The World Championship is all about second chances.
Ideally, it’s an opportunity for a player that missed out on a Stanley Cup run to still finish the tournament with some hardware. Of course, that all goes out the window when you look at the fact that Finland, a team with zero full-time NHLers, took home gold against Canada, a group that looked good in Group A play – except for the loss in the opening game against the Finns.
But the tournament also serves as an opportunity for players looking to add a bit of life into their careers. With many top stars sitting out for Canada, Sweden, Finland and France sitting out, that’s exactly what happened. The most notable reclamation project was that of William Nylander, a Toronto Maple Leafs winger with a cap hit of over $10 million this past season, but with just 27 points in 54 games to show for. Entering the tournament as Sweden’s most dangerous goal-scorer, Nylander finished with 18 points in just eight games to lead the tournament in scoring while his 2.25 points-per-game average was among the best in the post-Soviet era.
Will Nylander use the experience to add confidence to his game heading into next season? Perhaps, and he’s not alone. Here are five players that could use strong World Championship performances to their advantage heading into 2019-20:
Kyle Turris, C (Canada)
Ask a Nashville Predators fan about Turris’ play this year. I dare you. Turris had a terrible season, finishing with a career-low seven goals and 23 points, with just two in the playoffs. But on a Canadian team that relied on a handful of players to lead the way, Turris finished with 10 points in 10 games on a line with Anthony Mantha and Jared McCann. Injuries and inconsistent play have plagued Turris’ career over the past few years, but the skilled centerman played the best hockey of his international career and could use it to kickstart his career back into place next season.
Troy Stecher, D (Canada)
Stecher has been a solid top-four option for the Canucks the past years, but pairing with Alex Edler has never really seemed like the right fit. But the chemistry Stecher showed with Thomas Chabot for Canada was quite something: while Chabot was more keen on jumping in on the rush, Stecher was extremely reliable in his own zone and chipped in a few points on the rush, too. Stecher had just three points, but you have to look past the offensive output just to see how good he was: after starting on Canada’s third pair to start the tournament, Stecher moved up the order and was one of the more defensively-sound blueliners on the roster. He’ll never be more than a 25-point guy on the blueline, but imagine if the Canucks could pair him with a puck-moving defenseman going forward.
Dominik Kubalik, LW (Czech Republic)
Kubalik may have a deal to remain with HC Ambri-Piotta in the Swiss league for a third year, but Sport-Express reporter Igor Eronko said that he has agreed to a deal with Chicago for 2019-20. Kubalik finished the tournament with 12 points in 10 games for the Czechs that fell to Russia in the bronze-medal game for the best international performance of his career. Just 23, Kubalik was acquired by the Hawks from Los Angeles for a fifth-round pick in 2019 and if he signs, Kubalik could end up being one of the best value forwards on the team.
Kevin Lankinen, G (Finland)
With names like Matt Murray, Andrei Vasilevskiy, Henrik Lundqvist and Philipp Grubauer at the World Championship, it’s understandable if you didn’t expect Lankinen, a 24-year-old AHL backup in the Chicago Blackhawks system, to prevail as one of the standout netminders (despite losing the top goalie award to Vasilevskiy). With just 19 AHL games under his belt and none in the NHL, the expectations were rather low for Lankinen and the Finns, who didn’t have a single full-time NHLer on the roster. But Lankinen’s heroic 32-save performance against Russia in the semifinal led the feisty Finns to the championship game. Lankinen was spectacular throughout the tournament with a 1.50 GAA and .942 save percentage.
Martin Marincin, D (Slovakia)
Marincin, a pending unrestricted free agent, may not have shown he can be capable of an everyday NHL workload this season, but you have to think that his play with Slovakia, a non-playoff team, could give him another shot next season. In fact, Marincin’s seven points in as many games at the World Championship fell just two short of his total in 32 games with the Toronto Maple Leafs and their AHL affiliate, the Marlies, this season. Marincin was a minute muncher with the Slovakians, who relied on defense to generate offense quite often. Could he have secured a spot on an NHL roster for next year? His effort on the world stage definetly helps.