Players to watch at World Cup of Hockey


By The Associated Press



Russia's Vladimir Tarasenko, centre, and Czech Republic's Jakub Voracek fight for the puck during the pre-tournament World Cup of Hockey 2016 match between Russia and Czech Republic in St.Petersburg, Russia, Thursday, Sept. 8, 2016. (AP Photo/Dmitri Lovetsky)


Finland forward Patrik Laine (29) celebrates his goal with Sami Vatanen (45) during the third period of an exhibition game, part of the World Cup of Hockey, against the United States, Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2016, in Washington. The United States won 3-2. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)


Some of the players to watch on the eight teams competing at the World Cup of Hockey in Toronto, which begins Saturday:

Patrick Kane, U.S.

The reigning NHL MVP and three-time Stanley Cup winner gets another showcase stage in international play after not producing up to expectations at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. Kane won’t have usual Chicago Blackhawks teammate Jonathan Toews, but he’ll likely have either 30-goal scorer Joe Pavelski or Derek Stepan as his center. They will benefit from Kane at right wing, where the Americans also have Sochi shootout hero T.J. Oshie.

Connor McDavid, North America

McDavid, 19, is already a real threat to win the Art Ross Trophy next season as the league’s top scorer after posting 48 points in 45 games as a rookie. The tournament in Toronto will allow the Oilers star to show off his considerable skills against hockey’s elite. Teaming up with other top youngsters like Auston Matthews, Jack Eichel, Nathan MacKinnon and Johnny Gaudreau makes North America a team to watch.

Vladimir Tarasenko, Russia

Tarasenko hasn’t quite reached the Alex Ovechkin stratosphere of goal-scoring, but he’s rapidly moving in that direction for the St. Louis Blues. The 24-year-old hit a career-high with 40 goals last season and his 77 goals over the past two campaigns trail only Ovechkin (103) and Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos (79). Like Ovechkin, he’s an explosive scorer capable of creating something from nothing. Almost unnoticed as a member of Russia’s disappointing 2014 Olympic squad (zero goals), Tarasenko is unlikely to go quietly on the big stage in Toronto.

Patrik Laine, Finland

Laine thought that he and not Matthews should’ve been the No. 1 overall pick of the 2016 draft, and at the World Cup he’ll get his first chance to demonstrate why. Laine is coming off an unbelievable year that saw him thrive everywhere: from a championship-winning squad in the Finnish league, where he was playoff MVP, to a gold-medal win on home soil at the world junior championships, to the world championship in Russia, where Finland won silver. Laine turned 18 in April, but he’s already exceptionally confident and an especially enticing figure to watch.

Erik Karlsson, Sweden

No other defenseman in hockey today is quite like the captain of the Ottawa Senators. Karlsson can be mesmerizing to watch for his ability to dish the puck. Over the past five NHL seasons Karlsson has 314 points, 76 more than the next closest defender, Nashville’s P.K. Subban. Karlsson put up eight points in six games for Sweden at the 2014 Olympics. When good things are happening for the Swedes it’s likely Karlsson is involved.

Leon Draisaitl, Europe

One of only a handful of German players in the NHL, Draisaitl is easily the brightest young star suiting up for a veteran-laden Europe squad. His first full season for the Oilers was promising, as the 20-year-old former No. 3 overall pick rung up 19 goals and 51 points. Skilled with a sturdy six-foot-one frame, Draisaitl and has been compared to Los Angeles Kings captain Anze Kopitar and the two will get a chance to play alongside one another at the World Cup. The Europeans are rich with veterans like Kopitar, Zdeno Chara and Marian Hossa, but short on excitable young talent. Draisaitl brings that element.

Jakub Voracek, Czech Republic

The Czechs could struggle without injured center David Krejci, so their tournament hinges on goaltending and Voracek leading the offense. Going into the first season of a $66 million, eight-year contract with the Philadelphia Flyers, the talented winger has plenty of pressure on him.

Carey Price, Canada

When healthy, Price is without a doubt the best goaltender in the world. After missing almost an entire NHL season with a knee injury, the star of the Montreal Canadiens is Canada’s backbone. If he plays like he did in Sochi, the rest of the teams may be fighting for second place.

Russia’s Vladimir Tarasenko, centre, and Czech Republic’s Jakub Voracek fight for the puck during the pre-tournament World Cup of Hockey 2016 match between Russia and Czech Republic in St.Petersburg, Russia, Thursday, Sept. 8, 2016. (AP Photo/Dmitri Lovetsky)
http://wnewsj.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/web1_112474202-6a344628e9364cb0ab14dc96cb659ed9.jpgRussia’s Vladimir Tarasenko, centre, and Czech Republic’s Jakub Voracek fight for the puck during the pre-tournament World Cup of Hockey 2016 match between Russia and Czech Republic in St.Petersburg, Russia, Thursday, Sept. 8, 2016. (AP Photo/Dmitri Lovetsky)

Finland forward Patrik Laine (29) celebrates his goal with Sami Vatanen (45) during the third period of an exhibition game, part of the World Cup of Hockey, against the United States, Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2016, in Washington. The United States won 3-2. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
http://wnewsj.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/web1_112474202-04b496da48844b5fad4de185a562735a.jpgFinland forward Patrik Laine (29) celebrates his goal with Sami Vatanen (45) during the third period of an exhibition game, part of the World Cup of Hockey, against the United States, Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2016, in Washington. The United States won 3-2. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

By The Associated Press

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