TORONTO -- Peter Chiarelli has come across some significant challenges as he and co-general manager Stan Bowman continue to evaluate the players available to them in the selection process for Team North America for the 2016 World Cup of Hockey.
Beyond the challenge of forming a team featuring players from Canada and the United States, Chiarelli said he's finding it difficult to get a consistent read on young players who typically are inconsistent while also trying to paddle through a relatively small and inexperienced pool of goalies, none of whom are in the NHL.
That's why Chiarelli said he and Bowman expect to use all the time allotted to them up to the March 1 deadline to name the initial 16 players to the roster. He said they likely will wait until after scouting at the 2016 IIHF World Championship before naming the balance of the roster (20 skaters, three goalies) before the June 1 deadline.
The player pool for Team North America is limited to players from Canada or the U.S. who are 23 or under as of Oct. 1, 2016.
"We've had some really good viewings and there has been a lot of variance," Chiarelli, who is also the GM of the Edmonton Oilers, said Tuesday during a break during the NHL general managers meeting at the League office. "I think that's what is going to happen with the younger players. It's been really interesting.
"I would say we have about 60 percent guys who are locks right now. But that could change too."
Chiarelli said the variance has led to new players finding their way onto his watch list, such as St. Louis Blues defenseman Colton Parayko, who is first among rookie defensemen and tied for ninth among all defensemen with 10 points through 14 games.
"Parayko was not on our list," Chiarelli said. "I saw him early against us, Edmonton, and he really stood out. So he's in the discussion."
So too, Chiarelli said, are Arizona Coyotes forwards Anthony Duclair (second in rookie scoring) and Max Domi (tied for fifth), and Detroit Red Wings forward Dylan Larkin (ninth).
Chiarelli also said they're keeping tabs on Auston Matthews, the favorite to be the No. 1 pick in the 2016 NHL Draft.
Matthews is playing for Zurich in National League A, Switzerland's top professional league, and is coached by former NHL coach Marc Crawford. Matthews sustained a back injury Oct. 23 but is expected to return to the Zurich lineup when league play resumes Nov. 12. Chiarelli said they have scouted Matthews several times and plan to continue to monitor him when he comes back.
"These guys, they bubble up but then they can bubble down too," Chiarelli said. "It'd be nice if we can delay to the very last minute with our team but we can't. We have to name 16 on or before March 1, and the rest we'll take it right to the end [June 1]."
It's unlikely the pool of available goalies will change between now and June 1, which Chiarelli said might be the biggest challenge of all.
He mentioned that he and Bowman are eyeing six or seven goalies, but due to the fact that goalies typically take longer before they begin to fulfill their potential, sometimes into their mid-20s, that it's arguably the most important position on the team but also the most uncertain.
"You're hoping to catch lightning in a bottle," Chiarelli said.
The problem is none of the goalies who have played in the NHL this season are eligible to play on Team North America. The top candidates all likely are in the American Hockey League, among them John Gibson (Anaheim Ducks), Jon Gillies (Calgary Flames), Malcolm Subban (Boston Bruins), Connor Hellebuyck (Winnipeg Jets) and Matt Murray (Pittsburgh Penguins).
Chiarelli said he asked the NHL if they could extend the age limit to 25 for goalies, but the answer was no.
"We're going to look at those candidates as late as we can because I'm hoping for someone to really finish strong in the year, whether it's a playoff push or something, and that candidate bubbles up," Chiarelli said.
Chiarelli said he and Bowman are close to naming the assistant coaches who will work under Todd McLellan. They will either be named this week or shortly after.