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World Cup of Hockey: Training camp schedules and preview

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There are Leafs on every team with coach Mike Babcock and eight players taking part. Training camp begins in a few days, so get ready to pick your team to cheer for.

Auston Matthews in the uniform he usually wears for international hockey.
Auston Matthews in the uniform he usually wears for international hockey.
Anna Sergeeva/Getty Images

What it is

Some might say it's a needless interruption of training camp and a cheap cash grab for the league and the NHLPA. The biggest argument in favour of that view is that the WCH will be the first introduction of advertisements on jerseys in NHL-style play.

It might be that, but it is also a hockey tournament that takes place from September 17 to October 1 in Toronto. The pre-tournament camps begin September 5 and take place in various locations around the world.

Leafs Players and Teams

The eight teams are split into two groups and the top two teams from each group move into the playoff round.

Group A

Team Canada is the runaway favourite in this group and likely the tournament, with Team USA the prospective favourite to come in second.

Team Canada

There are no Leafs on the team, but Mike Babcock is the coach, and he has the best Canadian team put on the ice since Sochi, last minute defence substitutions notwithstanding. They aren't a young team because they aren't allowed to be, and the defence is lacking a lot of exciting scoring punch, but they don't need it.

But, with no Leafs players on the team and annoying ad campaigns trying to convince us that hockey invented Canada, they are hard to get excited about this early.

They're just too predictably good, with Carey Price likely to be the hero or Sidney Crosby or Joe Thornton. There isn't a bad player on the team. There really isn't even a mediocre player. They're the (boring) big red machine.

Team Czech Republic

There are two Leafs on this underdog team, so if you want to cheer for a seemingly hopeless cause, this team might be for you.

Roman Polak and Milan Michalek are both on hand on a team that had to dip into the KHL to make up the full roster.

They have stars like Ondrej Palat, scoring punch, a weak defence, and a very interesting young goalie in Petr Mrazek. The Czechs always seem to be able to play as a team almost instantly in a way other national squads often can't achieve.

Maybe they aren't a hopeless cause at all.

One to watch is unsigned free agent defender Jakub Nakladal. If he plays as well as he did in the World Championships, he may not stay unsigned.

Team USA

Team USA went for a fairly traditional and conservative roster that might just leave them struggling to live up to expectations. Faced with the challenge of the tournament format that left them unable to choose any American under 23, they are missing some very bright stars.

James van Riemsdyk represents his country and the Leafs on a team that has scoring stars but suffers from a lack of effective defence, largely the result of some questionable roster decisions. There is no Jake Gardiner for fans to enjoy. And Phil Kessel was too injured to commit to the team.

The USA does make up for some other deficiencies in a goalie trio that is of the highest class and merely begins with Cory Schneider. Ben Bishop and Jonathan Quick round out the group.

Team Europe

Also known as Kopitar and Friends, Team Europe is a strange mix of players who are from any European country not one of the four with a team in the tournament.

Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen leads their excellent goaltending trio, and he, along with Thomas Greiss and Jaroslav Halak, might be the key to whatever success this team has and the choice between them as starter won't be easy.

The skaters on the team run the gamut from Anze Kopitar to two unsigned free agent 35+ German defenders: Christian Ehrhoff and Dennis Seidenberg. With the rash of bad knees on older WCH defenders, there was hope Martin Marincin might get a phone call, but he's busy recovering from appendix surgery.

Group B

Every team in this group is a legitimate playoff contender. This is the one to watch for Leafs players, grudge matches between Nordic neighbours and fast, exciting play.

Team Finland

Leo Komarov will always represent his country, and Leaf fans get a chance to see him do it in his home rink.

The team is a mix of youth and speed, that big booming shot of Patrik Laine and some high-end veteran NHLers. The roster contains a lot of the same players that carried them to World Championship silver.

Their defence looks weak on paper, but it served them well in the spring. Like the Czechs, the Finns can integrate into a team that plays Finnish systems quickly, so expect a fast start in the tournament.

Their goaltending is the famous duo of Tuukka Rask and Pekka Rinne, who might be a weakness, not a strength, depending on the day.

Team Russia

Coming off a disappointing World Championships at home, Russia has a lot to prove, some of it political. They don't like this tournament, but they're coming, and they are bringing a very good team.

Nikita Zaitsev gets to play in front of his new fans in his national team colours before he ever slips on the new Leafs jersey, and fans get a chance to finally see him up close.

