Sometimes the IIHF World Championship is a great place for those playing overseas to show what they can do against NHL talent. It can operate as a springboard to a North American career for young undrafted talents, or act as a way to prove the worth of a former NHL regular. The latter will be what Justin Abdelkader and Brian Boyle will be after when the international tournament starts later this month. Frank Seravalli of TSN reports that Abdelkader and Boyle will suit up for Team USA at the tournament with the hope of resuming their NHL careers.
Abdelkader, 34, was bought out by the Detroit Red Wings last year, ending his contract with three seasons remaining on it. He ended up playing the 2020-21 season for Zug EV in Switzerland, scoring eight points in nine regular season games and adding another six goals in 13 playoff appearances. Abdelkader was also his usual pesky self, racking up 47 penalty minutes in the postseason.
A return to the 20-goal player he was in 2014-15 seems impossible at this point, but perhaps he can show enough at the tournament to prove he still has some worth on an NHL fourth line. It’ll be a hard sell though; the last time Abdelkader played an NHL season he failed to score a single goal (and recorded just three assists) in 49 games.
Boyle meanwhile has been in contact with NHL teams all season according to Seravalli, with teams showing interest even up to the trade deadline. He didn’t end up signing with any, but hopes to earn a new deal at the Worlds. Boyle played 39 games during the 2019-20 season with the Florida Panthers, scoring six goals and 15 points. Now 36, his size (6’6″ 245-lbs) and playoff experience (118 career games) are certainly factors in his favor.
The tournament is set to begin on May 21, with the first U.S. game the next day against Finland.