World Cup of Hockey: North America, U.S., Russia, others unveil rosters
1-2 punch of McDavid, Eichel fronts 23-and-under squad
Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel headlined the first group of players named to the North American entry at the upcoming World Cup.
Restricted to only those 23 or younger, born on or after Oct. 1, 1992, the roster also includes promising Colorado Avalanche star Nathan MacKinnon, Florida Panthers cornerstone defender Aaron Ekblad as well as the Calgary Flames duo Johhny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan.
MacKinnon and Ekblad were the last two winners of the Calder Trophy as the NHL's top rookie.
Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the roster is the combination of McDavid and Eichel, the first and second overall picks at last June's draft. Long linked and compared, the two met for the first time in the NHL earlier this week. McDavid scored both goals in an 2-1 overtime win for the Oilers.
"I think the media always has pegged as not liking each other," McDavid said of Eichel on Tuesday, "but we really just don't know each other so it'll be a good chance to get to play with him."
Seven Canadians made the initial group, joined by nine players from the U.S.
Forwards Alex Galchenyuk of the Montreal Canadiens and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins of the Edmonton Oilers and defenceman Shayne Gostisbehere of the Philadelphia Flyers were the most notable players left off the initial 16-man roster.
Goaltenders: John Gibson, Connor Hellebuyck and Matt Murray
Defencemen: Aaron Ekblad, Seth Jones, Ryan Murray, Morgan Rielly
Forwards: Sean Couturier, Johnny Gaudreau, Dylan Larkin, Nathan MacKinnon, J.T. Miller, Sean Monahan, Brandon Saad, Eichel and McDavid.
Patrick Kane, Ryan Suter and Jonathan Quick were among the first 16 players selected to Team USA's World Cup of Hockey roster as expected.
Justin Abdelkader, though, was considered a bit of a surprise.
USA Hockey raised some eyebrows Wednesday night by putting Abdelkader, a physical forward for the Detroit Red Wings, on its initial roster. It left off players such as Phil Kessel, a high-scoring forward with Olympic experience, but can add him and others when the 23-man roster is finalized.
Goaltenders: Ben Bishop, Cory Schneider and Quick
Defencemen: Dustin Byfuglien, John Carlson, Ryan McDonagh and Suter
Forwards: Ryan Kesler, T.J. Oshie, Max Pacioretty, Zach Parise, Joe Pavelski, Derek Stepan, Blake Wheeler, Kane and Abdelkader
With a broken foot, Alex Ovechkin once got on a plane the day after the Washington Capitals were eliminated from the playoffs to represent Russia at the world hockey championship.
It's something the three-time NHL MVP will gladly do again at the World Cup of Hockey after headlining Russia's 16-man roster for the tournament on Wednesday.
"Doesn't matter which tournament, it's huge honour," Ovechkin said. "It's nice to be in the list, and I'm proud to represent my country."
Ovechkin was joined on the roster by Capitals teammate Evgeny Kuznetsov, Pittsburgh Penguins centre Evgeni Malkin and Detroit Red Wings forward Pavel Datsyuk. Ovechkin, Malkin and Datsyuk are part of Russia's old guard from the past two Olympics, while Kuznetsov could provide a major spark after being left off the Olympic team in Sochi in 2014.
With 20 goals and 45 assists, Kuznetsov is fifth in the NHL in scoring. He'll only be 24 when he suits up for Russia during the World Cup, which begins Sept. 17 in Toronto.
Ovechkin expects Kuznetsov to get better in time.
"Everybody knew he had like, talent to be one of the best players in the league," Ovechkin said. "He's still young, obviously. In the future, he's going to be more mature, have more experience, and I'm pretty sure 20 goals is just the beginning for him. He can score 40, you know, easily in this league if he's going to continue what he's doing, and he's going to be a top player."
Goaltenders: Sergei Bobrovsky, Semyon Varlamov, Andrei Vasilevsky
Defencemen: Dmitry Kulikov, Andrei Markov, Dmitry Orlov
Forwards: Artem Anisimov, Nikita Kucherov, Nikolai Kulemin, Vladislav Namestnikov, Artemi Panarin, Vladimir Tarasenko, Datsyuk, Kuznetsov, Malkin and Ovechkin.
