Published On: Mon, Aug 29th, 2016

Projecting Team Canada's World Cup lines

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Heading into the first installment of the World Cup of Hockey since 2004, Canada enters as the odds-on favorite. Take one quick glance at the country’s arsenal – even after Jamie Benn was forced to back out – and there’s little question as to why that’s the case.

But it’s one thing to have the talent, and another to make it jell, and the nation’s coaches will work tirelessly to find player combinations that can maximize the team’s potential.

Here’s how Canada’s lines could shape up when the tournament kicks off:

Forwards


Canada’s forward contingent is arguably the strongest in the tournament. The team boasts two former Rocket Richard Trophy winners and two Art Ross Trophy winners (Benn would have made it three).

If there’s one possible downside to the forward crop, it’s that 12 of the 13 skaters are centermen, meaning several players will be forced to play slightly outside their element.

LW C RW
Tavares Crosby Stamkos
Duchene Toews Seguin
Marchand Bergeron Giroux
Couture Getzlaf/ Thornton Carter

With an abundance of centers, it’s important to slot the most dependable and stronger faceoff men down the middle. Also, as was largely done in Sochi, players should slot in on the right and left sides depending on their shooting hand.

Defense


Canada’s defense core includes three duos from Western Conference clubs that will likely play together. During the Sochi Olympics, head coach Mike Babcock – who reprises his role as coach this time around – did his best to slot players on the side matching their shooting hand. A similar game plan can be expected this time.

LD RD
Vlasic Burns
Muzzin Doughty
Bouwmeester Pietrangelo
Weber

With likely six spots available, one of the above is likely to take a seat. Muzzin or Bouwmeester would be the consensus decisions, but with each being left-handed shots, a switch might come from the right side.

Tough decisions loom for Babcock.

Goalies


In Carey Price and Braden Holtby, Canada possesses the last two Vezina Trophy winners.

There was early speculation as to whether Price would be healthy enough to man the crease after missing almost the entire NHL season with a knee injury. He has since made numerous claims that he’s 100 percent, and if that’s the case, it’s likely – given his performance in Sochi – he’ll be the team’s No. 1.

That being said, Holtby could certainly carry some of the load.

Power play


The Canadians could put together a successful power-play line by simply drawing names out of a hat. However, the majority of the club’s top six – as constructed above – likely gives the team the best pure scoring punch.

In each case, the wingers have swapped sides, giving each – especially Stamkos – the ability to strike with the one-timer.

In the first group, the defense duo of Weber, who has a cannon from the point, and Doughty returns after providing a ton of offense in Sochi.

Meanwhile, Burns has the ability to get pucks through, while Giroux reprises his role at the point as he does with his Philadelphia Flyers on the second line.

Thornton makes sense to slot in on the right side on Line 2. He can quarterback the half wall, and thread a pass through most seams – as his 21 power-play assists from this past season suggest.

Unit LW C RW D
1 Stamkos Crosby Tavares Weber/Doughty
2 Seguin Toews Thornton Giroux/Burns

Penalty Kill


The Bruins duo is an easy choice for penalty-killing situations, with Bergeron’s fantastic faceoff skills and defensive upside and Marchand always a constant shorthanded threat.

Meanwhile, Toews and Carter provide another duo capable of defending, with the ability to strike if an opportunity presents itself. Not to mention Carter’s huge wingspan is ideal for getting his stick in passing lanes.

As for the defensive lines, they’re pretty straightforward.

Unit LW/RW C D
1 Marchand Bergeron Vlasic/Doughty
2 Carter Toews Bouwmeester/Pietrangelo



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