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Chiarelli ready to help build youthful World Cup competitor

by Chris Wescott / Edmonton Oilers
Photo by Getty Images.

EDMONTON, AB - While fully immersed in tending to the Oilers roster, Peter Chiarelli has taken on an additional career challenge.

Edmonton’s general manager and president of hockey operations has committed his efforts to building the Team North America roster for the 2016 World Cup of Hockey. Alongside Chicago Blackhawks Vice President and GM, Stan Bowman, Chiarelli will try to put together what he’s building in Edmonton; a youthful competitor.

“Well it’s a unique and exciting opportunity,” said Chiarelli. “You’ve got a group of players that are in their formative years, the 23-and-under group and you get to scout them, which is fun, and you get to form a team. There’s some challenges with the team; younger players change more frequently and they’re on certain trends up and down so that’s a little more challenging.”

Some of the challenges will come down to youth and inexperience.

“They’re in their formative years, meaning they’re not quite at their peak and then their game is changing and sometimes there’s some question marks,” said Chiarelli.

Forming this team will be challenging, yet exciting.

BUILDING A ROSTER

When Chiarelli envisions the roster for Team North America, he focuses on youth, speed and skating as the characteristics that will allow them to challenge more experienced teams.

“It’s a great young set of legs these guys have, they’re going to be a high-tempo team and we’re going to be underdogs so it’ll be fun.”

Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli sits at the team's draft table. Photo by Getty Images.

Chiarelli and Bowman, who were appointed jointly by the NHL and NHLPA, will sift through the pool of talented, 23-and-under players in both Canada and the United States. Each player selected for Team North America must be 24 or older by no later than October 1, 2016. Chiarelli will choose from the likes of his own Oilers centres Connor McDavid and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. That group also includes NHL talent like Jacob Trouba, Dougie Hamilton, Sean Monahan, Brandon Saad, Nathan MacKinnon, and Jack Eichel.

Having been a part of the selection process for Hockey Canada at the 2014 Olympics and Canada’s 2013 IIHF World Hockey Championships team, Chiarelli has an idea of what to look for.

“There’s about 70 players to choose from realistically, and it may not seem like a lot but it’s a lot when you want to get a 22 or 23-man roster.”

“There has to be skating,” Chiarelli continued. “It has to be puck-possession and puck-attacking.”

Chiarelli has already drafted some mock rosters and is excited about the skating abilities of any of the combinations.

Chiarelli’s responsibilities begin, well, now. Scouting the potential players begins when the NHL season begins. There is no designated number of Canadian versus American players for Team North America. The best players will play.

“Well we’ve got myself and Stan Bowman — I think, two pretty accomplished GMs — and then we’re going to appoint some other guys underneath and we’re going to map out territories,” said Chiarelli. “Basically, it’s like being a manager of an NHL team, you’ve got to compile the reports, have meetings and decide what type of team you want. Really, it’s the same process you use with an NHL team except it’s an honour and it’s fun to scout these high-end players.”

It’s business as usual for Chiarelli, who will help gather information and then let that data dictate decisions when it comes to forming this roster.

INTERNATIONAL GLORY

Team North America will compete in Group B of the 2016 World Cup, when it gets underway next September. The youngsters will play Finland, Russia and Sweden in the Preliminary Round.

There is something surreal about representing your country. Chiarelli has participated in international competition at various points in his career. He understands the feeling athletes, coaches and management get during these events.

“There’s a different feel, there’s a different type of player, there’s a different type of tournament or competition and the variety is nice and it reinvigorates you,” the Oilers hockey boss said.

Chiarelli is eager to share that feeling and experience with young players, perhaps the likes of McDavid and Nugent-Hopkins. But Chiarelli also understands, and hopes, the Oilers World Cup eligible players stay focused on their NHL season first.

“I would think it’s big,” Chiarelli said of the experience young players get on the international stage. “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.”

Various Oilers will be under consideration for not only Team North America, but the other teams as well.

OFF TO PENTICTON

While Chiarelli has taken on responsibilities to the World Cup and Team North America, his next duties come in Penticton, B.C. this weekend. The Oilers Rookies will head to the Young Stars Tournament, where they will play three games in four days against the other participating teams - Calgary, Winnipeg and Vancouver.

Chiarelli’s “Big Three” representing the Oilers is the trio of McDavid, defenceman Darnell Nurse and centre Leon Draisaitl. The hope is to see those three, as well as the others on the Oilers roster, compete hard both internally amongst each other and against the opposing teams.

“It’s a bit of both and you want a bit of both,” said Chiarelli. “These guys are competing for jobs and even more, they’re competing for, I guess, impressions for jobs down the line and competing for our assessments. Then you want to build a level of team bonding and team camaraderie and that’s just by competing against other teams, so it’s a good test.”

For the Oilers management team, these next several days are another glimpse at the future of the organization.

“They’re going to be key figures on the Oilers going forward and this is the first step in that development,” said Chiarelli. “I don’t want to place too much on a rookie camp in Penticton, but it’s a good development step and they’ll all be more experienced as a result.”

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