Mike Halford

Team USA won’t ‘fret about’ not getting to pick from ‘pretty imposing generation’ of Americans

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Johnny Gaudreau is the second-leading American scorer in the NHL this season. Only Patrick Kane has more points.

Seth Jones is one of the country’s brightest stars on defense, and was in the mix to make the 2014 Olympic team in Sochi.

Pittsburgh native Brandon Saad, who only turned 23 in October, has already won two Stanley Cups.

Jack Eichel, the No. 2 overall pick in 2015, is considered a generational talent.

You would think, at the very least, those four players would’ve been considered for USA Hockey’s 16-man preliminary World Cup roster, which was released on Wednesday. But Gaudreau, Jones, Saad and Eichel weren’t, because they were beholden to Team North America — a.k.a the “Youngstars” — comprised of the top 23-and-under players from the U.S. and Canada.

“No sense really thinking about it, because it’s beyond your control,” Team USA GM Dean Lombardi said via conference call. “Once you get the rules, what good does it do to fret about it? It is what it is. That said, going forward here, we got some tough choices to make. We have our hands full with the talent we have.”

Lombardi, of course, was the same GM that earlier lobbied for an exception — “let us pick one or two guys, like Eichel,” he told ESPN — before getting shot down by World Cup organizers.

It’s clear his affinity for the younger group hasn’t waned.

“I think on the other side of the coin, you look at that group, it looks like it could be end up being a pretty imposing generation,” he explained. “It’s actually good in a sense, because it highlights a generational facet that’s coming forward — and looks pretty potent.”

Of the 16 players named to Team North America, it’s hard to say which Americans would’ve challenged for a spot on the full senior team. Goalies John Gibson and Connor Hellebuyck would’ve had a near-impossible time usurping one of Jonathan Quick, Cory Schneider or Ben Bishop.

On defense, it’s fair to suggest Jones was worthy of consideration. Aside from having an ace up his sleeve — he plays for USA head coach John Tortorella in Columbus — he’s also received a ton of ice time since being dealt from the Preds to the Jackets and has responded well, racking up 12 points in his last 23 games.

Up front, Gaudreau and Saad (who also plays for Torts) almost certainly would’ve been in the mix. And depending on what transpires from here until September, Eichel, Dylan Larkin and J.T. Miller could’ve also played their way into consideration, if they weren’t in consideration already.

“You can’t even go there,” Tortorella lamented. “There’s no sense of trying to whet your appetite with that, because it’s a rule. [But] that young group there? I think that’s going to be a dangerous team. And moving forward, what are they in another four years? It’s scary.”

Both Tortorella and Lombardi are right, of course. It’s pointless to think about what could’ve been, because hypotheticals are just that — hyoptheticals.

Still, Lombardi couldn’t help but dream of one.

“I think I’d put it in another context,” he said. “I’d like to be GM of this team in four years, when those kids come through.”

Kessel among notable omissions as U.S. names preliminary World Cup roster

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The list of the first 16 American players named to the World Cup of Hockey roster has been announced, and Phil Kessel is not on it.

Kessel, one of the United States’ top goalscorers over the past few seasons, was probably the most surprising omission, especially after representing the U.S. at both the ’10 and ’14 Olympics.

Here’s the U.S. 16-man roster:

G Ben Bishop, Tampa Bay Lightning
G Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles Kings
G Cory Schneider, New Jersey Devils

D Dustin Byfuglien, Winnipeg Jets
D John Carlson, Washington Capitals
D Ryan McDonagh, New York Rangers
D Ryan Suter, Minnesota Wild

F Justin Abdelkader, Detroit Red Wings
F Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks
F Ryan Kesler, Anaheim Ducks
F T.J. Oshie, Washington Capitals
F Max Pacioretty, Montreal Canadiens
F Zach Parise, Minnesota Wild
F Joe Pavelski, San Jose Sharks
F Derek Stepan, New York Rangers
F Blake Wheeler, Winnipeg Jets

Up front, other notables failing to make the initial roster include Toronto’s James van Riemsdyk, Tampa Bay’s Tyler Johnson, Ottawa’s Bobby Ryan and the Islanders’ Kyle Okposo — and it’s worth mentioning that Ryan and Okposo were two of the most notable “snubs” from the American team that finished fourth in Sochi.

On defense, Byfuglien has played his way onto the roster after being passed over two years ago. With spots still left to fill, the U.S. could go a number of ways on defense: Carolina’s Justin Faulk (who played in Sochi), St. Louis’ Kevin Shattenkirk, Colorado’s Erik Johnson, Boston’s Torey Krug and the Islanders’ Nick Leddy would all have to be considered candidates.

In goal, there were few surprises as Quick, Bishop and Schneider are all enjoying outstanding years and fully deserving of their spots.

Canada unveils preliminary World Cup roster — no Subban, Perry or Marchand

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Canada released its preliminary 16-man roster for the 2016 World Cup of Hockey on Wednesday and, is often the case whenever Canada selects players for an international tournament, there was as much talk about who didn’t make it as who did.

