Five years ago right now, you were reading up and preparing for Game 3 against Anaheim. And today? You get a World Championship teaser! By now, you’re aware of the circumstances of this tournament. This has long been a Euro-centric annual competition featuring top players from European leagues that pretty quickly evolved into a tournament Connor McDavid crossed the ocean to play in twice in the last three years. When Trevor Lewis won a bronze with the United States in 2015, there were nine non-NHL players on the American roster; there are three today, and one of them is Jack Hughes. Patrick Kane, Johnny Gaudreau, Jack Eichel, Alex DeBrincat and Dylan Larkin are participating for the United States, while Canada can bank on John Tavares and Mark Stone. Alec Martinez, the Kings representative on the United States, skated with Ryan Suter in a 5-2 pre-tournament win over Germany in Mannheim on Tuesday. This is the lone Alec Martinez photo from that game:
It’s good to see Martinez back to #27 after wearing 23 last year. Here’s a reminder that his ancestors include a founder of Dedham, Massachusetts and a Union Civil War hero.
This tournament also helps categorize teams internationally. It officially begins on Friday, when the United States will face host Slovakia in Kosice, where the two teams will be stationed with Canada, Finland, Germany, Denmark, France and Great Britain. Bratislava will play host to Group B teams Sweden, Russia, Czech Republic, Switzerland, Norway, Latvia, Austria and Italy. The top four teams in each group after round-robin play will advance to the quarterfinals of a single-elimination tournament, while the last place team in each group will be relegated to Division I-A in 2020. Betting addicts will be happy to know that Canada and Russia have the best odds at 5/2, courtesy of Bet Online, followed by Sweden at 7/2 and the United States at 5/1. France (250/1), Austria (500/1), Great Britain (1,500/1) and Italy (1,500/1) are the teams looking to avoid relegation.
Speaking of I-A, Anze Kopitar and the Slovenian Men’s National Team finished fourth of six teams in Astana, Kazakhstan and will neither gain promotion to the top flight nor suffer relegation to I-B. The Lynx, who were unable to call on international veterans like Ziga Jeglic, Ziga Pavlin and Jan Urbas, lost their first three games and were unexpectedly in the relegation conversation before rebounding to defeat Hungary and Lithuania. Kopitar tied for the tournament lead in scoring with seven points (2-5=7) in seven games but was not named to a media or directorate All-Star team.
Barring addition or subtraction in the Division III qualification pool, next year’s IIHF World Championships will be fully filled out once it’s learned which teams will be relegated from the top flight to I-A. I was actually looking into covering the II-B tournament, which was held in Mexico City late last month, but will hold off on sharing some stories and reports on the Mexican men’s national team for a later date. I’ll also be chatting with Kopitar tomorrow about his experience in Astana and the state of the Slovenian team.
2020 IIHF World Championships:
1-A: Slovenia, South Korea, Hungary, Romania, TBD, TBD
1-B: Lithuania, Poland, Japan, Estonia, Ukraine, Serbia
2-A: Netherlands, Croatia, Australia, Spain, China, Israel
2-B: Belgium, Iceland, New Zealand, Georgia, Mexico, Bulgaria
3: North Korea, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Luxembourg, Chinese Taipei, United Arab Emirates
3-Qualification: South Africa, Hong Kong, Thailand, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kuwait, Kyrgyztan
Ilya Kovalchuk will play for Russia, while Adrian Kempe and Sweden will look to defend their 2018 title.
Earlier Ilya Kovalchuk told @galkevich32 he talked to Evgeni Nabokov and Dany Heatley on McLellan and they were very positive. 'I hope the situation will change with Todd coming to LA. I'm very motivated to play for the #gokingsgo. And we had a great addition in Prokhorkin'
— Igor Eronko (@IgorEronko) May 8, 2019
Since I have a feeling you’d ask, a check-in late last week indicated the announcement of Nikolai Prokhorkin’s one-year ELC would come soon but was not imminent. There’s no reason to hold your breath; I’ll continue Prokhorkin (who is not playing at the World Championship) coverage upon his signing.
–Lead photo via Harry How/Getty Images