On Wednesday, Oilers President of Hockey Operations and General Manager Peter Chiarelli was announced as a manager of Team North America for the 2016 World Cup of Hockey. Together with Chicago’s Stan Bowman, Chiarelli will build a roster of under-23 players from both Canada and the United States.
One of those players eligible to be selected is 2015 first-overall pick and Oilers centre Connor McDavid.
“That would be a tremendous honour,” said the 18-year-old rookie. “It would be a great experience to play in that and play against the world’s best.”
The World Cup of Hockey will feature eight teams competing for an international championship. Team Canada, Team Czech Republic, Team Finland, Team Russia, Team Sweden, Team USA, Team Europe and Team North America will compete in the tournament put together by the NHL, NHLPA and IIHF. Two groups of four will compete in three tournament games in a round-robin format. The top two finishers in each group will advance to a single semifinal and then the two surviving teams will play a best-of-three final series.
“It’s really unique,” said McDavid. “It’s a great format and something people aren’t necessarily used to and that’s a good thing. It’s good to mix it up. I know a lot of people are having a tough time understanding the whole this team and that team, the under-23 and that kind of thing. It can be confusing but it’s a great format and should be a great tournament.”
McDavid has already represented his home country Canada in his young career. He won gold at the 2015 World Junior Championship. While Team North America isn’t carrying the banner of one country, international play is a special career achievement. Should Chiarelli select him, McDavid would be honoured to compete with some of the best under-23 players in the game and against the best in hockey.
“Any time you get to play internationally, it’s so special,” said McDavid. “Any time you get to put on the maple leaf, it’s something that you never forget and you’ll do anything you can to get back to that situation. I think if I was chosen and lucky enough to play on (the North American) team, I think everyone and myself included feel the same way, we’d be proud to be the young guns and we certainly want to represent well.”
Chiarelli said yesterday that if eligible Oilers players like McDavid or Ryan Nugent-Hopkins get selected it will be invaluable experience for the youngsters, but he expects them to remain focused on their NHL seasons for now.
“I mean I think you’d have to ask them but I think their priorities are helping out the Oilers… It’s nice to know that you’re being watched and judged by a terrific team like a World Cup team but first and foremost you help out your NHL team and let the chips fall where they may,” said Chiarelli.