If your team has already been eliminated from the NHL playoffs or failed to get there in the first place, the upcoming IIHF World Championship is the last bit of high level hockey for the season. The 2019 tournament is shaping up to be a good one with some of the best talent on the planet facing off, and the Russian contingent has to be one of the favorites heading in.
Today, Russia announced their leadership group for the tournament by naming Ilya Kovalchuk team captain. Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin and Sergei Plotnikov have been named alternates, an impressive group with plenty of international experience. Kovalchuk served as an alternate at last year’s Olympic Games, but he’ll take over the top role given Pavel Datsyuk’s absence from the tournament.
- Sweden continues to add firepower to their group, and have added William Nylander, Mattias Ekholm and Marcus Pettersson in addition to Elias Lindholm who was recently confirmed. Nylander was a huge part of the 2017 gold medal for Sweden, recording 14 points in 10 games—twice that of any of his teammates. The Toronto Maple Leafs forward had an extremely disappointing season but will try to get things turned around on the international stage where he has excelled in the past.
- The Czech Republic announced today that Filip Hronek, Jakub Vrana and Dmitrij Jaskin will join their group, an interesting sight given the status of the latter two. Players rarely attend the tournament without an NHL contract in hand, and Vrana and Jaskin are both set to be restricted free agents this summer. Perhaps that means some decisions have already been made on the pair, as Vrana is expected to be signed quickly by the Capitals while Jaskin may not receive a qualifying offer. Either way, we’ll have to wait and see if they actually take part in the tournament that starts on May 10th.