Cam Tucker

Mike Babcock
AP Photo

Team Canada’s blue line is under the microscope heading into the World Cup


It didn’t take long after Team Canada’s World Cup of Hockey roster was named for the debate to begin, especially when it comes to the blue line.

Sometimes, it’s not about who is named to the team, but who is left off. And why?

Why wasn’t the right-shooting P.K. Subban, a dynamic offensive defenseman, added to the roster? Ditto goes for Kris Letang, also a right shot capable of putting up big numbers from the blue line, while logging heavy minutes — an average of 26:56 in the regular season for Pittsburgh — and being used on both the power play and penalty kill.

When it was announced late last month that Duncan Keith opted out of the World Cup due to injury, he was replaced by fellow left-shooting defenseman Jay Bouwmeester. Again, the likes of Subban and Letang were left off the squad.

The simple explanation is that head coach Mike Babcock is really all about the left-right balance on defense. As Canada opened camp on Monday, he explained in detail his philosophy.

But there was another interesting development to come from the first day of camp.

It seems Babcock went with the left-right dynamic for two of his three pairings, but not necessarily for the third. As reported, one pairing included a pair of right shots, with Brent Burns and Alex Pietrangelo.

More from

Babcock and general manager Doug Armstrong spoke at length at the time of the importance of having a balance of left-handed and right-handed shots on defense. Since Keith shot from the left side, it was natural to add the left-shooting Bouwmeester, they said.

That’s why it was somewhat surprising to see Pietrangelo skating on the left side Monday.

Well, surprising to everyone except Pietrangelo.

“A couple of weeks before camp Mike called me and said, ‘Hey, we think we might play you on the left side,'” Pietrangelo said.

On a star-studded team, Canada’s defense could be under the spotlight as this tournament goes on.

MacKinnon likes Team North America’s chances: ‘I don’t think there’s a more skilled team than ours’

Nathan MacKinnon
AP Photo

They might be young, but Team North America — especially forward Nathan MacKinnon — certainly isn’t lacking skill or confidence with the World Cup of Hockey approaching.

Earlier today at PHT it was prefaced that Team North America, with a roster that includes stars Connor McDavid, Auston Matthews, Aaron Ekblad and Jack Eichel to name a few, shouldn’t be taken lightly, despite a supposed lack of experience compared to players on the other teams.

Canada, with players returning from 2010 and 2014 Olympic gold medal victories, may be the favorites.

But with a roster that possesses so much youthful skill, MacKinnon staunchly believes Team North America could do some damage when the tournament begins Sept. 17, and he made that clear when he met with the media on Monday.

“I don’t think there’s a more skilled team than ours. I’ll go against anybody’s roster and put ours against them,” he said, as per Sportsnet.

“We have the talent and the ability to beat anybody for sure.”

Almost 15 months ago, McDavid and Eichel went first and second overall, respectively, in the NHL Draft. They had been compared to each other for months before that, as it became clear they were the front runners to get selected in the top two.

Now, they are teammates. That’s a scary thought, depending on your perspective heading into the tournament.

“It’s great,” said Team North America coach Todd McLellan, as per the Buffalo News. “Wouldn’t you like to do that every day? … Tremendously talented, great hockey skills and skill sets. They’re teammates now, which hasn’t happened before but it’s happening now and it’s great to be a part of it.”

The roster assembled for Team North America — which is still searching for a captain, and that will be a development to keep an eye out for over the next few days — has also captured the attention of opposing players, like Steven Stamkos.

Goaltending questions on the front burner ahead of World Cup

SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 23:  Carey Price #31 of Canada looks on during the Men's Ice Hockey Gold Medal match against Sweden on Day 16 of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics at Bolshoy Ice Dome on February 23, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Getty Images

Goaltending competitions are front and center as World Cup of Hockey pre-tournament camps open around the world from St. Petersburg, Russia, to Columbus, Ohio.

The United States, Canada and Team Europe are among the teams that could have goaltending drama linger through the start of the World Cup on Sept. 17. The U.S. could turn to a two-time Stanley Cup winner with Olympic experience in the Los Angeles Kings’ Jonathan Quick, or opt for either Ben Bishop of the Tampa Bay Lightning or Cory Schneider of the New Jersey Devils.

Canada has a similar embarrassment of riches in net. There is reason to wonder about Sochi Olympics star Carey Price, who hasn’t played a game since November because of a knee injury and is the biggest key to Canada’s success.

“He’s 100 percent, skating, facing pucks, shaking off the rust and he’s excited and ready to go,” Canadian general manager Doug Armstrong said.

If Price isn’t back to his all-world self, reigning Vezina Trophy winner Braden Holtby of the Washington Capitals figures to be the next goalie up, then two-time Cup winner Corey Crawford of the Chicago Blackhawks. Holtby endorsed Price as the starter if the Montreal Canadiens’ 2015 MVP is healthy, but games Friday and Saturday against the U.S. are worth watching.

