Team North America’s Inexperience Worries Peter Chiarelli
When Peter Chiarelli’s first ever under-24 team gathered for its maiden voyage to the World Cup of Hockey, Chiarelli was probably the only one who couldn’t share in their excitement. And anyone who understands hockey betting lines probably understood his trepidation.
Sure the team has speed and potential, but their lack of experience is a serious worry for Peter Chiarelli. Even with pre-tournament games and several days of training camp, this will be a challenge for Team North America.
McLellan knows that Russia, Finland, and Sweden will be running out veteran centerman with lifetime percentages well over 50 percent. The North America Under-24 team doesn’t historically have anyone over 50percent.
Sean Couturier, North America’s player with the most games played, has a winning percentage of 47.6. Certainly, guys like Connor, Nuge and Eichel are bound to get stronger as they face more challenges; however, the length of this tournament is such that the importance of every play is magnified.
Team Sweden’s Henrik Sedin has 1,166 NHL games under his belt, and that isn’t even taking into account the 105 playoff tilts, which is why no one was surprised when the 35-year-old was named captain on Monday.
On the other side of things, Team North America might have to depend on 19-year-old McDavid, a potential captain with 45 NHL games under his belt.
This experiment (to field a team of Canadian and American born players under the age of 24 in place of an entry from Germany, Latvia, Switzerland or Slovakia) is now officially underway.
Admittedly, there is something exciting about following the likes of Auston Mathew’s foray into the world of senior international hockey. Their graduation from World championship games to a best on best tournament playing out in front of the most pressure-packed hockey market in the world might be a little jarring.
Of course, they still have the training camp in Montreal as well as a Pittsburg game; a pair of games against Team Europe before the tournament might also give them the warm up they need, this along with a game against the Czech Republic.
The tournament has been designed to ensure that the United States and Canada reach opposite Semifinal games. Team America has their work cut out for them. To prevail in the tournament, they must defeat two of their three pool mates which include Russia, Sweden, and Finland.
That is a difficult task for an under-24 team constituting players for whom international hockey on this level is a completely new experience. When you compare them to the Swedish and Russian rosters, the difference in experience is simply vast.
According to Chiarelli, the North American under-24 team has the advantage of youth, an asset that brings speed to the table, though, it is clear that the lack of veteran players worries Chiarelli.
Every National Hockey League team needs veterans, players that can take control of a game that might be slipping away and settle everyone down where it proves necessary. Veteran players are necessary to turn the tide and stop the momentum of the enemy.
Chiarelli is certain that a number of players on the under-24 team will realize their full potential in due time. However, the tournament is too short to afford them the time they need to evolve.