The Russian team is star-studded, full of power up front, a little weak on the blue line and marks what will certainly be Pavel Datsyuk's last games in North America. He and some of his SKA teammates as well as Ivan Telegin of Moscow CSKA flesh out a roster that is mostly NHL players.

Not on hand is Alexander Radulov, now a dirty Hab, who seems to have comprehensively annoyed the national team. It's a shame, as he's always fun to watch. Also hearing him booed by Toronto fans would be fun.

Team Sweden

The stars of Sweden said no to the World Championships and pinned their hopes on a dream team at this tournament to prove they are one of the world's best.

They could have had William Nylander to get the crowd behind them, but they chose to go a more serious, staid and veteran route for roster selection.

If anything, they erred too far on the side of age. The late substitutions of Hampus Lindholm, Rickard Rakell and Mikael Backlund for Niklas Kronwall, Alexander Steen and Henrik Zetterberg may help a little, but the team is lacking in the ideal mix of youth and experience that the Finns came up with.

The coach of the team is a man very familiar with North American hockey and small ice, so they have an advantage over other European teams in that regard.

Also, Henrik Lundqvist is in net, with two other guys along who can carry his water bottles, one of them the Leafs' own Jhonas Enroth.

Team North America

Team Acne! Team Young Guns! Team I got carded in the hotel bar! Team Norteamericano! They have more names than they need, and the idea for a 23 and under team is both a blow to the Americans who would have liked a few of these guys for their own team, and a chance to not have this tournament full of teams as old as the big four.

Team North America also has Auston Matthews and Morgan Rielly so we think they're the team to cheer for in this event. You, of course, don't have to do what we say, not that you ever do.

This team is stacked with talent. There are so many high-end centres, even the Leafs don't have enough extra wingers to make lines with them all. There's Jack Eichel, Connor McDavid and Matthews--all on the one team, which will never happen again.

And if you want a slightly older vintage of high draft picks, there's Nathan MacKinnon and his old buddy Jonathan Drouin. Finally! A winger.

Johnny Gaudreau is around if you want a million extra goals for any reason, and he's got Sean Monahan with him to top that up to a million and a half if you get bored. In a shocking development just before this story went to press, Sean Monahan had to withdraw due to injury, a move so far reserved for old guys on old guy teams.  Vincent Trocheck of the Florida Panthers is the replacement.

And lest you think the defence won't match that, you have Aaron Ekblad, Seth Jones, Jacob Trouba, Colton Paryako and Shayne Gostisbehere. I'm not sure it's okay that Rielly gets to play with those guys. How are you gonna keep him happy on a pairing with Matt Hunwick, once he's experienced that?

The goaltending is a question. John Gibson, the man the Ducks have their hopes pinned on, has a chance to start proving that was a good idea. He's joined by Connor Hellebuyck, a hot Jets prospect, and Matt Murray, who, yeah, okay, won the Stanley Cup just the other week. Maybe the question is how soon they are crowned champions.

Oh, and the coaching staff on this team starts with the World Championships winning Todd McLellan and contains an all-star roster of young assistants who are usually NHL head coaches including Peter Deboer and Jon Cooper.

Training camps and pre-tournament games

None of the camps are in Toronto. Beginning on September 5, each team gets together in some far flung locations and starts to work on coming up with a power play that doesn't make everyone laugh. On September 8 and 9, the teams play their first pre-tournament games.

Team Canada is in Ottawa, Team North America is in Montréal, Team Europe is in Québéc City, Team USA is in Columbus, Ohio, and the European teams are at home to begin.

Eventually they all travel for tune up games. NHL.com has a full list of practice locations, times and game information. ESPN is broadcasting some games and Sportsnet has a team in place too.

The practices are all listed as closed to the public, but the Columbus Blue Jackets, hosts of Team USA, say come on down and watch the guys play with two practices open to the public. You can also purchase tickets to the friendly vs Team Canada on September 9.

Tournament

The real games begin on September 17, which means training camps around the NHL will be scenes of defeated stragglers appearing in ones and twos, and events like the Leafs Rookie tournament in London will be missing its biggest star.

The games cost just as much as you expect, and many of them are on weekday afternoons. They will be televised in America on ESPN (broadcast schedule) and in Canada on Sportsnet (CBC) (television and radio schedule) and TVA.

More Information

If you can handle a little French, TVA has the schedule in one simple calendar, and they have the rosters all on one page.

If you need English, Sportsnet has a schedule with links to each roster here.