“We’re playing back to back right away in exhibition, so we wouldn’t play a goalie back to back in exhibition for sure,” coach Mike Babcock said. “So there’s going to be opportunities for more than one goaltender.”

There will be an opportunity in goal for Europe’s camp in Quebec City and Montreal after Frederik Andersen was injured in Olympic qualifying for Denmark over the weekend. The Toronto Maple Leafs announced Andersen will miss three to four weeks with an upper-body injury, meaning New York Islanders goalies Jaroslav Halak and Thomas Greiss will compete to start for the team that’s a mix of players from Slovakia, Germany, Denmark, Slovenia, Switzerland, France, Austria and Norway.

Team North America, a combination of Americans and Canadians age 23 and under, has a pretty clear-cut goalie picture at the start of camp. A year ago John Gibson of the Anaheim Ducks looked like the no-doubt starter, and then Matt Murray won the Cup with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

“I would think going in it’s going to be Matt first,” North American GM Peter Chiarelli said. “Just based on his body of work, what he’s done, you can’t ignore that. He’s the lead dog right now, I would think, based on my discussions (with coaches) and I think it’s fairly obvious.”

Finland can’t go wrong with Tuukka Rask of the Boston Bruins or Pekka Rinne of the Nashville Predators, and Russia has two strong choices in Sergei Bobrovsky of the Columbus Blue Jackets and Semyon Varlamov of the Colorado Avalanche.

The Czech Republic has a three-way competition between Michal Neuvirth of the Philadelphia Flyers, Petr Mrazek of the Detroit Red Wings and Ondrej Pavelec of the Winnipeg Jets, while Sweden will go with Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers in the easiest decision of the World Cup. Lundqvist recently took a puck to the ribs in practice but should be able to play through it.

Here are five other questions to answer in the lead-up to the World Cup:

HOW CRISP: It’s September and over 150 of the best players in the world are being asked to play big-time games right off the bat. “I’m anxious to see how crisp it is,” U.S. defenseman Matt Niskanen said. “Not only are you playing with different teammates and potentially a different system or whatever, there’s going to be a little hesitation in that regard, probably, in the exhibition games.”

WHO’S HURT: With 12 injury replacements already, several teams are short-handed and digging into their reserves. If more players are hurt in camp or during exhibition games, it could be harder to convince others to jump right in without the weeks of preparation.

CAMP TORTORELLA: Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella gets to run camp on his home ice in Columbus and could bring his brand of shot-blocking, defensive-minded hockey to the U.S. team. How Hart Trophy winner Patrick Kane, Zach Parise and other top skill guys fit into that system will be fascinating.

NORTH BY NORTH YOUNG: Team North America has 18-year-old Auston Matthews and 19-year-old Connor McDavid among its absurd group of No. 1 picks. They could be two of the best players in the tournament, and McDavid could even be captain.

EUROPEAN CHEMISTRY: Blending together players from eight different countries is the most difficult job for Team Europe coach Ralph Krueger. Letting Kings star Anze Kopitar take over isn’t a bad strategy.

Report: Versteeg expected back on free agent market after ‘insurance complications’ in Switzerland

PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 15: Kris Versteeg #32 of the Carolina Hurricanes in action against the Philadelphia Flyers at Wells Fargo Center on December 15, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Getty Images
1 Comment

It appears Kris Versteeg will soon be back on the free agent market.

As per TSN, the 30-year-old veteran forward, who has played 550 NHL regular season games for six different teams, signed with SC Bern of the Swiss National League toward the end of July.

However it’s been reported that a change in his contract status is expected.

Versteeg initially underwent the operation in May of 2012 when he was a member of the Florida Panthers. He had 23 goals and 54 points that season, but he’s never been able to match that level of production since.

He split last season between the Carolina Hurricanes and L.A. Kings. He was traded to L.A. prior to the deadline, as he joined the Kings for the playoffs.

Bruins prospect Senyshyn to miss rookie camp after undergoing an appendectomy

SUNRISE, FL - JUNE 26:  Zach Senyshyn poses after being selected 15th overall by the Boston Bruins in the first round of the 2015 NHL Draft at BB&T Center on June 26, 2015 in Sunrise, Florida.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Getty Images

When the Boston Bruins begin rookie camp later this month, they will be without 19-year-old forward Zach Senyshyn.

The Bruins on Monday confirmed that Senyshyn, selected 15th overall in the 2015 NHL Draft, will miss rookie camp, but will report to the NHL club’s training camp after undergoing a successful appendectomy on Sunday.

The Bruins added, however, that Senyshyn’s participation in training camp has yet to be determined.

The story first broke at, which covers the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds in the Ontario Hockey League.

At last year’s draft, the Bruins became the first team in 47 years to make three consecutive first-round picks, although the selection of Senyshyn so early in the draft seemed to come as a surprise.

Senyshyn, who scored 45 goals and 65 points last season with the Greyhounds, also seemed determined to prove critics of his selection wrong. He could get another opportunity to do so at training camp, provided the Bruins feel he’s healthy enough following this operation.