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Thursday, March 3, 2016

The Breakdown: 4 Penguins Make World Cup Rosters

The initial World Cup of Hockey rosters were announced yesterday, and 4 Pittsburgh Penguins made the rosters. Evgeni Malkin, Olli Maatta, and Sidney Crosby will all be representing their countries in September, and Matt Murray will be playing on Team North America featuring the best 23 and younger players from Canada and the US. Earlier in the week, we broke down 9 Pens that could see themselves in the conversation for making the World Cup rosters. Some we hit on, some we missed (so far), but here's how things shook out.

Sidney Crosby - Team Canada

Prediction: Absolute Lock

Outcome: Made Team Canada

This one doesn't seem to need much in-depth analysis. Sidney Crosby is arguably the greatest player in the world; there's not a scenario in which he's not invited.

Evgeni Malkin - Team Russia

Prediction: Absolute Lock

Outcome: Made Team Russia

Like Crosby, this one was easy to see a mile away. Evgeni Malkin is one of the elite talents of his generation, and there was never a question that he'd be left off Team Russia. Especially when Vladimir Putin let him get away with this photo op:

Olli Maatta - Team Finland

Prediction: Absolute Lock

Outcome: Made Team Finland

Olli Maatta made the Bronze Medal winning team for the 2014 Olympics as a 19 year old, and he played a big role for the team with 5 points in as many games played. Team Finland only announced 3 defensemen as part of their initial 16, but there was little surprise that Maatta was one of the 3.

Kris Letang - Team Canada

Prediction: Very Likely

Outcome: Left Off Team Canada Roster

Kris Letang didn't make the initial 16 man roster for Team Canada, and after some of the selections by GM Doug Armstrong it will be more of an uphill battle given the competition still left. Shea Weber is more of a selection based on name recognition than play at this point in time, and Marc-Edouard Vlasic, while a very good player and a 2014 Olympian, likely shouldn't have made the preliminary roster at the expense of some of Canada's other options. With 2-3 spots left on the defense, and options such as Brent Burns, PK Subban, Mark Giordano, and Alex Pietrangelo among others still in play, it'll be tough for Letang to make his case that he's deserving of a spot of the team.

Patric Hornqvist - Team Sweden

Prediction: Very Likely

Outcome: Left Off Team Sweden Roster

Patric Hornqvist was snubbed from Team Sweden's Silver Medal winning team at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, mostly over concerns about his speed on the international ice. He had been an Olympian for the Swedes on the NHL-sized ice in Vancouver, and with possibly the most North American game among his countrymen he seemed like a great bet to join Team Sweden for the World Cup of Hockey on the NHL-sized rink. However, with the Swedes announcing 8 forwards on their initial 16 man roster, Hornqvist didn't see his name called. He can still find himself added when Sweden names their final 23 man roster, but it's a bit noteworthy that he will have to wait and see. Perhaps there are some residual bad feelings from last season's IIHF World Championship:

Phil Kessel - Team USA 

Prediction: Very Likely

Outcome: Left Off Team USA Roster

It was a disappointing outcome for the reigning "Best Forward" at the Olympic Games, as 9 forwards were picked ahead of Kessel. And while he had an off season last year with 25 goals, the same amount he's on pace for this season with the Penguins, he's still one of the better goal scoring Americans in the game. But his recent NHL play carried more weight than the last time he wore red, white, and blue, and Kessel will find him himself watching the final 23 man roster to see if he gets one of the last 7 spots.

Matt Murray - Team North America

Prediction: Fair

Outcome: Made Team North America

We had predicted that John Gibson and Connor Hellebuyck would have an inside track on making the team due to their experience against NHL competition (they earned the other 2 goalie spots), but we also said that Matt Murray would be firmly in the mix to round out the trio. His solid play in the AHL the past two years and the strong starts he's made in the limited NHL action were enough to award him the final spot instead of waiting to fill it June 1. While he doesn't need strong play between now and the tournament to make the team, a good end of the year from Murray will help him make the case for playing time in Toronto.

Carl Hagelin - Team Sweden

Prediction: Borderline

Outcome: Left Off Team Sweden

Carl Hagelin won a Silver Medal with Team Sweden at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, and his speed and penalty killing ability likely helped him earn a roster spot on the international ice. His intangibles make him a wild card to earn a roster spot in Sweden's bottom 6, but if that is to happen he'll needed to be added among the final 7 as Team Sweden finalizes it's 23 man roster on June 1.

Marc-Andre Fleury - Team Canada

Prediction: Poor

Outcome: Left Off Team Canada

Even with the improved play that Marc-Andre Fleury has displayed over the past two seasons, the Penguins goaltender was always going to have a hard time making a Team Canada roster that was able to draw from a deep pool of goaltending talent. And unlike the other Pittsburgh players who didn't make their country's roster, there's no chance that Fleury will be among the final 7 roster spots as Team Canada already has three goalies on the roster. It was a longshot for Fleury to make the team, and his best chance was GM Doug Armstrong leaving the third selection to June 1. It didn't happen, and Fleury will likely need a couple injuries to make his way back into the conversation.

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