Today’s Group B action continues with tournament darling Team North America (TNA) taking on Team Finland.
TNA went 2-1 in pre-tournament action, defeating Team Europe twice before falling 3-2 to the Czech Republic. Finland had a somewhat bumpier road, going 1-1 against Sweden before losing their third exhibition match to the US.
While Patrik Laine and Mark Scheifele are both set to play prominent roles in tonight’s tilt, not all Winnipeg Jets players are so lucky. Jacob Trouba and Connor Hellebuyck will serve as TNA’s extras, alongside Rangers forward JT Miller.
Hellebuyck being third on the depth chart is no surprise. Matt Murray is coming off a Stanley Cup win and had an excellent pre-tournament, while backup John Gibson is the guy in Anaheim. This isn’t an indictment of Helle, simply recognition that the other two are more established at this point and time.
As for Trouba, it is disappointing to see him out of the lineup. After playing 18:05 in TNA’s 4-0 exhibition win over Team Europe, the restricted fre agent was bumped from the d-corps in favour of St. Louis Blues revelation Colton Parayko. We’ll see if Trouba draws back in tomorrow or Wednesday, but for now, he won’t see any contract negotiation boost from being on the young guns squad.
Sunday, Sept. 18, 7:00 p.m. CT, Air Canada Centre
TV Broadcast: ESPN2, SN, TVA Sports
Live Stream: WatchESPN, NHL Live
|Left Wing||Centre||Right Wing|
|Johnny Gaudreau||Jack Eichel||Dylan Larkin|
|Jonathan Drouin||Ryan Nugent-Hopkins||Nathan MacKinnon|
|Vincent Trocheck||Sean Couturier||Brandon Saad|
|Morgan Rielly||Aaron Ekblad|
|Ryan Murray||Seth Jones|
|Shayne Gostisbehere||Colton Parayko|
In case you missed it, Auston Matthews has gone from being North America’s 13th forward to playing left wing on the first line. He’ll be under pressure to get 1C Connor McDavid going, considering the TNA captain went without a point over three exhibition matches. With the game in Toronto, all eyes will be on Matthews’ every move.
Oh, and someone named Mark Scheifele rounds out the top-line trio. I hear he’s pretty good.
The collection of North American players aged 23 and under has more than enough depth to go deep in this tournament. With a "third line" of Drouin, Nugent-Hopkins and MacKinnon, and the bottom-pairing a toss-up between Murray-Jones and Gostisbehere-Parayko, the squad has no clear weaknesses aside from, perhaps, relative inexperience.
|Left Wing||Centre||Right Wing|
|Mikael Granlund||Mikko Koivu||Joonas Donskoi|
|Leo Komarov||Valtteri Filppula||Jussi Jokinen|
|Lauri Korpikoski||Erik Haula||Jori Lehtera|
|Esa Lindell||Rasmus Ristolainen|
|Olli Maatta||Sami Vatanen|
|Sami Lepisto||Ville Pokka|
Finland’s forward corps does not possess the sheer star power of its opponent. But with dynamic up-and-comers Laine and Aho, two-way talents in Barkov and Koivu, not to mention role players such as Komarov and Korpikoski, it possesses a little bit of everything. Winnipeg Jets fans should expect to see a lot of Laine on the power play, hopefully an encouraging sign of things to come for the big club.
On Finland’s blueline, age is an outlier. Beyond former NHLer Sami Lepisto, Vatanen and Jokipakka are the elder statesmen at age 25. Pokka, Lindel and Maatta are 22, while Ristolainen is 21. Pokka and Lindel especially have yet to make their mark at the NHL level, but don’t let their birth years and big league inexperience fool you; this is a skilled defence which shouldn’t be taken lightly.
Pekka Rinne gets the call between the pipes for Finland. While Rinne wasn’t incredible in pre-tournament action, he had a better go of it than Tuukka Rask’s .821 SV% effort against Sweden. The big Finn has a solid international record and in a short tournament such as this, he only needs to be the Pekka Rinne of old for a few games.
Tweets of the Day
Patrik Laine prepares for the opening game the usual way: "I'll play some Playstation. I don't do pre-game naps". It's only hockey.— Sami Hoffrén (@shoffren) September 18, 2016
When told that Scheifele called him a "great guy," Laine smiled and said to tell Scheifele "I'm going to crosscheck him."— Michael Traikos (@Michael_Traikos) September 17, 2016
Which team are you cheering for in tonight’s tilt? Would you be shocked if Team Finland wins, or only mildly surprised? And what are you looking for from Scheifele and Laine both? As the game is played, turn the comments section below into your stream of consciousness, and as always, thanks for reading!