Colton Parayko, Team North America
As good of a group as Team USA has assembled, it’s very fair to argue that Team North America has the second-most talent across the board in this tournament, trailing only Team Canada. While Canada’s defensive corps has the most experience and defensive skill in front of their own net, Team North America might have the best puck-moving unit and scoring with Shayne Gostibehere, Aaron Ekblad, and Colton Parayko. While Ekblad has already earned widespread acclaim for being a number one overall pick and a Calder Trophy winner, and Gostibehere has also gotten his name out there while finishing second in the Calder voting last year, Parayko is a bit more under-the-radar for the national audience, so he really has an opportunity to make a name for himself during this tournament. As if that’s not enough motivation, Parayko also has an early opportunity to assure Blues fans that he won’t endure the sophomore slump that many NHL players experience after he scored nine goals, added 24 assists, and played virtually flawless defense a year ago.
Team North America has a significant disadvantage in that all of its players are 23 years of age or younger, depriving them of the valuable experience that Team USA, Team Canada, and even most of the European teams possess. But with legitimate stars up front such as Johnny Gaudreau, Connor McDavid, Dylan Larkin, and Jack Eichel, the team of young stars may be in a position to make a much deeper run than most people expect.
Next: Vladimir Tarasenko