All eight teams that will compete in the 2016 World Cup of Hockey finalized their 23-man rosters on Friday, annoucing their final seven selections.
There were bound to be some surprises, but did anyone expect Team USA to go so far off the board? GM Dean Lombardi made some truly shocking additions, building a team that seems more intent on winning in the alley than on the ice.
Could it actually work? Absolutely. The Americans will be an aggressive team that will try to create chances off the forecheck. With guys like Ryan Callahan and Brandon Dubinsky and David Backes added to the mix, they'll be big and strong and miserable to play against. But if this team struggles to score, as it very well might, it'll be tough to justify the decision to add a bunch of gritty third-liners over players capable of skating top-six minutes like Tyler Johnson, Phil Kessel and Paul Stastny. And while Matt Niskanen is an excellent choice on the back end, it's hard to understand the choices of Erik Johnson and Jack Johnson over a skilled puck mover like Justin Faulk. Taken in total, this looks like a team built to win in 1996, not 2016.
There's bound to be some gnashing of teeth in Canada as well, but that's inevitable. The depth of their talent pool means there are always going to be great players who don't make the cut. So no Taylor Hall. No Corey Perry. And most distressing for some, no P.K. Subban.
Subban always felt like a long shot for this team, through no fault of his own. Canada is absolutely lit on the right side, and with Drew Doughty and Shea Weber already rostered, he was beaten out by Norris finalist Brent Burns and Alex Pietrangelo. Hard to argue with those choices. Both were tremendous in the playoffs and, more important, both play a safer two-way game.
Tough break for P.K., but his time will come.
The Jake Muzzin pick will raise a few eyebrows, but he's an excellent choice. A left shot who has chemistry with Doughty, he's a classic Mike Babcock selection. Like Marc-Edouard Vlasic, he plays a skilled, two-way game with very little risk. He might end up as the seventh D, with Burns sliding onto a righty-righty third pair, but even then he's a better pick than Subban or Kris Letang because he provides insurance on the left side.
No real surprises on Team North American, the under-23 gimmick squad. Some might take issue with top draft prospect Auston Matthews making the club over experienced NHL players like Robby Fabbri or Boone Jenner, but his performance at the World Championships proved he belongs. His combination of size, speed and skill gives this club a real boost.
Russia offered the first surprises of the day, leaving off veteran forwards Ilya Kovalchuk and Alexander Radulov but including SlavaVoynov.
The former Los Angeles Kings blueliner was suspended by the NHL in 2014 after being charged with spousal abuse. He later pleaded no contest to a reduced charge and was sentenced to 90 days in jail. Facing deportation from the United States upon his release, he left the country and returned to Russia, where he found employment in the KHL.
The NHL announced on Friday that it will review Voynov's eligibility to take part in the World Cup tournament, which will be played entirely in Toronto from Sept. 17 to Oct 1.
“We will obviously have to review his status with the Players' Association prior to the start of the tournament in September," Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly told ESPN. "It is not my current expectation that this player will be deemed eligible to play in the World Cup of Hockey."
Kovalchuk's omission is glaring only for his familiarity to NHL fans. The former 50-goal man, who has spent the past three seasons in the KHL, was scratched by his team during the playoffs for his indifferent play.
Radulov made his intentions known that he would pursue another shot at the NHL after his current KHL agreement expired this season. It's possible he was left off as retaliation for snubbing the Russian league, but it's equally likely that management felt it had better options than the 29-year-old former Predator. Neither Radulov nor Kovalchuk skated for Russia at the just-completed World Championships, which were staged in Moscow. The host team claimed the bronze medal at the event.
Finland included 2016 NHL Draft prospect Patrik Laine, who recently dominated at the Worlds, and Carolina draft pick Sebastian Aho, but left off Jesse Puljujarvi.
Early Norris favorite John Klingberg was passed over by Team Sweden. That's not a particularly surprising development, given their strength on the right side (Erik Karlsson, Anton Stralman, Niklas Hjalmarsson) and their already deep power play, but it's sure to rile up fans who'll question why Niklas Kronwall was selected ahead of him.
Gustav Nyquist was an unexpected snub by the Swedes. The Red Wings forward is coming off a solid World Championships where he led Tre Kroner with seven goals. Washington forward Marcus Johansson, who begged out of the Worlds because of injury, was also omitted.
Here are the final rosters, with Friday's final seven player additions denoted with a (*):
Ben Bishop, Tampa Bay Lightning
Dustin Byfuglien, Winnipeg Jets
Justin Abdelkader, Red Wings
Corey Crawford, Blackhawks
Brent Burns, Sharks*
Jamie Benn, Stars