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World Cup

Team Europe can pick from big talent pool

Chara, Kopitar, Hossa figure to be keys for World Cup entry

by David Satriano @davidsatriano / NHL.com Staff Writer

Team Europe could face the biggest of disadvantages among the eight teams at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey. 

With the team being selected from several European countries, there is a good chance it will not have the chemistry that is often a big piece of the puzzle in short best-on-best tournaments like the World Cup. 

This team will be comprised of players from any European country except for Finland, Russia, Sweden and the Czech Republic, each of which has its own national team entered into the tournament.

The positive, though, is that the depth of the player pool from which Team Europe management can choose is among the deepest in the tournament. 

President Franz Reindl, general manager Miroslav Satan, coach Ralph Krueger and the Team Europe scouts (including former NHL players Peter Bondra and Sean Burke) have their work cut out for them. The majority of the players on the 23-man roster, which must be finalized by June 1, are expected to be from Slovakia, Switzerland, Denmark and Germany. 

Burke believes the resulting unfamiliarity among the players can be turned into an advantage of sorts. 

"My experience in all these international events is that it's great from a standpoint that if you're not the favorite, like we're not going to be, because of the format and the way these tournaments work, you have the ability to upset people," Burke told NHL.com in November. "The way that usually happens is by having a team that comes together quickly. That will definitely be something that I will feel is really important, looking at not necessarily who the top players may all be, but how we build a team, who fits and who can contribute to us winning." 

Bondra noted that he, Satan and Burke have played with and against some of the players they are considering for the roster. 

"The last time I looked at the list of names for potential players for Team Europe I counted 12 to 13 guys who I was either with those guys in the same locker room or I played against them, which will help the process here," Bondra said. "And Miro retired recently (2009-10 from the NHL)." 

Here's what Team Europe's roster (alphabetically by position) could look like for the tournament, which will be held Sept. 17-Oct. 1, 2016, in Toronto:

FORWARDS 

Leon Draisaitl, Edmonton Oilers, Germany, C -- Draisaitl had two goals and nine points in 37 games last season but has excelled this season with 14 goals and 40 points in 46 games. He's broken out offensively in a big way in his sophomore season.

Video: NSH@EDM: Draisaitl lifts backhand goal by Rinne

Zemgus Girgensons, Buffalo Sabres, Latvia, C -- Girgensons isn't producing much offensively; he has five goals and 11 points in 45 games after scoring 15 goals and finishing with 30 points in 61 games in 2014-15. But he's a big body (6-foot-1, 203 pounds) and played for Latvia at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. 

Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings, Slovenia, C -- There's a reason the Kings recently gave Kopitar an eight-year contract extension: He does it all. Kopitar leads the Kings in scoring, plays in all situations and is one of the best two-way players in the NHL. He's a faceoff machine, a leader and a winner, having won the Stanley Cup twice. 

Frans Nielsen, New York Islanders, Denmark, C -- Nielsen is an excellent two-way center; he has 15 goals and 34 points in 53 games this season and averages more than two minutes per game on the power play and the penalty kill. Nielsen, the longest-tenured Islander (2006-07), has 114 goals in 578 NHL games, and he's been one of the League's most underrated players for years. 

Mikkel Boedker, Arizona Coyotes, Denmark, LW -- Boedker is on pace for a career-high in points and has 13 goals and 36 points in 54 games this season. He has three multigoal games, including two hat tricks, and is a key reason the Coyotes are contending for a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. 

Tomas Tatar, Detroit Red Wings, Slovakia, LW -- The speedy five-year NHL veteran had 29 goals last season and continues to be an important piece for the Red Wings. He should feel right at home with much of the roster likely coming from Slovakia. 

Thomas Vanek, Minnesota Wild, Austria, LW -- His scoring has slowed down considerably with two goals since Jan. 1, but the 32-year old had at least 20 goals in each of his first 10 NHL seasons. He has 14 in 53 games this season. 

Marian Gaborik, Los Angeles Kings, Slovakia, RW -- Gaborik, along with Kings teammate Kopitar and Chicago Blackhawks forward Marian Hossa, likely will form the top line for Team Europe. Gaborik has 12 goals this season and has played on a line with Kopitar in Los Angeles and with Hossa internationally. Not to mention, the three have combined to win the Stanley Cup six times. 

Michael Grabner, Toronto Maple Leafs, Austria, RW -- Grabner tied for first with five goals in four games at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. He has seen his goal-scoring slip in each of the past five seasons but has been playing every night, unlike last season when he scored eight goals in 34 games and was often a healthy scratch with the New York Islanders. His speed should make him a weapon.