Sweden will be a well-balanced outfit, fronted by goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, Ottawa Senators defencemen Erik Karlsson and Victor Hedman, and forwards Nicklas Backstrom, Henrik Zetterberg, Alex Steen and Vancouver's Sedin twins, Daniel and Henrik.
Goaltenders: Henrik Lundqvist and Jacob Markstrom
Defencemen: Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Niklas Kronwall, Anton Stralman, Karlsson and Hedman
Forwards: Loui Eriksson, Filip Forsberg, Gabriel Landeskog, Backstrom, Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin, Steen and Zetterberg.
Karlsson spoke to reporters on being named to the team.
Erik Karlsson and Coach Cameron comment on Karlsson being named to Sweden's <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/WCH2016?src=hash">#WCH2016</a> preliminary roster.<a href="https://t.co/l9X1b7LhBE">https://t.co/l9X1b7LhBE</a>—@Senators
Zdeno Chara and Roman Josi anchor the defence for Team Europe, which features a pan-European roster of players from birth countries outside of the Czech Republic, Finland, Russia and Sweden.
Up front, the team is led by Anze Kopitar, Tomas Tatar and Edmonton Oilers youngster Leon Draisaitl.
Goaltenders: Frederik Andersen and Jaroslav Halak
Defencemen: Dennis Seidenberg, Andrej Sekera, Mark Streit, Chara and Josi
Forwards: Mikkel Boedker, Jannik Hansen, Marian Hossa, Frans Nielsen, Thomas Vanek Mats Zuccarello, Kopitar, Tatar and Draisaitl.
Finland also announced a roster full of NHL players, with forwards Mikko Koivu of the Minnesota Wild and Jussi Jokinen of the Florida Panthers joining Boston Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask.
"They are a great mixture of experience, talent, and open-mindness," Finland coach Lauri Marjamaki said. "For the players the World Cup is a huge thing. Their motivation is high and they all want to be part of the team."
Goaltenders: Rask, Pekka Rinne
Defencemen: Olli Maatta, Rasmus Ristolainen, Sami Vatenen, Esa Lindell
Forwards: Aleksander Barkov, Mikael Granlund, Joonas Donskoi, Valtteri Filppula, Leo Komarov, Lauri Korpikoski, Jori Lehtera, Teuvo Teravainen, Jussi Jokinen and Koivu.
The Czech Republic's preliminary roster of 16 is fronted by Detroit goalie Petr Mrazek and forwards David Krejci (Boston), Tomas Plekanec (Montreal) and Jakub Voracek.
Goaltenders: Mrazek, Michal Neuvirth, Ondrej Pavelec
Defencemen: Radko Gudas, Michal Kempny, Roman Polak, Andrej Sustr
Forwards: Michael Frolik, Martin Hanzal, Tomas Hertl, Ondrej Palat, David Pastrnak, Vladimir Sobotka, Jakub Voracek, Krejci and Plekanec.
"It's a big honour. To be a part of something like that, it's great." - Michael Frolik on the <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/WCH2016?src=hash">#WCH2016</a><a href="https://t.co/GUQCoqycSm">https://t.co/GUQCoqycSm</a>—@NHLFlames
One notable European-born NHL star not among the players selected was Czech Republic great Jaromir Jagr.
Czech Republic general manager Martin Rucinsky said the 44-year-old wants to focus solely on completing this season with the Atlantic Division-leading Florida Panthers before determining whether he'll compete.
"I talked to him, and I'm not going to try to convince him," Rucinsky said during a conference call announcing the team's initial 16-player roster. "I think Jags deserves a lot of respect from all of us, for what he did for the national team. That's why we're going to give him some time to see how he feels after the season."
Jagr leads the Panthers with 46 points (21 goals, 25 assist) in 60 games. He's also a four-time Olympic team member and won gold at the 1998 Nagano Games.
With files from The Associated Press & CBC Sports