Team North America: More than Pool Fodder
When the World Cup of Hockey was first announced, more than a few eyebrows were raised.
Announcing six of the usual powers was a no-brainer. They're usually chomping at the bit to have at each other.
The twist here was that depth-challenged nations such as Germany and Slovakia were bypassed. Instead, two squads of NHLers were assembled under the auspices of Young Guns and Euro remnants.
Frankly, the tourney's cred was focused on their competitiveness.
First, Team Europe whitewashes the USA, making the Americans' match tonight a battle for survival as much as a clash of rivals.
Then, Team North America smoked Finland and a damn good netminder:
This squad's a showcase for the NHL's future headliners, and they're justifying the league's faith in them.
All are 23 or younger. All have tremendous upsides that are as close as next season to being fact.
This tournament provides them an excellent chance to gain top-level international experience, something the Russians were more than willing to impart. Mainly because their late comeback wasn't enough against Sweden and they needed a win to remain in playoff contention.
They got it, but not before the kids flashed another bout of enthusiasm:
That's for another day, unlike the kids' shot at a playoff berth. If they can find a way to beat Sweden in their final game on Wed 21 Sep, they're in.
At which point, their future is now.