2005 World Hockey Championships

This years World Hockey Championships in Austria will usher in the new wave of hockey stars. Gone are the likes of Lemieux, Hasek, Hull and Roenick. In are the likes of Ovechkin, Lundqvist, Fisher, Hall and Legwand.We’ll start with Team Canada, since they are my pick to win the tourney. Sure, they don’t have the talent levels that Russia, Slovakia and Czechs may put forward, but they look like they will be the hardest team to score on, and defense wins championships.

Starting in goal, you can’t go wrong with one of the best goalies of all time, Martin Brodeur, he’s a proven winner and will do the same here. If Brodeur does somehow falter, the most hyped goalie of the last decade will take his place, Roberto Luongo. He is an incredible talent and will also be able to lead Canada to victory. The third goalie is the reliable Marty Turco, who has put up some of the best numbers in history. After a poor first half in the 2003-2004 season he rebounded and is once again an elite goaltender. 1-3, Canada will have the strongest goaltending.

On defense, mainstays Jovanovski will be back. He will be joined by Hannan and Regehr, who are two of the toughest to play against, followed by another solid d-man, Chris Phillips and Wade Redden. The new face will be Sheldon Souray who along with Jovo-Cop and Redden will have to play the Powerplay. A reliable group and one more than capable of shutting down whatever comes there way.

Now, the forwards. The offence will come from Heatley, Thornton and Nash,Morrison and Gagne, but you can count on seeing more numbers from Smyth and Doan than you did in the World Cup as they will most likely be on one of the top two lines. After that, Marleau is a capable scorer, then comes the shutdown unit, also known as Morrow, Draper, Fisher and Maltby. This is a team that will be very frustrating to play against and that will be the key to beating the Europeans. We saw how Ovechkin reacts when being pounded, he doesn’t, he heads to the locker room. That’s why Canada will win, toughness, emotion and heart.

The USA is entering the post 1996 World Cup era, and will welcome new faces, including Diprietro in nets. They have an inexperienced team on the whole, with Paul Martin and J-M Liles on the blueline. I was surprised to not see David Tanabe added to the roster, especially for the international ice his skating would have helped.

Up front they’re going with the steady and faithful Weight and Modano, both of who haven’t really produced much in the last two years. They will have the speedy Brian Gionta in, as well as some grit with Jeff Halpern. Overall, the team is still too inexperienced to make a serious run at the Championship.

Russia is another team entering a new wave of players. Young guns such as Ovechkin, Kovalchuck and Datsyuk will lead the way. Also, Frolov and Yashin are both dangerous. On paper, they have the most dangerous looking forward unit. (Though there official team has yet to be anounced.)

Their defence and goaltending is where they could have problems. Former Moosehead Alexei Volkov i being considered for the team, and though he was a succesful Junior team he has vanished into obscurity in the Russian league after being a good LA King prospect. There blueline is thin and they holding out for an AHL goaltender (Bryzaglov) to lead them. (Over Khabibulin, Andrei Trefilov.)

Sweden looks to have gone to the pits, with all the stars apparently not showing up. Sweden hasnt really prodiced any great players in the last 8 years, with the exception of unproven stars such as the Sedins and Zetterberg. They may have solved the question to the heir to Tommy Salo’s throne, who has retired since being executed by Belarus, with Henrik Lundqvist who is regarded as a top 10 prospect. Overall, I wouldn’t bet on a 1994 Olympic result from this squad.

Finland will not have any big name players on the roster and could risk relegation with the squad they are offering, they will struggle to keep up with the Switz and Danes.

Canada’s biggest challenge will come from Slovakia and the Czech Republic, who could have plenty of firepower, and with most of their players playing in Czech league this year. Slovakia will once again have weak goaltending.