WASHINGTON — Phil Kessel has to wait to find out if he plays for the United States at the World Cup of Hockey, and P.K. Subban will have to remain in a holding pattern on getting the call about representing Canada.
Kessel and Subban were among the most notable players left off the initial 16-man World Cup rosters unveiled Wednesday. There’s still time for them to be added as each team must fill out its 23-man roster by June 1.
"It’s not just Phil Kessel," general manager Dean Lombardi said, noting that forward Bobby Ryan and defenceman Justin Faulk also didn’t make the first cut. "It’s imperative that we get this right."
Among the nine forwards, four defencemen and three goaltenders selected to the U.S. roster, no player’s presence was more surprising than Justin Abdelkader of the Detroit Red Wings, who adds a tough physical presence that should suit coach John Tortorella well.
The same goes for big defenceman Dustin Byfuglien of the Winnipeg Jets, while Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks brings the skill up front.
Canada will have a very familiar feel for coach Mike Babcock as 12 of the first 16 players selected to the roster won gold with him at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, including goaltender Carey Price of the Montreal Canadiens, who has been out of NHL action with an injury.
General manager Doug Armstrong said he gave Price — "the No. 1 goalie on the planet" — his choice of how to proceed with the roster, and the reigning Hart and Vezina Trophy winner wanted to be on it.
Behind Price are Braden Holtby of the Washington Capitals, who’s on pace to break Martin Brodeur’s single-season wins record, and Corey Crawford of the defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks.
They’re two of the four newcomers along with Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos and Dallas Stars centre Tyler Seguin.
Subban was a glaring omission given his risk-and-reward style. Subban played sparingly in Sochi, and Armstrong mentioned that Babcock likes predictability and having players he can put on the ice in all situations.
The four defencemen on the roster so far are Drew Doughty of the Kings, Shea Weber of the Nashville Predators, Duncan Keith of the Blackhawks and Marc-Edouard Vlasic of the San Jose Sharks.
Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Jonathan Toews of the Blackhawks lead the forward group. Babcock said the first 16 is easy enough that his wife could have done it, but the group didn’t include two-time gold-medal-winning winger Corey Perry of the Anaheim Ducks.
"We’re going to have really tough decisions on what we want," Armstrong said. "We have to separate 16 candies out of the barrel. We’re going to add seven more at the end. Right now, Corey Perry is a great player, and when we do name our 23, we’re going to go to the World Cup of Hockey as a group of 23, not 16 and an additional seven.
Other teams had difficult decisions, too. Team North America, made up of American and Canadian players age 23 and under, has the past three No. 1 picks in Connor McDavid, Aaron Ekblad and Nathan MacKinnon but didn’t have room for Ryan Nugent-Hopkins of the Edmonton Oilers or Alex Galchenyuk of the Canadiens.
Team North America GM Peter Chiarelli, who also holds that job in Edmonton, said he talked to Nugent-Hopkins about not being on the initial roster and hopes the young centre gets healthy and back into form.
"That was a difficult one," Chiarelli said. "He knows what he has to do. I would expect him to be part of this team at the end of the day. But he’s got to come back and play, and I expect that he will."
Buffalo Sabres rookie Jack Eichel is already on the team, and the combination of him and McDavid should be potent.
"The other GMs — Dean and Doug — are jealous and they’ve told me such because those two would probably be on the big team," Chiarelli said.
"(I) probably don’t fully appreciate it. I think probably in 10 years we’ll look back and truly appreciate it."
Sweden left the Stars’ John Klingberg off its first roster, but could add him to one of the deepest blue lines in the tournament. The Czech Republic left off Jaromir Jagr, but mainly because so that the 44-year-old could have until June 1 to decide whether he wants to play.
It’s the kind of debate and discussion the NHL hoped to generate on roster day, several months ahead of the tournament, which begins Sept. 17 in Toronto.
"Even I as a fan looking at the rosters go, ‘Woah, look at this," commissioner Gary Bettman said. "People are going to now start speculating and debating and discussing. Today it becomes real."