While the Colorado Avalanche will spend Thursday night trying to end their two-game losing streak as they host the Florida Panthers, four teams involved in 2016's World Cup of Hockey will be tuning into the game to watch the men they've selected for their respective rosters this year, including the teams representing North America, Sweden, Russia, and Europe.
For the first time in twelve years, the NHL and the NHLPA are putting together the eight-team exhibition tournament to showcase the best hockey talent from across the globe. Scheduled two years before the 2018 Winter Olympics, the tournament will provide the world's greatest professional hockey players the opportunity to play alongside countrymen and regional allies that might otherwise stand in their way of reaching the Stanley Cup.As the NHL reported, the round-robin portion of the tournament will be played out September 17-22. Split into two groups, the teams making up Group A include Team Canada, Team Czech Republic, Team Europe, and Team USA. Group B will consist of Team Finland, Team North America, Team Russia, and Team Sweden.
For clarification, Team North America is distinguished from Team Canada and Team USA in that players on the roster can be from any country in North America (Canada and the USA included), but they must be 23-years-old or younger as of October 1, 2016. Team Canada and Team USA will consist of players from those countries who are over the age of 23.
Team Europe, meanwhile, consists of any players from European countries other than the Czech Republic, Finland or Sweden.The top two teams from each Group will move on to the Semifinals, which take place on September 24 and 25. The tournament winner will be decided in a best-of-three final taking place between September 27 and October 1.
Nathan MacKinnon, who currently leads the Avalanche in shots on goal (222) and game-winning goals (5) this season, was selected as a member of Team North America. MacKinnon was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Born on September 1, 1995, he will be well below the cut-off age for Team North America, turning 21 less than a month before the tournament begins.Team Captain Gabriel Landeskog was named a part of Team Sweden. Landeskog set the record as the youngest permanent NHL team captain during the 2012-2013 season at the age of 19. Born in Stockholm, Sweden in 1992, Landeskog remains the youngest team captain in the NHL today. Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov was selected to play for Team Russia. Born in the city of Samara when it was still known as Kuybyshev of the USSR, Varlamov has represented Russia in several previous tournaments, including the 2010 and 2014 Winter Olympics and multiple International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) tournaments. Finally, newly-acquired Left Wing Mikkel Boedker will play for Team Europe in this year's World Cup. Moved to the Avs from the Arizona Coyotes just before the NHL trade deadline, Boedker was born in Brøndby, Denmark, where his last name is actually stylized as "Bødker." To get their hands on Mikkel, the Colorado had to cut ties with Alex Tanguay, as well as prospects Conner Bleackley and Kyle Wood. After losing to Minnesota on Tuesday, both the Avs and the Wild have 68 points. Minnesota has acquired those points in one less game than Colorado and currently sits at 8th place in the Western Conference. Thanks to their victory, the North Stars are currently clinging to the final Wild Card spot for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. If the Avalanche can earn a point or two on Thursday against the Panthers (currently the sixth best team in the NHL), and Minnesota fails to score any points in their match-up against the Toronto Maple Leafs (currently the worst team in the NHL), then Colorado will move back into post-season contention.
[Image via Doug Pensinger/Getty Images]