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World Cup of Hockey Preview: Murray No.1 for North America

World Cup of Hockey Preview: Murray No.1 for North America

As the hockey world prepares for the return of the World Cup of Hockey, the staff at InGoal Magazine will take a closer look at the goaltending situation for all eight teams, including likely starters and style of play leading into the pre-tournament exhibition games. We started with the Czech Republic and Team Europe, and today take a closer look at the crease for the all-new Team North America:

The most exciting team at the World Cup of Hockey may end up being Team North America, composed of young (23 and under) players from Canada and the US (though, unfortunately, not Mexico).

Excitement in goal, however, is not usually a positive, and the inexperience of available candidates had many wondering if it would be the achilles heel. Thankfully, three deserving candidates emerged during last season: Matt Murray, John Gibson, and Connor Hellebuyck. Gibson has the most NHL games, while Murray has the most playoff success, and Hellebuyck the most recent international experience.

If there were any doubts Murray would be the starter, Team North America general manager Peter Chiarelli ended them while talking to Stephen Whyno of the Associated Press on Thursday:

If it wasn’t already, Murray’s Stanley Cup win made this an obvious choice, with Gibson likely backing up and Hellebuyck in the press box, but the field is level enough that predicting the coaching staff’s preferences is difficult.

Matt Murray 

 Games PlayedSV%5 vs 5 SV%HD SV%Record
2015-16 Pro Season13.930.937.8649-2-0

Matt Murray

An excellent American Hockey League season and unfortunate injuries to the Penguins goaltenders saw Murray rocket up Pittsburgh’s depth chart. His ability, as a young rookie, to perform in the concentrated stress of the NHL playoffs bodes well for his WCoH chances. He is the “hot hand” going into the tournament, and while you could argue he doesn’t have the strongest overall skill set of the three contending goalies, he’s already handled hockey’s biggest stage and won’t look out of place versus elite shooting.

See Murray’s WCoH mask here

John Gibson 

 Games PlayedSV%5 vs 5 SV%HD SV%Record
2015-16 Pro Season40.920.922.79521-13-3

John GibsonWith Anaheim trading his platoon partner Frederik Andersen to the Maple Leafs, Gibson is the only goalie of the three who is his NHL team’s unquestioned starter. He’s played just over 70 NHL games, more than Murray and Hellebuyck combined, and has international experience at every level. His (relative) seasoning makes him very likely to be dressed for every game.

Take a look at Gibson’s WCoH mask

Connor Hellebuyck 

 Games PlayedSV%5 vs 5 SV%HD SV%Record
2015-16 Pro Season26.918.939.81313-11-0

A great AHL campaign, some strong NHL starts behind a weak Jets team, and a very impressive performance for the US at the 2014-15 World Championship (.948 save percentage in eight games) are the resume entries that got Hellebuyck his WCoH job. Despite his limited experience, however, Hellebuyck is more technically proficient than his peers, and this polish matters a great deal against the world’s best shooters. He appears to have the tools and confidence to be the best of the three, but short of injury it’s hard to imagine he’ll get the chance to prove it here.

Check out Hellebuyck’s WCoH mask here

About The Author

Paul Campbell

Paul Campbell is a writer at InGoal, and a former CIS goaltender and women's goaltending coach for Mount Allison University. He occassionally moonlights as a university literature instructor.

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