As we’re all probably watching the FIFA World Cup, it’s a crying shame that the National Hockey League’s (NHL) top players haven’t competed in a best-on-best international competition since the 2016 World Cup of Hockey. Canada won that year, defeating Team Europe in the final. The last time we had a real tournament without gimmick teams was the 2014 Sochi Olympics, which Canada also won.
Canada has won three of the last four gold medals at Olympics with NHL players and has, for the most part, dominated international hockey. However, the United States roster today would arguably be its best ever. Let’s take a look at all the reasons why the US may have already surpassed Canada, at least from the perspective of producing talent.
Auston Matthews – The Reigning Hart Trophy Winner
As of the start of the 2022-23 NHL season, 41.4 percent of all players in the league were Canadian. The US ranked second with 202 players, or 28.4 percent of the league. Canada may still have more players, but the talent at the top is similar, if not favoring the US.
Auston Matthews is the reigning Hart, Rocket Richard, and Ted Lindsay winner. He’s not producing at the same pace this season as he did last year, but is still one of the best players in the world on any given night. The fact he hasn’t lined up against Connor McDavid in a Canada-US game is a crime against all hockey fans.
Incredible Forward Depth
Canada definitely has elite talent beyond McDavid. Players like Mitch Marner, Sidney Crosby, Nathan MacKinnon, and Brad Marchand, among others, would be great on the international stage. However, let’s take a look at just some of the forwards would could make a hypothetical US national team: Jack Eichel, Jason Robertson, Patrick Kane, Brady Tkachuk, Matthew Tkachuk, Johnny Gaudreau, Tage Thompson, Jack Hughes, and Kyle Connor.
Players like the Tkachuk brothers and Thompson would give the Americans a physical element to their offense, while Kane, Eichel, Hughes, and Robertson are among the most talented players in the league this season. Robertson may win the Rocket Trophy this season as the league’s leading goalscorer. He has 23 goals in 25 games after scoring 41 last season. Oh, and he’s still just 23 years old.
Better Defense and Goaltending
Defense is close between the US and Canada with perennial Norris candidates Adam Fox (USA) and Cale Makar (Canada) washing each other out. You can definitely argue that the US has the edge in depth with defensemen like Quinn Hughes, Jaccob Slavin, Charlie McAvoy, and Jacob Trouba.
The Americans have a major edge between the pipes with options like Thatcher Demko, Jake Oettinger, and Connor Hellebuyck. Without Carey Price, Canada’s goaltending options are limited to the likes of Jordan Binnington, Cam Talbot, Carter Hart, and Logan Thompson.
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