With news that the NHL is "cautiously optimistic" that current CBA talks might lead to a World Cup in February 2021, we've decided to predict what each team's roster could look like should the tournament take place.
We adopted the NHL's format for the 2016 World Cup. Canada, the United States, Sweden, Finland, Russia, and the Czech Republic all send teams, while Team North America (players aged 23-and-under from Canada and the U.S.) and Team Europe (players from other European countries) round out the field. Teams are comprised of any combination of 20 skaters and three goalies.
In this edition, we project Team Russia's and Team Czech Republic's roster:
Znarok has been behind the Russian bench for most of the decade, leading the nation to a gold medal at both the 2014 World Championship and 2018 Olympic Games. The 56-year-old took a break from coaching in 2018-19 due to fatigue but will return in 2019-20 as head coach of the KHL's Spartak Moskva. If he's up to the task, the job will likely be his for the taking.
|Alex Ovechkin||Evgeny Kuznetsov||Nikita Kucherov|
|Artemi Panarin||Evgeni Malkin||Vladimir Tarasenko|
|Nikita Gusev||Vadim Shipachyov||Evgenii Dadonov|
|Andrei Svechnikov||Ivan Barbashev||Alexander Radulov|
Notable omissions: Ilya Kovalchuk, Pavel Datsyuk, Nikolay Goldobin, Artem Anisimov, Vladislav Namestnikov, Kirill Kaprizov
The top-six forward group is downright lethal, while the bottom six features two of the top KHL scorers and a blend of talented NHLers. The Ovechkin-Kuznetsov pairing offers established chemistry with last season's Hart Trophy winner completing the deadly top trio. Barbashev, who led the Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues in postseason hits, adds a level of physicality the Russians typically lack.
Kovalchuk and Datsyuk are national legends and it wouldn't be a surprise if the Russians showed allegiance to the veteran talents and incorporated them on the roster. If they want to maximize their chance at a championship, however, they're best to fill those spots with younger, faster players.
|Ivan Provorov||Nikita Zaitsev|
|Nikita Zadorov||Mikhail Sergachev|
|Dmitry Orlov||Alexey Marchenko|
Notable omissions: Dmitry Kulikov, Vladislav Gavrikov, Igor Ozhiganov, Dmitri Samorukov
The Russians are somewhat vulnerable on the back end. They don't have a deep pool of talent to select from, especially on the right side, which explains Marchenko's appearance on the forecasted roster. Provorov and Sergachev are easily the top talents, but it may actually be best to separate the pair for depth purposes.
Notable omissions: Semyon Varlamov, Ilya Samsonov, Igor Shestyorkin
There's little doubt Vasilevskiy and Bobrovsky offer Russia the best one-two punch between the pipes, with Vasilevskiy getting the starting nod. Sorokin is one of the top goaltenders in the KHL and would give the Russians a tremendous insurance policy if need be.
Samsonov is likely the goalie of the future but will need more experience before entering the big stage. If the tournament was a year or two later, he'd have a great shot at cracking the roster.
Head coach: Filip Pesan
Pesan has moved up the ranks within the national program, most recently leading the Czechs to a fourth-place finish at the 2018 World Junior Championship. With current Czech coach Milos Riha's contract expiring after this season, it's believed Pesan will take the reigns in 2020-21.
|Jakub Voracek||David Krejci||David Pastrnak|
|Jakub Vrana||Tomas Hertl||Michael Frolik|
|Ondrej Palat||Radek Faksa||Filip Zadina|
|Pavel Zacha||Filip Chytil||Ondrej Kase|
Notable omissions: Martin Hanzal, Dominik Simon, Vladimir Sobotka, Jan Kovar, David Kampf
The Czechs project to assemble a competitive squad with some top talent up front. Krejci and Pastrnak are tremendous players who've played together at times with the Boston Bruins, while Voracek and Hertl are also offensive catalysts. The bottom six offers a young and promising core - with an average age of 22.6 - who'll get another year-and-a-half of pro experience before the tournament arrives.
Zadina, though still inexperienced at the NHL level, packs an elite scoring punch the Czechs lack deeper down the lineup. Necas is a highly touted 20-year-old center and enjoyed a strong season en route to capturing the Calder Cup with the AHL's Charlotte Checkers in 2018-19. Give him another 18 months or so and we feel he'll be ready to crack this squad.
|Michal Kempny||Radko Gudas|
|Radim Simek||Filip Hronek|
|Jakub Zboril||Jan Rutta|
Notable omissions: Roman Polak, Vojtech Mozik
Similar to the Russians, the Czechs have a shortage of reliable talent on the blue line. Kempny and Gudas are established NHL defensemen, but it falls off from there. Hronek and Zboril have high potential, but they're still young and learning how to play at the top level.
Rittich put together a solid season for the Calgary Flames in 2018-19 and is in a great position to start if he continues his strong play. Mrazek has been inconsistent at times in the NHL, but he's the more experienced of the two. The pair will likely battle for the starting role with 2018 Olympic goaltender Francouz nabbing the third spot.
Notable omissions: Michal Neuvirth
Others in this series: