Brief profiles of the eight teams competing in the Sept. 17-Oct. 1 World Cup of Hockey in Toronto:
Head coach: Mike Babcock
Captain: Sidney Crosby
Anything less than winning this tournament would be considered a failure for a Canadian team who are playing on home soil, boast a plethora of international experience and won gold medals at the last two Winter Olympics and world hockey championships.
Head coach: John Tortorella
Captain: Joe Pavelski
A goalie can carry a team in a short tournament and the Americans have three of the world’s best in Jonathan Quick, Cory Schneider and Ben Bishop. The netminders will need to be at the top of their game as the Americans may struggle to score, given the surprising omission of some speedy, puck-moving forwards in favor of grittier options on a smaller NHL-sized ice surface.
Head coach: Oleg Znarok
Captain: Alex Ovechkin
Russia have dipped slightly when it comes to international play but they possess some of the best offensive weapons of any team in the tournament and cannot be overlooked. However, their forwards will need to be at their best to make up for a defense considered to be among one of the weakest in the tournament.
Head coach: Rikard Gronborg
Captain: Henrik Sedin
Henrik Lundqvist is one of the finest goaltenders of his generation and has one of the best defenses of any team playing in front of him, a combination that gives Sweden a blueprint for success. Sweden will need to overcome the loss of injured Henrik Zetterberg, who was initially appointed team captain.
Head coach: Lauri Marjamaki
Captain: Mikko Koivu
Finland won a silver medal at the world championships earlier this year and are one of the top teams heading into the two-week tournament. Their roster is a good mix of experience and youth but they will need to be at their best to advance from a strong group that includes powerhouses Sweden and Russia.
Head coach: Josef Jandac
Captain: Tomas Plekanec
The Czechs have some decent talent up front but their opponents in a tough Group A are expected to feast on a goaltending unit that may be the weakest of the lot. The team will sorely miss Jaromir Jagr, 44, who was the face of the Czech team for much of his career until he retired from international hockey two years ago.
TEAM NORTH AMERICA
Head coach: Todd McLellan
Captain: Connor McDavid
Consisting of the top players from Canada and the United States who are 23 or under as of Oct. 1, Team North America have plenty of speed and young legs. The youngsters are not being picked among the favorites in the tournament but they will be eager to make some noise in a powerful Group B.
Head coach: Ralph Krueger
Captain: Anze Kopitar
Plenty of veteran talent offers loads of leadership on a team that encompasses players from European countries outside Finland, Russia, Sweden and the Czech Republic – each of which has a team competing in the tournament. But the mix of talent creates a team with no unifying identity or playing style, and a lack of chemistry could be an issue over the two weeks.