The final rosters for The World Cash Grab of Hockey™ are due two weeks from today. They were originally supposed to be submitted June 1, but the league and the NHL Players’ Association decided they didn’t want the World Cup extras to overshadow the Stanley Cup final. The announcement would coincide with Game 7 of the Western Conference final if there is one, but both sides were willing to take that risk.
So for some players, the auditions for the final spots continue through the conference final and World Championship. And there’s no doubt that some players have used those platforms to either cement their spots or make for some very difficult decisions.
Here are players from each team that have willed their way into the World Cup conversation:
Brent Burns: Biggest no-brainer of the whole tournament. In fact, I had to go back to make sure he wasn’t on Canada’s roster already. That’s because Burns might not only be the best Canadian defenseman at the moment, he might be the best in the world. Adding Burns to a right defense corps that already has Drew Doughty and Shea Weber would be frightening.
Kris Letang: Canada plans to go with just four right-handed defensemen and already has two in Weber and Doughty, which leaves the other two spots for Burns and one of P.K. Subban or Letang. This is where the Canadian brain trust is going to have a very, very difficult decision to make.
Logan Couture: It shouldn’t matter that Canada already has nine natural centermen and just two wingers on its roster at the moment. Couture has been one of the best two-way players in these playoffs and despite getting fewer minutes than San Jose’s big guns, scored 11 points in the second round.
Taylor Hall/Matt Duchene: Both are playing well for Canada at the World Championship and if you’re going to get players to go to that tournament to audition for events such as the World Cup, you’d better be prepared to offer them spots when they produce.
Phil Kessel: The Americans might want to bring Nick Bonino along if they choose Kessel, but Kessel has proved he belongs with the best players in the world. The Americans are already well stocked at right wing with the likes of Patrick Kane, Blake Wheeler and T.J. Oshie, but there has to be room for a player who has performed as well as Kessel has.
Tyler Johnson: Ask yourself one question. If the World Cup team were being picked at this time last year, would Johnson have been included? You bet he would have. Well, right now he’s playing every bit as well as he did in last year’s playoffs. He deserves to at least grab the spot as the 13th forward.
Robby Fabbri: He’s been a winner and an impact player at every level he’s played and he’s proving to be a huge factor in the Blues’ run to the Western Conference final. He would give this team the speed and grit that will drive its opponents bonkers in the fall.
Jonathan Drouin: He has answered every character question people had of him. The talent has always been there, but there’s a jam to his game that is coming to the forefront. He’s an elite playmaker and is showing it.
Colton Parayko: The St. Louis Blues defenseman is playing 20 minutes a game and seems unfazed by the elevation in competition. And at 6-foot-5 and 214 pounds, he’ll give the kids some much-needed size.
Auston Matthews: The consensus No. 1 pick was “in tough” to make the team in the words of team management, but what more can he do to prove he belongs? He has been a beast at the worlds.
Nikita Nesterov: The 23-year-old has been in and out of the Tampa Bay lineup and has not seen a lot of ice time when he has played, but in limited viewing has displayed an ability to move the puck and create offensive opportunities.
Carl Hagelin: After being traded twice in less seven months, Hagelin has found a home in Pittsburgh playing on a line with Bonino and Kessel. One thing we’ve seen in these playoff is that speed kills and Hagelin has all sorts of it.
Radek Faksa: Of course Jaromir Jagr gets a spot if he wants it. But if this team is going to have any success at all in this tournament, it’s going to have to come from their young guys and Faksa did a good job with the Dallas Stars playing with a lot of energy and a competitive edge.
Patrik Laine: The Finns are tied for first in their division at the World Championship and Laine is leading them in scoring. Come on, Finland, make it happen. At the very least, it would give the country’s next big offensive star a taste of what it’s like to play against the best players in the world.
Tom Kuhnhackl: He’s getting a ton of big-game experience playing on Pittsburgh’s fourth line and despite playing only 12 minutes a game, has five points in these playoffs. His shorthanded goal in Game 1 of the first round basically buried the New York Rangers in that game and helped set the tone for the series.