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Tuesday, March 1, 2016

2016 World Cup of Hockey - Which Pens Make it?

It's been 2 years since Team Canada took home Olympic Gold against Team Sweden in Sochi, Russia, and it will be 2 more years until the Olympic Hockey returns in PyeongChang, South Korea. It's not known at this point if the NHL and NHLPA will release their players to compete in the next Winter Games, but the closest thing to Olympic Hockey will happen this fall with the 2016 World Cup of Hockey. The best from Canada, the United States, Russia, Sweden, Finland, and the Czech Republic, along with teams from the rest of Europe and North American players 23 or under will compete against each other in Toronto, Canada from September 17 through October 1. The rosters will be announced throughout the day tomorrow with a recap special airing on NHL Network at 7 PM. Which Penguins could be representing their country or continent?

Sidney Crosby - Team Canada

While a scoring slump early in the season brought questions from all corners of the media and the internet as to whether Crosby's game was in decline, he quickly came back with a vengeance under new Head Coach Mike Sullivan. He's currently 9th in the league on the season with 59 points and is 2nd in the league since Sullivan took over with 19 goals and 21 assists. It'll happen one day, but Crosby's not done being one of the best in the league just yet.

Chances of making Team Canada: Absolute Lock

Evgeni Malkin - Team Russia

The Penguins' 2nd line center would be the top center, and arguably top player, on 29 teams in the league. He's in the top 25 in scoring despite missing 10 games so far on the season, and he's just under a point per game with 50 points in 51 contests. He's been a fixture on Russian national teams for years now, and that's not going to change for this event

Chances of making Team Russia: Absolute Lock

Olli Maatta - Team Finland

Olli Maatta surprised as a 19 year old rookie on the Penguins blueline in 2013-14, and he parlayed his NHL success into a spot on Team Finland's surprising Bronze Medal team. He played well in the tournament, with 3 goals and 2 assists in 5 games played, and the Finns will certainly be looking to him to help man the blueline in September.

Chances of Making Team Finland: Absolute Lock

Kris Letang - Team Canada

In a country as deep with talent as Canada, it can be hard to stand out even for some of the top players in the game. Kris Letang didn't make Team Canada for the Sochi Olympics, but he's been one of the best offensive defensemen in the league in the 2 seasons since with 102 points in 120 games played, and his speed and ability to make plays mean he'll get strong consideration.

Chances of making Team Canada: Very Good

Patric Hornqvist - Team Sweden

In a surprising move, Patric Hornqvist was left off the Team Sweden roster for the Sochi Olympics, but they likely wish they could have had someone to score dirty goals as they lost the Gold Medal game 3-0 to the Canadians. He was left off the roster over a concern over his speed on the Olympic sized ice, but with the event being held on an NHL-sized rink, there's not much reason to think Hornqvist will be snubbed again

Chances of making Team Sweden: Very Good

Phil Kessel - Team USA

Phil Kessel has represented Team USA in each of the past 2 seasons, and he was named the Best Forward at the 2014 Sochi Olympics as he scored 5 goals and added 3 assists in 6 games played. Though Kessel's reputation may have taken a hit since Sochi, his pure talent and past performances will likely earn him a spot on the team.

Chances of making Team USA: Very Good

Matt Murray - Team North America

With Team North America taking players 23 or younger as of October 1, 2016; Matt Murray has a limited talent pool to compete against and a stellar AHL background with which to make his case. Goaltenders like John Gibson of Anaheim or Connor Hellebuyck of Winnipeg will have a leg up with a bigger track record against NHL competition, but Murray will be firmly in the mix for one of the 3 goalie spots.

Chances of making Team North America: Fair

Carl Hagelin - Team Sweden

Carl Hagelin made the Team Sweden roster for the 2014 Sochi games, and the emphasis on fast skaters likely played a role in his selection. Hagelin had a pair of goals in 6 games for the Silver Medal team, and he'll remain an option to fill a depth role for the Swedes in September.

Chances of making Team Sweden: Borderline

Marc-Andre Fleury - Team Canada

Marc-Andre Fleury has strung together two of the best seasons of his career since being left off Team Canada, and he has previous Olympic Experience having won a Gold Medal in Vancouver. However, with how deep the Canadians are at goaltender, it's less than likely that Fleury will be suiting up when the games start.

Chances of making Team Canada - Poor

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