The eight teams are split into two Groups for a preliminary round Saturday through Thursday, with each Group playing in a round-robin format. Group A includes Team Canada, Czech Republic, USA and Europe (players born outside the European countries participating in the tournament). Group B includes Team Finland, Russia, Sweden and North America (players who are 23 and under from Canada and the USA). The top two group finishers advance to the semifinals Sept. 24-25, where the first-place team from each Group will face an elimination game against the second-place team from the other Group. The two semifinal winners will meet in a best-of-three Final, Sept. 27, 29 and, if necessary, Oct. 1.


Key players: Pittsburgh center Sidney Crosby, San Jose center Logan Couture, Anaheim winger Corey Perry, Tampa Bay center Steve Stamkos, Islanders forward John Tavares, Chicago center Jonathan Toews, San Jose defenseman Brent Burns, Los Angeles defenseman Drew Doughty, Montreal defenseman Shea Weber.

The skinny: Beyond loaded, the undeniable favorite will have to figure out a way to plug all the pegs together. Full of centers, several players will have to play out of position. But that’s the task any time Canada puts together an All-Star team, and like the past two Olympics, they typically find the path to gold.

Projection: Champions.


Key players: Tampa Bay forward Ondrej Palat, Montreal center Tomas Plekanec, Philadelphia forward Jakub Voracek, St. Louis forward Vladimir Sobotka.

The skinny: With injured David Krejci and Tomas Hertl having pulled out, the Czechs’ depth takes a further hit. They are big-time thin on the back end, with players such as Romas Polak and Andrej Sustr needing to take the bulk of the minutes. They also lack a star-caliber goalie, with Petr Mrazek and Ondrej Pavelec as the main men in the cage.

Projection: Don’t make it past preliminary round.


Key players: Los Angeles forward Anze Kopitar (Slovenia), Edmonton forward Leon Draisaitl (Germany), Wild winger Nino Niederreiter (Switzerland), Los Angeles winger Marian Gaborik (Slovakia), Chicago winger Marian Hossa (Slovakia), Detroit forward Tomas Tatar, Nashville defenseman Roman Josi (Switzerland).

The skinny: Led by ex-Oilers coach Ralph Krueger, this is an All-Star team of players not from the NHL’s big four European nations. There’s a mix of young and old up front and on the blue line (Zdeno Chara is on the club), but one has to expect depth and goaltending (Frederik Andersen is hurt) will be the Achilles’ heel.

Projection: Don’t make it past preliminary round.


Key players: Wild center Mikko Koivu, Florida forward Aleksander Barkov, Winnipeg forward Patrik Laine, Buffalo defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen.

The skinny: Who’s going to score beside Laine? With one silver and three bronze medals since the 1998 Olympics, the Finns typically defend their way to the end. With Pekka Rinne in goal but few natural scorers, the Finns will have to do just that again. Wild forwards Mikael Granlund and Erik Haula are also on the team. Captain Koivu will run the show, and this will be all of our first glimpses at the Jets’ future star, Laine, the No. 2 overall pick in June’s draft.

Projection: Don’t make it past preliminary round.


Key players: Toronto forward Auston Matthews, Edmonton forward Connor McDavid, Columbus forward Brandon Saad, Buffalo center Jack Eichel, Calgary winger Johnny Gaudreau, Detroit forward Dylan Larkin, Colorado forward Nathan MacKinnon, Florida defenseman Aaron Ekblad.

The skinny: By far the biggest intrigue in the tournament, this is a collection of the best 23-and-under players in North America, and it includes the No. 1 picks in the past two drafts in Matthews and McDavid and five of the past six No. 1 picks. They should be fast, offensive and brash, and the fact they don’t know any better could guide them into arguably some upsets. The one question is in goal, but if Matt Murray plays the way he did for Pittsburgh on its way to a Stanley Cup, this should be a fun team to watch.

Projection: Lose to Canada in semifinals.


Key players: Washington left wing Alex Ovechkin, Pittsburgh center Evgeni Malkin, Chicago winger Artemi Panarin, St. Louis winger Vladimir Tarasenko, Tampa Bay forward Nikita Kucherov.

The skinny: Like most tournaments this superskilled assembly takes part in, the same questions surface. Will they jell as a cohesive bunch? And can they play responsibly and defend? There’s no denying the pure skill up front when you have Ovechkin and Malkin leading the crew, but they’re weak on the blue line and have questions in goal with Semyon Varlamov and Andrei Vasilevskiy.

Projection: Don’t make it past preliminary round.


Key players: Washington center Nicklas Backstrom, Nashville forward Filip Forsberg, Colorado forward Gabriel Landeskog, Vancouver’s Henrik and Daniel Sedin, Tampa Bay defenseman Victor Hedman, Ottawa defenseman Erik Karlsson.

The skinny: This is bound to be a team challenging for gold. With Henrik Lundqvist in goal and a deep blue line that cost players like Jonas Brodin and John Klingberg jobs, the Swedes should be able to defend and move the puck with ease. Up front, there’s plenty of skill and scoring with Backstrom and Forsberg set to lead the Swedes after years of guys like the Sedins and injured Henrik Zetterberg.

Projection: Lose to Canada in the Final.


Key players: Chicago winger Patrick Kane, San Jose forward Joe Pavelski, Wild left wing Zach Parise, Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh, Winnipeg defenseman Dustin Byfuglien, Wild defenseman Ryan Suter.

The skinny: Despite the snub of Phil Kessel, there should still be plenty of firepower and certain grit with players such as Brandon Dubinsky included to emulate the success of the gritty 1996 champions. Parise has been replaced as captain following the disappointment that was the 2014 Olympics. Pavelski, coming off an outstanding playoff run, assumes that role. The Americans are also deep in goal with Jonathan Quick, Ben Bishop and Cory Schneider.

Projection: Lose to Sweden in the semifinals.