Many of the familiar names were there — Sidney Crosby, Drew Doughty, Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith, Ryan Getzlaf — but there were more than a few notable omissions, including ’13 Norris Trophy winner P.K. Subban.

The Canada roster:

Goalies: Corey Crawford, Carey Price, Braden Holtby

Defense: Drew Doughty, Duncan Keith, Shea Weber, Marc-Edouard Vlasic

Forwards: Jamie Benn, Patrice Bergeron, Jeff Carter, Sidney Crosby, Ryan Getzlaf, Tyler Seguin, Steve Stamkos, John Tavares, Jonathan Toews

One of the more intriguing developments is that only four blueliners were selected. Of all the teams to unveil their rosters today, only Russia named fewer, and Canada GM Doug Armstrong addressed the team’s decision.

“There’s really good competition in the rest of that defensive group,” Armstrong explained, in an on-air interview with Sportsnet. “We have four players from the last Olympics that weren’t named [Subban, Dan Hamhuis, Jay Bouwmeester, Alex Pietrangelo] and we have some really good players, a player like [Brent] Burns that’s having a great year.

“There’s a lot of guys that can get into this group.”

At forward, notable omissions included former Hart Trophy winner Corey Perry — a member of the ’10 and ’14 Olympic teams — and Brad Marchand, who many felt had played his way onto the team with his stellar play this year. Marchand currently sits fifth in the NHL in goals, with 32.

Goalie nods: Mrazek versus Crawford as Wings host Hawks on Rivalry Night

Corey Crawford
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It should be a good night at Joe Louis.

The defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks are in town, looking to write the latest chapter in their age-old rivalry with former Norris Division foe Detroit.

In goal, the battle should be fierce.

Corey Crawford, in the midst of an outstanding campaign, will get the nod for the ‘Hawks. He’s been very good in his last two outings — last Thursday, he stopped 29 of 31 shots in a 3-1 loss to the Preds and, on Sunday, stopped 28 of 30 in a big win over NHL-leading Washington.

The Red Wings will counter with Petr Mrazek.

Mrazek, who on Wednesday was named to the Czech Republic team for the 2016 World Cup of Hockey, is also enjoying a banner season. He’s coming into tonight’s action having won two straight, which included a 5-3 victory over Colorado in Saturday’s outdoor game in Denver.

You can catch tonight’s game on NBCSN, starting at 8 p.m. ET.

Elsewhere…

Jonathan Bernier will be in goal for Toronto as the Leafs invade Washington. Philipp Grubauer will give Braden Holtby a night off in the Caps’ net.

— It’s Mike Condon versus John Gibson when the Habs take on the Ducks in Anaheim.

Lundqvist, Sedins highlight Sweden’s veteran-laden World Cup roster

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Sweden will have plenty of experience on hand this fall at the World Cup of Hockey.

On Wednesdy, the Swedes unveiled their preliminary 16-man roster for the September tournament, a roster that features several seasoned NHL veterans like Henrik Lundqvist, Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin, Henrik Zetterberg and Niklas Kronwall.

Of that group, the 34-year-old Lundqvist is the youngest.

The Swedish roster:

G Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers
G Jacob Markstrom, Vancouver Canucks

D Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Arizona Coyotes
D Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay Lightning
D Niklas Hjalmarsson, Chicago Blackhawks
D Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators
D Niklas Kronwall, Detroit Red Wings
D Anton Stralman, Tampa Bay Lightning

F Nicklas Backstrom, Washington Capitals
F Loui Eriksson, Boston Bruins
F Filip Forsberg, Nashville Predators
F Gabriel Landeskog, Colorado Avalanche
F Daniel Sedin, Vancouver Canucks
F Henrik Sedin, Vancouver Canucks
F Alexander Steen, St. Louis Blues
F Henrik Zetterberg, Detroit Red Wings

As far as “snubs” go, the biggest is probably Dallas blueliner John Klingberg. Klingberg, second only to Karlsson among Swedish d-men scorers this year (53 points in 65 games), wasn’t able to crack what is, admittedly, a pretty formidable top six.

Other notable omissions include Colorado’s Carl Soderberg, Ottawa’s Mika Zibanejad, Pittsburgh’s Patric Hornqvist, Detroit’s Gustav Nyquist, Washington’s Marcus Johansson, Carolina’s Victor Rask, Anaheim’s Rickard Rakell, Pittsburgh’s Carl Hagelin, Vancouver’s Alex Edler and Winnipeg’s Tobias Enstrom.

In goal, Vancouver’s Jacob Markstrom beat out a host of competitors for the No. 2 gig behind Lundqvist. Jonas Gustavsson, Anders Nilsson, Jhonas Enroth and Eddie Lack — who used to play with Markstrom in Vancouver — were likely challengers for the spot.