As soon as the World Championship begins, players no longer represent their NHL organizations. Instead, they’re loyal to nations they call home. And while those still standing in the Stanley Cup playoffs have a shot at hockey’s most prized possession, the World Championship allows those who’ve been ousted a second chance at hardware while allowing fans of non-playoff clubs to cheer on their favorites as they go for gold.
Just three teams – the Dallas Stars, New York Islanders and Winnipeg Jets – have zero participants, but the NHL’s other 28 teams have at least one big-league player suiting up in Slovakia. How are your favorite team’s players doing at the 16-team international showcase? Let’s take a look:
The Ducks have two players at the tournament. Adam Henrique has recorded one assist in three games for Canada, while Korbinian Holzer hasn’t recorded a point for Germany following a tough season that saw him split time with Anaheim and AHL San Diego.
Sweden has benefited from Coyotes forward Mario Kempe and defenseman Oliver Ekman Larsson, with the pair recording two points each on one of the tournament’s strongest teams. Forward Richard Panik has had his fair share of chances and has two assists to his credit for the host country. Clayton Keller has one assist on a United States team that’s loaded with talent.
Team Canada was dealt a big blow when it lost Brandon Montour to a lower-body injury against Slovakia, with the already weak blueline now in need of further firepower. Fellow Canadian Sam Reinhart is still searching for his first goal after recording an assist early in the tournament. Jack Eichel has been the real star with five assists out of the gate for the United States.
The Americans were the true benefactors of the Flames’ early playoff exit, with Johnny Gaudreau, Derek Ryan and Noah Hanifin all heading to the tournament. Gaudreau scored a beautiful goal against Finland and Hanifin and Ryan each had two points against Great Britain. Michael Frolik has been one of the top players with the Czech Republic, scoring three goals and four points through three contests. Elias Lindholm has two assists for Sweden.
With nine players, the Hawks are well represented in Slovakia. Alex DeBrincat has been the most impressive with three goals and four points, while Henri Jokiharju has been stellar for the Finns. Swiss prospect Philipp Kurashev has looked good with a goal and two assists in his first men’s senior tournament. Patrick Kane hasn’t produced at the level he did last year when he had 20 points in 10 games, but he does have six points in four games.
Most of Colorado’s stars took the tournament off, but with five representatives in Slovakia, the Avalanche still has its fair share of talent competing for gold. Tyson Jost was a late add for Canada and has acted as the team’s 13th forward, while Switzerland’s Sven Andrighetto scored in his lone contest against Austria. Netminder Pavel Francouz has yet to play for the Czech Republic, Nikita Zadorov has nothing to show for Russia and Germany’s Philipp Grubauer suffered an injury on Tuesday, with his immediate status unknown. Gabriel Landeskog will be important for Sweden once he arrives.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Columbus’ representatives have had mixed reviews this week. Canada’s Pierre-Luc Dubois, France’s Alexandre Texier and Russia’s Vladislav Gavrikov are all seeking their first point of the tournament. Goaltender Elvis Merzlikins arrived late for Latvia but will be counted on to carry the team to a quarterfinal spot after a solid 34-save debut against a strong Swiss team on Sunday. But by far, the most impressive player has been Sweden’s Alexander Wennberg, who had two goals and three points in his only game of the tournament. Zach Werenski should make a good American team even better when he finally suits up.
Detroit Red Wings
Each of Detroit’s five players have made a significant impact, but none have been as dominant as big winger Anthony Mantha. The Canadian forward has seven points through three games, including a five-point night against Great Britain on the weekend. Tyler Bertuzzi hasn’t recorded a point yet but has been a valuable shutdown forward. Dylan Larkin have a handful of points for the United States, while Filip Hronek has been arguably the best Czech player with five points through three games, tops among all defensemen.
The Germans look like a team with true underdog potential, especially with Leon Draisaitl leading the way with three points in three games. Slovakian defenseman Andrej Sekera has looked good, putting up two assists in three games. Sweden’s Adam Larsson and Canada’s Darnell Nurse have an assist each.
On a Russian team loaded with offensive talent, Evgeni Dadonov has led the way with four goals in four games, good for third in the tournament. Dadonov seems to love the World Championship. His 45 points are third among top scorers in the past decade at the tournament. Frank Vatrano has been impressive on USA’s fourth line with two points. Finnish forward Juho Lammikko is still in search of his first point on a team without any full-time NHLers.
Los Angeles Kings
Ilya Kovalchuk had a poor season with the Kings, but he tends to thrive at the World Championship. Through three games, Kovalchuk has a goal and an assist in a rather limited role with Russia. Alec Martinez has done a good job solidifying USA’s impressive but inexperienced blueline, but the real story has been Sweden’s Adrian Kempe, who has three points and has showcased strong two-way play.
Kevin Fiala has had a dominant tournament for Switzerland, scoring four goals and five points through three games, a welcome sign of offensive upside after he managed just three goals and seven points in 19 games for the Wild. Ryan Suter has been USA’s go-to blueliner and should continue to be one of the team’s most important players. Surprisingly, Wild prospect Kirill Kaprizov is still searching for his first point of the tournament.