Jannik Hansen, Vancouver Canucks, Denmark, RW -- Hansen enters the weekend with 16 goals, matching his career high. He's also plus-16, so he makes a difference at both ends of the ice. Hansen also makes the most of his shots; he has a shooting percentage of 17.6 (16 goals on 91 shots). 

Marian Hossa, Chicago Blackhawks, Slovakia, RW -- Hossa has long been one of the best two-way players in the NHL. He has 496 career goals, is a 14-time 20-goal scorer and an eight-time 30-goal scorer. He's also defensively reliable and is a key to Chicago's puck-possession game. Though he's been limited to 10 goals this season, Hossa has the Stanley Cup experience and the international experience and should be comfortable with many players on this team. 

Mats Zuccarello, New York Rangers, Norway, RW -- Zuccarello is the little engine that could for the Rangers. He has already matched his career-high with 19 goals and leads New York with 41 points. The 5-foot-7, 179-pound wing has represented Norway twice in the Winter Olympics and will be a key for this team.

Video: NYR@PHI: Zuccarello dekes Mason, buries shootout goal

Nino Niederreiter, Minnesota Wild, Switzerland, RW -- Satan scouted Niederreiter, 23, earlier this month when the Wild visited the Islanders, and he had a goal, an assist and eight shots in that game. Niederreiter entered the weekend with nine goals, a far cry from the 24 he scored last season. He should make the roster, although not likely as one of the first 16 players named. 

DEFENSEMEN

Zdeno Chara, Boston Bruins, Slovakia -- Chara, 38, isn't the offensive force he was earlier in his career, but he's still tops among Boston's defensemen with 29 points. More important is that he has been healthy this season. Chara is still a force on the power play and a presence in the defensive zone, and he provides the kind of leadership a team like this will need. 
  
Roman Josi, Nashville Predators, Switzerland -- Josi has established himself as one of the best defensemen in the NHL. He leads the Predators in scoring, made the All-Star Game and averages more than 25 minutes of ice time. He figures to be on the top defensive pairing for Team Europe. 

Luca Sbisa, Vancouver Canucks, Switzerland -- With 13 career goals in 369 games, Sbisa is a defensive defenseman, which is fine considering the offensive power this roster has up front and on the back end. He's more of a stay-at-home type who will let his teammates do the scoring. 

Dennis Seidenberg, Boston Bruins, Germany -- He doesn't always get talked about, but Seidenberg has been an important part of the Bruins' lockdown defense during the past several seasons. He could form a pairing with Chara, his longtime Bruins teammate. 

Andrej Sekera, Edmonton Oilers, Slovakia -- In his first season with the Oilers, Sekera has already doubled his goal total from last season. He leads Edmonton in ice time and plays on the power play and penalty kill, so he will be useful in all situations.

Video: EDM@COL: Sekera snipes one past Varlamov

Mark Streit, Philadelphia Flyers, Switzerland -- Streit, 38, has spent time on injured reserve this season but is still productive offensively, especially on the power play. He also has plenty of international experience, having played for Switzerland in each of the past four Winter Olympics and serving as captain in 2002, '06 and '10. 

Christian Ehrhoff, Los Angeles Kings, Germany -- Ehrhoff cleared waivers and is now with the Kings' American Hockey League affiliate in Ontario, but he's a 12-year veteran with almost 800 games of NHL experience. The 33-year old likely will be on the bottom pair or a scratch barring an injury to another defenseman. 

GOALIES 

Frederik Andersen, Anaheim Ducks, Switzerland -- Andersen, 26, has regained his starting job for the Ducks and has been outstanding recently, allowing two or fewer goals in nine of 12 appearances. In 101 NHL starts, he has 66 wins and has made a strong case to be Team Europe's starting goalie. 

Jaroslav Halak, New York Islanders, Slovakia -- Although he has been bothered by injuries this season, Halak has been good when he has played. He enters the weekend with a 2.27 goals-against average and a .918 save percentage. Halak, 30, has represented Slovakia internationally in the past two Winter Olympics. 

Jonas Hiller, Calgary Flames, Switzerland -- Hiller has proved he can play on the international stage; he had two shutouts and allowed two goals in three games at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. He may start the tournament as Team Europe's No. 3 goalie, but it wouldn't be surprising if he gets some playing time. At 33, he would be the oldest of the trio of goalies.

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