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World Cup

McDavid, Eichel highlight Team North America

Chiarelli, Bowman pick eight Canadians, eight Americans for roster

by Shawn Roarke @sroarke_nhl / NHL.com Director of Editorial

TORONTO -- Forwards Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel put on quite a show when the two rookies played against each other in the NHL for the first time Tuesday in Buffalo. This fall at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey, the No. 1 and No. 2 picks in the 2015 NHL Draft will be teammates.

Team North America general managers Peter Chiarelli and Stan Bowman named eight American players and eight Canadian players among the first 16 selections for Team North America in a roster announcement Wednesday, the first step in putting together a never-before-seen team capable of taking on established national-team superpowers.

"Well, we want to win; we're here to win," Bowman said.

McDavid, the No. 1 pick for the Edmonton Oilers from Richmond Hill, Ontario, and Eichel, from the Boston suburb of North Chelmsford, Mass., who went to the Buffalo Sabres with the No. 2 pick, are the perfect example of the balance and star power on this team.

Video: Team North America World Cup of Hockey Jersey Reveal

Chiarelli, the general manager of the Oilers, watched the game Tuesday and saw his player, McDavid, score two goals, including the game-winner in overtime. He has also extensively scouted Eichel as part of this process.

"Two really special players," Chiarelli said. "I've been fortunate to be part of Connor's rookie season. You saw a great show [Tuesday] night. When I spoke with Jack after the game last night, he was (upset) because they had lost. I was basically telling him, 'You're going to be on the squad tomorrow.' I think it went in one ear and out the other, which is good, because he's a really competitive kid."

Each player has been so good, in fact, that if there were not an under-24 team, each would likely play for his respective senior national team. Wednesday, Chiarelli said that Team USA general manager and Team Canada Doug Armstrong have told him as much.

Chiarelli says he has been too busy putting together the team to recognize the magic he and Bowman made by putting these two players on the same roster.

"Probably don't fully appreciate it," he said. "I think in 10 years we'll look back and truly appreciate it."

Team North America is a new concept in international hockey. It features the best players age 23 years and younger as of Oct. 1 from Canada and the United States playing against the best hockey nations in the world in the 2016 World Cup of Hockey, an eight-team tournament that will take place from Sept. 17 to Oct. 1 in Toronto.

There certainly was a curiosity factor as to how the management team would stock the roster when it came to players from Canada and the United States.

For now, it's an even split between the two countries with seven roster slots yet to be named. Final rosters will be announced by June 1.

McDavid and Eichel were two of nine forwards named Wednesday. Four defensemen and the three goalies were selected.

Video: WORLD CUP RAW | Connor McDavid

The team is loaded with top-end talent, but much of it still is finding its way in the NHL.

Forward Sean Couturier of the Philadelphia Flyers has played 331 games, the most of any player on the roster. Five other players on the roster have more than 200 games of NHL experience.

Six players, including all three goalies, have less than 100 games of experience. McDavid, who was sidelined for half the season because of a fractured left clavicle, has played in 28 NHL games.  

Spreading the roster between younger and more experienced players was a big part of the process in selecting the initial roster, according to Chiarelli.

"It was definitely a factor as we looked at it, for a couple reasons," he said. "No. 1, we're playing against all other teams that have experienced guys, not too many young guys. We're going to be a team full of young guys.

"I think the other thing is looking at our group of forwards in particular, in talking to our coaching staff, you have to have some guys there who you have confidence in that can do things beyond just scoring goals.

"I think we have a lot of youth, obviously, excitement. "[We're] going to play a high-tempo game. But you have to balance that with some experience. We've got a few guys that bring that to the table."

Video: Reactions to Team North America's preliminary roster

Strength of Team: Young legs. With all of the players being under 24 years of age, there is not the heavy hockey mileage on their bodies. The September start to the tournament means the offseason will be cut short by a month and it is less likely to affect this group vs. more veteran-laden teams.

Weakness of Team: Goaltending. Although better than many thought it would be because of the emergence of John Gibson of the Anaheim Ducks, there is precious little big-game experience there. Gibson is the only goaltender to appear in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, where he has a 2.70 goals-against average and .919 save percentage in four games.

Biggest surprise: Matthew Murray. He was the favorite to be the No. 3 goalie all along, but it was assumed he would be named in the second round of roster announcements and not among the first 16. He has five games of NHL experience, all with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Biggest omission: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. He is 22 and already has 304 games of NHL experience. He has topped 50 points three times in his five-season NHL career and is an ideal candidate to be a second-line center.

Roster

John Gibson, Anaheim Ducks, G
Connor Hellebuyck, Manitoba (AHL), G
Matthew Murray, Pittsburgh Penguins, G
Aaron Ekblad, Florida Panthers, D
Seth Jones, Columbus Blue Jackets, D
Ryan Murray, Columbus Blue Jackets, D
Morgan Rielly, Toronto Maple Leafs, D
Sean Couturier, Philadelphia Flyers, F
Jack Eichel, Buffalo Sabres, F
Johnny Gaudreau, Calgary Flames, F
Dylan Larkin, Detroit Red Wings, F
Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche, F
Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers, F
J.T. Miller, New York Rangers, F
Sean Monahan, Calgary Flames, F
Brandon Saad, Columbus Blue Jackets, F

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