As evident in last year’s playoffs, the PHT staff is very mediocre at predictions. So let’s see if we can keep it going!
The 2016 World Cup of Hockey begins Saturday. The eight competing squads have been split into two groups:
Team Czech Republic
Team North America
The top two teams from each group will advance to the tournament semifinals, and the semifinal winners will compete in a best-of-three finale.
So, who’s going to win?
Jason Brough: Canada
North America’s speed and skill is impressive, and Sweden has the best blue line. But I can’t pick against Team Canada. The overall talent level is just too high. The only way I see the Canadians losing is if they run into a hot goalie. That happened in their first exhibition game when Jonathan Quick shut them down, so it’s definitely possible. But that’s always possible in a short tournament — just ask the 1998 Canadian Olympic squad that ran into Dominik Hasek. Most of the time it’s the team that controls the puck that wins, and I’m fairly confident that that will be Team Canada.
Mike Halford: Finland
Look, sometimes you gotta go off the board, and that’s what I’m doing here — though to be honest, it’s not even that far off the board. The Finns always perform well at these best-on-best international events. In fact, NHLers have competed in the last five Olympic Games, and no country has medalled more. I also really like the makeup of this squad. Led by the likes of Patrik Laine, Rasmus Ristolainen, Mikael Granlund, Sami Vatanen and Aleksander Barkov, it’s younger, faster and more dynamic than previous, grinding Finnish squads. Barkov, in particular, is a superstar in the making. This tourney could be his launching pad.
Adam Gretz: Canada
Team North America is going to be the most exciting team in the tournament, but Canada still has an obscene level of talent at pretty much every position, one that nobody else can match. Canada’s roster construction is always put under a microscope, and there are always a couple of head scratching decisions — not taking P.K. Subban or Kris Letang, for example — but it never makes a difference in the end. When Joe Thornton is skating on your fourth line, “loaded” doesn’t even begin to describe your team.
Cam Tucker: North America
More than ever before, hockey is about speed, skill and youth. Team North America has an abundance of all three. Nathan MacKinnon was right to call them the most skilled team in the tournament. They should enter this event highly motivated, too — they’re not the favorites, but what this team might lack in experience is made up with a dynamic roster, one that has something to prove.
Joey Alfieri: North America
North America is the squad I was most looking forward to watching and, through a couple of pre-tournament games, they haven’t disappointed. With youth and speed on their side, they can compete with anyone in this tournament. The Pittsburgh Penguins won the Stanley Cup with speed and skill in 2016, and Team North America is loaded with players possessing both: Connor McDavid, Mark Scheifele, Jonathan Drouin, Jack Eichel and Shayne Gostisbehere, to name a few. In goal, Matt Murray is fresh off a Stanley Cup run, and that certainly doesn’t hurt.
James O’Brien: Sweden