to watch it (Nathan MacKinnon’s goal). That’s the new wave of the NHL generation that’s coming up. It’s an exciting thing.”
Part of the reason Team North America has worked so well has to do with the fact that several generational type players from the last few drafts are on the roster. This includes McDavid, Matthews and Jack Eichel. MacKinnon, the No. 1 pick in the 2013 NHL Draft has also electrified with his speed and creativity.
Defenseman Aaron Ekblad, the No. 1 pick in the 2014 NHL Draft missed the tournament’s last two games with an upper body injury.
“The North American team, they go out there and they play. They know that even though that maybe they’re not as strict with their systems, if that’s the case, I think they’re all working,” Canadian forward Jonathan Toews said. “They’re working hard. So if they make a mistake and they turn the puck over they’ve got three guys coming back hard. So to me they’re playing pretty responsibly in that regards. It just looks like they’re having fun. They’re playing loose and they’re not worried about a thing. When you play that way then that skill can really be unleashed and we’re seeing that too. To me they’re a dangerous team. We’ll see what happens in the next few days.”
Before the tournament, Team North America was seen as controversial to some former national team players. Defenseman Brian Leetch, who captained the 1996 American World Cup team, said he hoped this would be the final year for North America. His comments came in early August, long before Team North America hit the national stage.
“I’d also like to see Connor McDavid play with Sidney Crosby and learn from him on a national level and see Jack Eichel be on the U.S. team and be able to play with guys he has looked up to in the NHL and is going to be taking their place for years to come in international competition and learn from some of their national team players and guys that have been through it before,” Leetch said. “I think it will be an interesting concept and I am intrigued about watching the team but I do hope that guys like that are able to in the future play, if they’re good enough, to play on that team. I think it’s a great way to transition for every country.”
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