With news that the NHL is "cautiously optimistic" that current CBA talks might lead to a World Cup in February 2021, we've decided to predict what each team's roster could look like should the tournament take place.
We adopted the NHL's format for the 2016 World Cup. Canada, the United States, Sweden, Finland, Russia, and the Czech Republic all send teams, while Team North America (players aged 23-and-under from Canada and the U.S.) and Team Europe (players from other European countries) round out the field. Teams are comprised of any combination of 20 skaters and three goalies.
In this edition, we project Team Sweden and Team Finland's rosters:
Head coach: Rikard Gronborg
Gronborg has done a tremendous job with the Swedish national program, winning back-to-back gold medals at the World Championship in 2017 and 2018.
|Gabriel Landeskog||Elias Pettersson||Elias Lindholm|
|Filip Forsberg||Nicklas Backstrom||Viktor Arvidsson|
|Andreas Johnsson||Mika Zibanejad||William Nylander|
|Rickard Rakell||William Karlsson||Jakob Silfverberg|
Notable omissions: Gustav Nyquist, Jesper Bratt, Patric Hornqvist, Carl Soderberg, Lias Andersson
The Swedes are deep, versatile, and talented up front. Pettersson struggled in the faceoff circle last year, but Lindholm excels in that area and could take some pressure off the Vancouver Canucks phenom. Pettersson is also more than capable of sliding to the wing, allowing Backstrom, Zibanejad, Karlsson, and Backlund to all move up a spot on the depth chart.
The winger pairings of Forsberg-Arvidsson and Nylander-Johnsson give the team built-in chemistry, as each duo features NHL linemates.
Nyquist is coming off a solid season and Bratt has potential, but there weren't too many tough cuts to make at forward.
|Victor Hedman||Erik Karlsson|
|Oliver Ekman-Larsson||John Klingberg|
|Mattias Ekholm||Rasmus Dahlin|
Notable omissions: Niklas Hjalmarsson, Erik Gustafsson, Oscar Klefbom, Adam Larsson, Erik Brannstrom
The Tre Kronor arguably have the best blue line in the tournament. Dahlin should be a star by then, but we've still given the youngster a safe, reliable partner in Ekholm - one of the NHL's most underrated rearguards.
Hjalmarsson was a tough cut. He's one of the best defensive defensemen in the world, but he's already 32 and has a lot of mileage on his body thanks to some lengthy postseason runs with the Chicago Blackhawks. Gustafsson is coming off a breakout 60-point season, but we've opted to take Lindholm instead to help the penalty kill.
Notable omissions: None
Lundqvist will be almost 39 by the time this team takes the ice. He's still the third goalie for morale and leadership purposes, and there are simply not many other options. Lehner's Vezina nomination this past season was no fluke.
Head coach: Jukka Jalonen
Jalonen's resume is quite impressive. He coached a ragtag group of Finns severely lacking in NHL experience to a gold medal at this year's World Championship. He also won world junior gold in 2016, another World Championship gold in 2011, and a bronze medal at the 2010 Olympics.
|Patrik Laine||Aleksander Barkov||Mikko Rantanen|
|Teuvo Teravainen||Sebastian Aho||Kaapo Kakko|
|Mikael Granlund||Jesperi Kotkaniemi||Kasperi Kapanen|
|Artturi Lehkonen||Roope Hintz||Joonas Donskoi|
Notable omissions: Erik Haula, Kristian Vesalainen, Jesse Puljujarvi, Rasmus Kupari, Henrik Borgstrom
This is easily the most talented forward group the Finns have ever had. Barkov and Aho give the Leijonat a lethal one-two punch up the middle, while Kotkaniemi and Hintz should make great strides over the next year and a half. Kakko rounds out a highly skilled top six.
There were some tough decisions to make regarding the bottom forwards. Vesalainen, Puljujarvi, Kupari, and Borgstrom all have the talent to push for a roster spot, but Donskoi and Lehkonen are already proven and the latter is an excellent penalty killer. Tolvanen has more upside than any of the bubble players.
|Miro Heiskanen||Rasmus Ristolainen|
|Esa Lindell||Henri Jokiharju|
|Markus Nutivaara||Sami Vatanen|
Notable omissions: Juuso Valimaki, Olli Juolevi, Sami Niku, Juuso Riikola, Urho Vaakanainen
The blue line is Finland's weakness, but Heiskanen should be one of the league's best defenseman by 2021. Valimaki, Juolevi, or Niku could easily end up stealing a spot from Nutivaara or Maatta, although Valimaki's torn ACL may hinder his development over the next year.
Notable omissions: Pekka Rinne
A passing of the torch? Rinne will be 38 when this tournament rolls around, so we've left him off the team. Saros, Rinne's understudy in Nashville, could be ready to start for Finland by then, but Rask will only be 33 and hasn't shown signs of slowing down.
Luukkonen has yet to play an NHL game, but he's arguably the best goalie prospect in the world and it wouldn't be shocking to see him challenge for the starting gig.
Others in this series: