What Buffalo Sabres will play in the World Cup of Hockey?

Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports
Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Next year we will see the return of the World Cup of Hockey to Toronto in September. Buffalo will be involved to some extent in the tournament. Buffalo has bid to be the site of Team USA and Team North America's training camp and scrimmages. The tournament will also see the inclusion of some Sabres players. But, which ones?

Team North America: Jack Eichel

With all North Americans under the age of 23 only eligible for Team North America, Jack Eichel will play for the combo team. I see Eichel competing for the 3rd line center spot with Connor McDavid, or on the wing of one of the top three lines. It will be hard to unseat the more experienced Sean Monahan or Ryan Nugent-Hopkins for a top two center spot. However, he should definitely make the team. 

Team Europe: Zemgus Girgensons

Girgensons broke out last season despite being on the worst team in the league. He's a great two way center that can play in all situations. His skating is phenomenal, and he's one of the more physical players on the Sabres. I see him being the second line center behind Anze Kopitar and ahead of Mikhail Grabovski

Team Finland: Rasmus Ristolainen

Simply put, Ristolainen is the best defenseman Finland has, even at the young age of 20. With a backend that may include the likes of Sami Vatanen, Kimmo Timonen, and Juuso Hietanen. All of which are under six feet tall. Risolainen is their best shot from the point. He also captained and scored the golden goal to win the World Junior Championships for Finland. 

Team Sweden: Robin Lehner

Robin Lehner is not a proven starter, nor is he proven in international play. However, his main competition to backup Henrik Lundqvist is former Sabre Jhonas Enroth. Lehner has more potential to be Sweden's future starter, so he has that going for him. Currently he's close to Enroth's skill level if not better, so he should get the spot. 

Close Calls

Team Canada: Ryan O'Reilly

O'Reilly played for Canada at the World Championships for his amazing two way game and versatility. If Patrice Bergeron regresses over the next year, and O'Reilly improves than O'Reilly would be my choice for fourth line center on Canada. He'll have to play really well over the next year to make it though. Canada has Crosby, Toews, Getzlaf, Seguin, and Giroux at center, however not all of them will be at center. 

Team Sweden: Johan Larsson

Sweden is not the deepest team anymore. If Larsson continues his development the way it was progressing, he can crack Sweden's roster on one of the bottom lines. That's a big big if though. Going from the Rochester Americans to Team Sweden in less than two years is a huge challenge. In 2012 Johan Larsson captained Sweden to the World Junior Hockey Championships.