LAS VEGAS -- How much fun are we going to have with the 2025 4 Nations Face-Off?

Look at the first 24 names the NHL and the NHL Players' Association announced Friday, six per team. Each player has won an international gold medal, the Stanley Cup, an individual NHL award or a combination.

Now think of all the debates we're going to have about the rest of the rosters for Canada, Finland, Sweden and the United States before they are announced between Nov. 29 and Dec. 2.

Now think of all the dreaming we're going to do about the forward lines and defense pairings, all the arguing we're going to do over who should start in goal.

And now, finally, most importantly, think of the games that we're going to see at Bell Centre in Montreal and TD Garden in Boston from Feb. 12-20. This will be the first best-on-best tournament since the World Cup of Hockey 2016 in Toronto.

"You're really not going to get any better product than this," Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby said. "So, I think that's something everyone gets excited for across the board, and I think it's a great opportunity to showcase hockey at its best."

Seriously, look at this collection of talent:

In addition to Crosby, Canada will have defenseman Cale Makar of the Colorado Avalanche and forwards Nathan MacKinnon of the Avalanche, Brad Marchand of the Boston Bruins, Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers and Brayden Point of the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Finland will have goalie Juuse Saros of the Nashville Predators, defensemen Miro Heiskanen and Esa Lindell of the Dallas Stars, and forwards Sebastian Aho of the Carolina Hurricanes, Aleksander Barkov of the Florida Panthers and Mikko Rantanen of the Avalanche.

Sweden will have defensemen Gustav Forsling of the Panthers, Victor Hedman of the Lightning and Erik Karlsson of the Penguins, and forwards Filip Forsberg of the Predators, William Nylander of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Mika Zibanejad of the New York Rangers.

The United States will have defensemen Adam Fox of the Rangers, Quinn Hughes of the Vancouver Canucks and Charlie McAvoy of the Bruins, and forwards Auston Matthews of the Maple Leafs, Jack Eichel of the Vegas Golden Knights and Matthew Tkachuk of the Panthers.

"You look at the guys who were announced today, some serious skill and some unbelievable groups of hockey players," Crosby said. "So, that's exciting for a player, and I'm sure the fans will be excited to see that as well."

And it's just the beginning. The first few weeks of the 2024-25 NHL season will be a tryout for the rest of the rosters.

"You look at the potential players, and I think there's going to be a lot of hard decisions, I mean, for all four teams," Matthews said. "There's a lot of really, really good talent in the NHL now."

Once we have the full rosters, we can dream about the lines, pairs and goalies. Well, actually, the players have been doing it already. Crosby said MacKinnon brought it up to him when they were on a golf trip together.

"I think it was Day One, and he was just kind of picking my brain," Crosby said. "Obviously, there's a lot of excitement having the opportunity to represent Canada best-on-best."

Each team will play three round-robin games, earning three points for a regulation win, two for an overtime or shootout win, and one for an overtime or shootout loss. The two teams with the best records will advance to the championship game.

Montreal will host four games: Canada will play Sweden on Feb. 12. The United States will play Finland on Feb. 13. Then we get a doubleheader of rivalry games on Feb. 15, with Finland vs. Sweden and the United States vs. Canada.

Boston will host three games: We get a doubleheader on Feb. 17, with Canada vs. Finland and
Sweden vs. the United States. The championship game will be Feb. 20.

"I mean, the crowds are going to be great," Hughes said. "It's going to be just amazing for the sport to see that level of competition that we haven't seen in eight years since the World Cup. Personally, I think the League's never been in a better spot with the skill and talent that is out there right now, so it should be really exciting."

Who can mold a collection of talent into a team in less than two weeks?

"I think that's kind of the main goal," Matthews said. "You're going to have a lot of really elite players. It's kind of just putting the ego aside and doing what's best for the team and coming together as quickly as possible."

Who's the favorite? Is there a favorite?

"It's going to be a very tough tournament for everyone," Forsling said. "Best-on-best, and it's hard to say, but I think I like our chances. I feel we have a mix of everything, [but then] again, that's all the teams. Everyone is going to be challenging to win it all." staff writers Tom Gulitti and Tracey Myers contributed to this report

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