With the World Cup of Hockey set to begin shortly , five players will be out to do more than just represent their country (or continent). The World Cup offers Dennis Seidenberg, Christian Ehrhoff, Jakub Nakladal, Michal Jordan, and Lauri Korpikoski the opportunity to play in front of millions of eyes, including those of NHL executives, as they all look to secure a contract before the season begins.
A pair of German-born defenders, Seidenberg and Ehrhoff find themselves in similar predicaments as they get ready to lace ’em up for Team Europe. At 35 and 34 respectively, the veteran blue liners are both coming off a string of disappointing seasons. Seidenberg has struggled with injuries since first going down in the 2012-13 season, and his play has suffered because of it. With only 36 total points in the past three seasons, combined with a noticeable drop-off in his once-dominant defensive play, “Seids” more or less played himself out of Boston. He was surprised when the Bruins bought out his contract earlier this summer, but his numbers actually made the move very unsurprising. So far this summer, there has been little talk surrounding Seidenberg, and it was once rumored that he would retire if he was not playing in Boston in 2016-17. However, Seidenberg is set to take the ice alongside former Bruins teammate Zdeno Chara at the World Cup, perhaps looking to draw the attention of an NHL team willing to take on a reclamation project. A potential pairing partner for Seidenberg is Ehrhoff, who will also be looking to make a difference and earn himself another NHL gig with his play. With under 50 games played and less than 15 points in back-to-back seasons, Ehrhoff is no longer the elite puck-mover he once was. In fact, he failed to make much of an impact at all after being acquired by the Chicago Blackhawks late last season, playing in only eight games. Thus, it was no surprise that teams were not lining up for Ehrhoff’s services on July 1st. However, Ehrhoff is still an above-average skater and decent possession player. It seems more likely that Ehrhoff will find an NHL home for 2016-17 than Seidenberg.
Meanwhile, over on the Czech team, two younger defenseman are feeling disappointed that they are still unsigned this late in the summer. Nakladal, who has finally begun to get some attention lately, is likely paying the price for the Calgary Flames’ mistake of not giving him enough play time. When he did get on the ice in his rookie season, Nakladal was more than solid and a strong World Cup performance should give multiple NHL teams more than enough incentive to sign the high-upside defender to an inexpensive deal. For Jordan, the quiet off-season can’t have come as too much of a surprise. Unlike Nakladal, who only made his NHL debut in 2015-16, Jordan has struggled to earn regular ice time or even a roster spot for the past four years with the Carolina Hurricanes. A stay-at-home specialist without much of an offensive game, Jordan might be destined for an AHL deal or trip overseas unless he comes up big with an impressive World Cup showing.
Finally, there’s the Finnish winger Korpikoski, who finds himself in unfamiliar territory. Once a highly-coveted two-way player for the Coyotes, who never let him wander too far in free agency, the past two seasons have not been kind to Korpikoski. After his first disappointing season in Arizona, in which he was -27 with just 21 points, Korpikoski was dealt to the Edmonton Oilers last summer. The change of scenery did not go very well, as again Korpikoski’s supposedly strong defensive game was nowhere to be found, as he was -17 with 22 points. The Oilers cut ties with the forward this summer, buying out the final year of Korpikoski’s contract. Given his history as a reliable bottom-six forward, it seems likely that Korpikoski will end up on an NHL roster this season, but his performance in the World Cup is likely to set the market and make the differce between a guaranteed million-dollar deal or a just a PTO. A successful tournament for a young, offensive Finland team would certainly help Korpikoski garner some attention.