Canada took home another gold in the world championships. Next up is the World Cup of Hockey.
As the page is turned from one world competition to the next, here’s a look at five things we learned at the world championships in Russia that could have an impact on the World Cup in Toronto in September.
Tough decisions for Canada: Canada’s players were motivated to win another gold at the world championships, of course, but there was something else on the line. As with the other teams in the World Cup, Canada will be filling its remaining roster spots at the end of the week. A number of Canadian players built cases throughout the world championships that they are good enough to be included in the World Cup. Taylor Hall led Canada with six goals in 10 games. Matt Duchene and Mark Stone tied for second on the team and finished in the top 10 in scoring with 10 points each. Corey Perry, Brad Marchand and Ryan O’Reilly produced throughout the tournament as well.
“Duchene is a hell of a player,” one World Cup team adviser said following the tournament. “I thought he had a great tournament. He showed himself well.”
Finland is a legit contender with a legit star: Finland fell short of the hat trick of championships. The Finns had won the under-18 and world junior titles and were looking to complete their season with a world championships title. After going undefeated in pool play, which included a 4-0 win over Canada, and then decisively beating Denmark and host Russia in the quarterfinals and semifinals, Finland’s run ended with a 2-0 loss to Canada in the gold-medal game. Throughout the tournament, Finland proved it’s for real. The Finns outscored their opponents 37-10 and had a 9-1 record. Their lineup also included six of the 16 players named to the World Cup roster.
On top of that, 18-year-old winger Patrik Laine, who wasn’t one of the first 16 players named to the World Cup team, was named the MVP of the tournament. He scored seven goals and had 12 points in 10 games.
“Again, every time the puck is on his stick, he’s a threat to score,” said Winnipeg Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff, whose team has the second overall pick. “His game has really matured from the beginning of the year to the middle of the year to now. And certainly what he’s doing in this tournament is very impressive.”
Team North America will possess plenty of youthful talent: Canada and the United States possess some of the world’s top young players at the moment, and that’s going to benefit the under-24 Team North America. Canada forward Connor McDavid, 19, picked up at the world championships right where he left off in his NHL rookie season. He scored the game-winning goal in the gold-medal game and produced nine points in 10 games. For the United States, Dylan Larkin, 19, and Auston Matthews, 18, led the offense with nine points each. Larkin had two goals and a team-high seven assists. Matthews, who was not one of Team North America’s original 16, had a team-high six goals.
“I think physically he looks great,” USA Hockey assistant executive director of hockey operations Jim Johannson said of Matthews. “The body has really developed the past year compared to the year before. Everything’s thicker, stronger, sturdier. To me, he’s playing a 200-foot game. He’s played well at both ends of the rink. The offense is going to come. I don’t know if ‘spurts’ is the right word, but you clearly see the offensive ability is going to be there.”
Russia might have discovered a special line: The most productive line at the world championships was Russia’s trio of Artemi Panarin, Vadim Shipachyov and Yevgeni Dadonov. Shipachyov, who played in the KHL last season, led the tournament with 18 points. Panarin, a Chicago Blackhawks left winger, was second with 15 points. Dadonov, who also played in the KHL, was third with 13 points. The trio, which played for SKA St. Petersburg during the 2014-15 season, combined for 18 goals and 28 assists in the tournament.
The U.S. has a different mentality: It’s likely not a single player on the U.S. roster for the world championships will be on its World Cup roster. Some of that has to do with the country’s philosophy when it comes to the world championships. The United States has gone younger and younger in recent years with its roster. Six of the players on this year’s roster played college hockey this past season.
“I think [it’s] more of a concerted effort over the last few years with our player pool with some of these young players,” New Jersey Devils general manager and USA Hockey adviser Ray Shero said at the world championships. “It’s a great thing for USA Hockey making the effort to give them the exposure at this level. Some of these older teams, they’re competitive, well coached. … It’s part of the experience. It makes our group of players better.”
The other reason: World Cup roster players declined invitations to play in the world championships. The reasons varied, including injuries and contract status, but some simply opted to remain home. The United States isn’t the only team that will have a different look at the World Cup. Goalie Jacob Markstrom was the only World Cup player for Sweden to play in the world championships. None of the 16 players already named to Canada’s World Cup roster played in the world championships.