The Nashville Predators are likely to be represented on the ice in the 2016 World Cup of Hockey, but their representation off of it has now been confirmed.
Preds Assistant General Manager Paul Fenton has been named a director of player personnel for Team North America in the upcoming tournament, one of four appointments to the club’s management team made on Friday.
“It’s a great opportunity here and a great honor to be named one of the people to help in the evaluating process for Team North America,” Fenton said. “We certainly have some great hockey minds, some guys that have won Stanley Cups, and to hear their insight and talk to them about how we’re going to be able to build this young team that hopefully has a chance to win the World Cup is exciting.”
Pat Verbeek will serve as a director of player personnel alongside Fenton, who will report to Team North America General Managers Stan Bowman and Peter Chiarelli, who are also the GMs of the Chicago Blackhawks and Edmonton Oilers, respectively.
One of eight teams participating in the World Cup, Team North America will be comprised of the top players from Canada and the United States who are age 23 or under as of Oct. 1, 2016. Fenton says the group has already had discussions on how the roster could be built, and with names like Connor McDavid, Jack Eichel, Brandon Saad and Aaron Ekblad among those eligible, there’s no lack of talent to choose from.
“We’ve gone through our projected rosters and what each of us would do if we were in charge, then we go through and dissect everybody and see how it may work,” Fenton said. “We all have theories of how you have your top line, all the way down to your bottom forwards, and the same with your defense. In this situation, because it is such a short period of time, there’s going to be a lot of discussion and evaluation of players that might be able to play different roles than what they’re used to.
“Our initial rosters that each of us put in had a lot of similarities of names and now it’s up to us to see these guys and to put it into perspective as to where they might fit in the lineup.”
Another name which comes to mind is that of Preds defenseman Seth Jones. Just 21, the American-born blueliner is likely to get a look for Team North America when the time comes. If there are any questions as to Jones’ ability, Fenton might just be able to put in a good word.
“His maturity level, for a man at his age, is just incredible,” Fenton said. “He puts the time in, both on and off the ice to be a professional, but you’ve already seen it this year. His physical attributes, the way he’s now able to separate and compete with a physical stature that we didn’t see a couple of years ago, he’s just taking leaps and bounds.”
The excitement surrounding the World Cup is sure to be palpable for not only those participating in the tournament, but those tuning in around the world for international bragging rights.
Fenton remembers sitting in a sports bar in Anaheim watching the U.S. win the 1996 World Cup and the elation in the atmosphere that came with it. He can’t wait to now be a part of it all.
“The excitement will be very similar to the Stanley Cup Playoffs,” Fenton said. “It’s just another way of selling our game and showing the talent that we have here internationally that is going to just help us continue to grow the sport.”