Team Europe remains a bit of a mystery given interesting choices up front, concerns about durability on the back end and ebb and flow in goal. Still, this is not a team to be trifled with no matter what it looks like now. Here's how I predict Team Europe's World Cup of Hockey squad will look:
Some very tough calls are coming up for Miroslav Satan and the rest of the Team Euro management staff. This is a team that is deceptively deep down the middle, especially with the emergence of Draisaitl in Edmonton -- although given Team Euro's depth, he could move to the wing to make room for Mikhail Grabovski or Eller, who I have as a kind of tossup as the fourth center.
There is a nice mix of veteran experience and youthful speed on the wings, too; all of which means good players are not going to find a spot. It's hard to imagine this team without Gaborik even though he has had an off season in Los Angeles, but who goes out? Hansen? Rieder? There's also Ehlers, who plays for assistant coach Paul Maurice in Winnipeg, and Nino Niederreiter, who will be in the mix but might be on the outside looking in. There are tough calls ahead for a team that has a chance to be a spoiler in this tournament if it finds the right mix. Of the top 40 NHL point producers, only Kopitar and Draisaitl are available to Team Euro at the time of this writing.
Nothing to suggest any real shift in what the Team Euro defense will look like, although it was a bit of a shock to see the Los Angeles Kings recently put Ehrhoff on waivers. Notwithstanding his demotion, Team Euro's defensive corps will be long on experience, but you have to wonder about the durability of the group given the injury history of Streit, Seidenberg and Chara. Still, if healthy, this is a group that has lots of different looks to it.
All of a sudden, the goaltending picture for Team Euro is a bit less in focus. Halak has only been OK for the New York Islanders, and Andersen, who guided the Anaheim Ducks to a seventh game of the Western Conference finals last spring, is now the backup to John Gibson. There is plenty of time between now and next fall, but if this team is going to play the spoiler, it will need one of these guys to rise to the occasion. Both Andersen and Halak have that potential, but it seems less likely now than it did a few months ago.