The Habs have just one rep in Slovakia. Tomas Tatar scored for the hosts against Canada in one of the wildest games of the tournament. It’s his first World Championship goal since 2014, and it comes on the heels of his best offensive season in the NHL.
As expected, four of Nashville’s five reps are defensemen. The most impressive player, however, has been Canadian forward Kyle Turris, who currently has five points in three games to his credit. Fellow Canadian Dante Fabbro has played a limited role but has a goal. Roman Josi has been impressive with three points in as many games on Switzerland’s back end. Yannick Weber (Switzerland) and Mattias Ekholm (Sweden) are without a point.
New Jersey Devils
The Devils have five players representing their country, with USA starting netminder Cory Schneider among the most notable. He’s had a so-so tournament and will need to improve his play to prevent Thatcher Demko from taking the starting spot. Nico Hischier has impressed with six points in three games for Switzerland, while Jesper Bratt has notched two assists in a depth role for Sweden, though he won’t get many chances with Landeskog entering in Sweden’s lineup. Projected first-overall pick Jack Hughes? Still waiting on his first point.
New York Rangers
The Rangers have six representatives and three – Adam Fox, Chris Kreider and Brady Skjei – wearing American uniforms. Kreider scored the 3-1 goal to seal the deal against Great Britain on Wednesday, while Fox and Skjei have held their own on the point. Filip Chytil has one goal for the Czechs. Goalies Henrik Lundqvist (Sweden) and Alexandar Georgiev (Russia) have shared the net for their respective nations so far. If you’re preparing for the draft, projected second-overall pick Kaapo Kakko has been the talk of the tournament five goals.
Despite the regular season struggles, Ottawa truly looks as though it has a bright future, particularly on the blueline. Christian Jaros (Slovakia) and Thomas Chabot (Canada) have been among the best defenders in the tournament, while Christian Wolanin has held the fort as USA’s seventh defenseman. Mikkel Boedker has been good for a weak Danish team and has three assists. Oh, and Rudolfs Balcers is tied for third in tournament scoring with six points for Latvia, as everyone expected.
Much to Flyers’ fans chagrin, Philadelphia usually has a significant contingent at the World Championship. This time, it’s nine players. Jakub Voracek has four assists for the Czech Republic. Oskar Lindblom is the other notable forward from the Flyers, and the Swedish winger has tallied three goals in as many games. Carter Hart is knocking on Matt Murray’s door in hopes of stealing Canada’s starting role heading into the playoff round, with fellow Canadian Sean Couturier looking to break out up front. He has just one goal so far.
The Penguins have seven players at the World Championship, and Swedish forward Patric Hornqvist has been the biggest standout. He is tied with Finland’s Kaapo Kakko for the tournament lead with five goals. Evgeni Malkin hasn’t found the back of the net yet but does have three assists to his credit. Murray has had an up-and-down tournament so far and will need to step up his play before the elimination portion begins. Teddy Blueger has looked good with a goal and three points for Latvia.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Nobody truly expected the Lightning to be out at this point in the playoffs, but Tampa Bay’s loss has been Russia’s gain with Nikita Kucherov shaking a brutal playoff effort and lighting the lamp early for Russia with 10 points through four contests. Andrei Vasilevskiy has been perfect so far, with his 23-save shutout against the Czech Republic on Monday adding to his splendid body of work this year. Mathieu Joseph and Anthony Cirelli have both scored for Canada, while defenseman Erik Cernak has been one of Slovakia’s best two-way players.
Toronto Maple Leafs
William Nylander earned more than his fair share of criticism this season, but he’s had a fantastic end to the season with Sweden. Heading into Wednesday, Nylander led the tournament with eight points and has shown great chemistry with Hornqvist and Wennberg. Elsewhere, Martin Marincin has shown promise with Slovakia and has four points in his first three games. Russian defenseman Nikita Zaitsev has two goals so far.
Of Vancouver’s six players at the World Championship, most expected Sweden’s Elias Pettersson to be the most noticeable. And while he has been solid, notching three assists, it’s fellow Canuck Loui Eriksson who has been one of Sweden’s best players. Eriksson has four points in the round robin. Quinn Hughes has had limited action with the Americans, but has looked good in a defensive role with Fox. How will Werenski’s arrival change things, though? Meanwhile, Demko made some nice saves in his men’s tournament debut against Great Britain for the United States and should earn more starts along the way.
Vegas Golden Knights
If Canada earns a medal in the end, it’ll likely be thanks to the play of Mark Stone, Jonathan Marchessault and Shea Theodore. The trio has combined for nine points and has generally been effective regardless of opponent. Nikita Gusev, who signed with the Golden Knights during the playoffs but has yet to play a game, has five points in three games for Russia and is always one of Russia’s best players in international play.
The Danes lost one of their most important players on Wednesday as an upper-body injury forced Lars Eller out of the tournament after his big four-point performance against Great Britain. Washington is still well represented, but it took Alex Ovechkin four games to get his first point. Evgeny Kuznetsov scored twice against Italy, too. Jakub Vrana has been good for the Czechs with three points, but that’s about it in terms of output from the Capitals’ World Championship contingent.
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