Rangers going for gold
The 2019 IIHF World Championships starts this Friday in Slovakia. It’s the second time the country hosts the tournament and just like in 2011, the two venues are Bratislava and Košice.
Adam Fox, Brady Skjei, and Chris Kreider will represent the United States in group A. For Skjei, it’s his third time representing team USA at the World Championships. Chris Kreider represented the national team in 2010, 2011 and 2018 and has played in 23 games in total. The Rangers’ latest acquisition, Adam Fox, will make his debut for the national team next week. Team USA starts Friday against Slovakia with their biggest games in the group stage coming on Saturday, May 11 against the Finnish team and Tuesday, May 21 against the Canadians.
Projected second overall pick Kaapo Kakko will play for Finland and is one of three players born in 2001 to participate this year, with Jack Hughes (USA) and Moritz Seider (Germany) being the other two. Kaapo Kakko had a strong Euro Hockey Tour with two assists in two games, following an already strong performance in the Euro Hockey Challenge. The Finnish national team consists of mostly Liiga players with Henri Jokiharju being the only one who played regular NHL hockey this season. Injuries (Kotkaniemi, Barkov), NHL playoffs (Heiskanen, Teräväinen, Rantanen) and contract situations (Laine, Kapanen) severely weaken the Finnish team for this year’s tournament.
Filip Chytil will participate in his second World Championships for the Czech Republic. Last year in Denmark he registered a goal and an assist in seven games. The Czechs have not won gold at the Worlds since 2010 and failed to reach the semi-finals in each of the last 3 years. This year, they have NHL representation in Jakub Voráček, Ondřej Palát, Michael Frolík, Jan Rutta, Dmitrij Jaškin, Jakub Vrána, Dominik Simon, Filip Hronek, and Radko Gudas. With that experience on the team, they certainly have a chance to reach the semi-finals this year.
Alexandar Georgiev is one of the three Russian goalies together with Andrei Vasilevsky of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Islanders prospect Ilya Sorokin who won the Gagarin Cup with CSKA Moscow last month. The Russian team had a disappointing end to the season with an embarrassing loss to Finland at the Carlson Games last weekend. With the star power up front in Ovechkin, Malkin, Kuznetsov, Kucherov, Gusev, and Kaprizov, they are expected to do some serious damage this year if they can start playing as a team instead of a bunch of individuals. Georgiev, who made his debut for the national team earlier this year, has been very solid but could end up being the second choice behind Vasilevsky.
Henrik Lundqvist will be between the pipes for the Swedes to try and win their third consecutive gold. The Swedish team does not lack talent with Calder finalist Elias Pettersson, Patric Hörnqvist, William Nylander, Elias Lindholm, Mattias Ekholm, Adam Larsson, Jesper Bratt, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Loui Eriksson, Marcus Kruger, and Robert Hägg all coming over from the NHL. Marcus Pettersson, who finished the regular season as the only player suiting up for 84 games, will extend his season a bit more with a call up as well. Jhonas Enroth and Jacob Markström are the other two goalies on the team.