2016 World Cup of Hockey: Team North America could be defined by Blue Jackets

The unique Team North America at the upcoming World Cup of Hockey could see four Blue Jackets playing key roles.

Fans of the Blue Jackets will have more than just John Tortorella's first training camp to look forward to this fall, as the team should be well-represented at the resurrected World Cup of Hockey.

Running from September 17th to October 1st, the joint NHL/NHLPA event will feature teams from Canada, Czech Republic, Finland, Russia, Sweden and the USA, along with a "best of the rest of Europe" team, and in a very interesting twist, a team made up of the top North American players under the age of 24 as of October 1, 2016.

The format sees the eight teams split into two divisions, Group A and Group B. There's a round-robin within each division, with each team playing one game against each division rival. The semi-final round will see 1A play 2B and 1B play 2A in single-elimination games. The two winners will face off in a best-of-three series to determine the champion. All games will take place in Toronto.

Sergei Bobrovsky and Fedor Tyutin stand a good chance of representing the Russians at the tournament, while Brandon Dubinsky, Jack Johnson and Cam Atkinson should at least be on the USA management team's radar.

It's Team North America that could see the greatest Columbus representation. In fact, this team could very well be defined by the Blue Jacket contingent on the roster.

Four Jackets qualify for this squad: Boone Jenner, Brandon Saad, Seth Jones and Ryan Murray.

Jenner has the resume to be the team captain. He wears a letter on a veteran Columbus squad, and his leadership abilities have been praised since his junior days. Saad meanwhile, has extensive experience thanks to his ‘Cup runs with the Blackhawks. He's also top line material for Team North America; can you imagine him lining up beside Connor McDavid?

In Jones and Murray the team has a ready-made defense pairing, and depending on who plays with Aaron Ekblad this pairing could be the primary duo for Team North America.

Here's a crack at the U-23 roster:

Johnny Gaudreau

Connor McDavid

Brandon Saad

Ryan Strome

Jack Eichel

Nathan MacKinnon

Max Domi

Dylan Larkin

Sam Bennett

Sean Couturier

Sean Monahan

Boone Jenner

Auston Matthews

Ryan Murray

Seth Jones

Aaron Ekblad

Dougie Hamilton

Shayne Gostisbehere

Morgan Rielly

Cody Ceci

John Gibson

Connor Hellebuyck

Malcolm Subban

Missing the cut:

Forwards: Anthony Duclair, Mark Scheifele, Jonathan Drouin, Bo Horvat, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jonathan Huberdeau, Curtis Lazar, Sam Reinhart, Alex Galchenyuk

Defense: Colton Parayko, Noah Hanifin, Darnell Nurse, Damon Severson, Matt Dumba

Goaltenders: Matt Murray, Zach Fucale, Anthony Stolarz, Laurent Brossoit

Naturally I'm going to cheer for Team Canada to win this tournament, as most of you will of course be hoping for Team USA to win it all, but I can't help but be excited about Team North America. The goaltending isn't as strong, but this team is not to be taken lightly. It'll be an exciting group that has the ability to embarrass a team that doesn't respect their skill.

Other CBJ connections at the World Cup:

- John Tortorella is the head coach of Team USA

- Jarmo Kekalainen is the Assistant GM of Team Finland

- Vinny Prospal and Jaroslav Spacek are assistant coaches on Team Czech Republic

We'll have more on this tournament this summer, but in the meantime we'll look forward to seeing how many Blue Jackets will be named to the initial 16-man rosters when they are announced on March 1st.

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