SPORTS

Hockey Canada focused on its team, not North American Youngstars, for now

06/22/2015 04:06 EDT | Updated 06/22/2016 05:59 EDT
Connor McDavid is a back-burner issue right now for Hockey Canada, at least as far as the World Cup of Hockey is concerned.

When general manager Doug Armstrong and his management team names Canada's 23-man roster for next year's tournament, they won't be able to choose McDavid, 2014 rookie of the year Nathan MacKinnon or 2015 Calder Trophy candidate Aaron Ekblad. Those players will be available instead to the North American Youngstars team.

"Our job is going to be, quite honestly, to compete against those guys," Armstrong said on a conference call with reporters. "I think the 23-and-under team is going to have some great talent from North America and they're going to be very competitive but probably only one, maybe two players, would be excluded from our group to make that team."

The "North American Youngstars" team, made up of players age 23 and younger as of Sept. 1, 2016, is feature to include McDavid, MacKinnon, Ekblad, and the likes of the Calgary Flames' Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan, Colorado Avalanche's Nathan MacKinnon, Edmonton Oilers' Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Toronto Maple Leafs' Morgan Rielly.

They'll be joined by some of the best American players that age, like prospective Buffalo Sabres No. 2 pick Jack Eichel, Seth Jones of the Nashville Predators and Brandon Saad of the Chicago Blackhawks.

Kings GM Dean Lombardi will reportedly be in charge of the U.S. team in concert with Ray Shero of the New Jersey Devils and David Poile of the Nashville Predators. But the process of putting together the Youngstars management and coaching staffs isn't yet underway.

That group will be picked by the NHL, NHL Players' Association, Hockey Canada and USA Hockey. Because of the unique dynamic of those organizations working together, they'll meet in person after free agency cools down in July to figure out exactly how to piece things together.

Hockey Canada president and CEO Tom Renney confirmed that the management group unveiled Monday will have nothing to do with selecting the North American Youngstars.

"We believe that we've got the very best they may have to offer, of course," Renney said. "That being said, the 23-and-under team ... (will) be well led under the same circumstances."

Dual citizens Stan Bowman of the Chicago Blackhawks, Brian Burke of the Calgary Flames, Dale Tallon of the Florida Panthers and former Washington Capitals GM George McPhee could be tabbed to help pick the Youngstars, along with others like Jim Nill of the Dallas Stars or Garth Snow of the New York Islanders. Representatives from multiple organizations said nothing on that front has been decided yet.

Jon Cooper of the Tampa Bay Lightning, also a dual citizen, looks like he could be the front-runner to coach the Youngstars, who could be a formidable opponent given the talent potential.

"We'll put the best team on the ice we can there," Renney said at a news conference in Toronto. "That's an exciting group of young people to pay attention to as well, and they'll be more than what everyone expects on the ice because they're that good."

With files from John Chidley-Hill in Toronto.

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