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3 players to watch on Team North America at the World Cup

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

The World Cup of Hockey begins Sept. 17. It's coming.

While high-caliber international hockey tournaments are always a treat, the return of the World Cup features two teams we've never seen before: Team Europe and Team North America.

The North American squad features Canadian and American players age 23 and under as of Oct. 1. In other words, the future of the NHL.

Here are three to watch:

Connor McDavid


Let's face it: Connor McDavid could easily be on Team Canada. But he's not, and it's going to be fascinating to watch him lead this young team against the field.

Born in Richmond Hill, Ontario, 45 minutes north of Toronto, McDavid's playing at home - something he wasn't able to do during his stellar rookie season. While he did light up the Maple Leafs - he had five points, the best game of his young career - it happened in Edmonton.

McDavid's the next one. Should he be named captain of the North American squad, it'll be a nice test run for his eventual wearing of the "C" with the Oilers.

The best players in the world will take to the ice in September. McDavid's already one of them, and he'll prove it at this tournament.

Auston Matthews

Obviously. Again.

But, let's be real, the focus on North America may be more on young Auston Matthews than McDavid, simply because the future of the Maple Leafs - the No. 1 center the team hasn't had since the glory days of Mats Sundin - will take to the ice for the first time in Toronto at the World Cup.

The competition will be stiff, and the pressure heavy. Matthews will be put to the test immediately, and how he responds - both on the ice and off - will be interesting.

Matthews is only 18. Remember that, Leafs fans. It's important.

Jonathan Drouin

It's remarkable what an injury to Steven Stamkos and a productive playoff run will do for you.

Only a few months ago, Jonathan Drouin was on the outs not only with the Tampa Bay Lightning, but even its farm team, the Syracuse Crunch. One heartfelt apology and 14 points in 17 playoff games later, the 21-year-old will suit up with the best of his generation.

Drouin doesn't make the team if he doesn't shine in the postseason, and not only did he perform, he was spoken of in glowing terms by his head coach, Jon Cooper, and his teammates. What will be interesting to watch will be the role the youngster's given on this team, and, if it's not as crucial as he likes, how he responds.

The kid's got game. That's clear. But has he matured, and learned lessons? Can he also be the ultimate teammate, willing to make sacrifices to win? Those are the big questions.

Honorable mentions

  • As it stands, Johnny Gaudreau will play in the World Cup without an NHL contract.
  • Think about Jack Eichel on McDavid's wing. Oh, mamma.
  • In goal, John Gibson's got the most NHL experience, but Matt Murray's got a ring, and did he ever earn it.
3 players to watch on Team North America at the World Cup
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