As if the NHL Playoffs weren’t sufficient for hockey fans, on Friday, the 2017 IIHF Men’s World Championship is set to begin. For many players who play for teams that did not make the playoffs or were eliminated in the first round, the MWC gives these players an opportunity to play hockey at a competitive level before heading into the summer’s off-season. Team USA will face tournament co-host Germany.
USA Hockey named Connor Murphy (defense – Arizona Coyotes) team captain. The alternates for USA are Detroit Red Wings’ forward Dylan Larkin and New York Islanders’ forward Brock Nelson. Murphy has appeared in the most games of anyone on the roster for Team USA, so naturally, his experience will lead the team. Upon being drafted, Larkin was touted as the next Jonathan Toews, a quiet yet determined leader by way of example. Nelson registered four points in last year’s tournament. This season, he posted a career high 45 points with the Isles.
Team USA has chosen Connor Hellebuyck (Winnipeg Jets), Jimmy Howard (Red Wings), and Cal Petersen to guard the crease throughout the tournament. Petersen is making his debut with the US Men’s National Team. As a goaltender, he was named captain of the University of Notre Dame and led the Fighting Irish to the NCAA Frozen Four this season. He was drafted in 2013 by the Buffalo Sabres in the fifth round (129th overall). In 40 games played, he posted a 2.22 goals-against average and a save percentage of .926, enough to earn him a nomination for the Mike Richter Award. Petersen will serve as a healthy scratch for the opening matchup against Germany.
The seven defensemen chosen to represent the Red, White, and Blue are: Daniel Brickley (Minnesota State – Mankuto), Danny DeKeyser (Red Wings), Noah Hanifin (Carolina Hurricanes), Charlie McAvoy (Boston Bruins), Team USA Captain Connor Murphy (Coyotes), Jacob Trouba (Jets), and Middletown, New Jersey-native Trevor Van Riemsdyk (Chicago Blackhawks).
McAvoy, a Long Beach, New York-native, was drafted by the Bruins 14th overall at the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. At the most recent World Junior Championships, McAvoy posted two goals and four assists en route to a Gold Medal. This past season with Boston University, the 19-year old registered five goals and 21 assists in 38 games played. He joined the Bruins for the first round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs where he had three assists in six games. This is McAvoy’s first appearance with the USMNT.
Daniel Brickley, in 31 games played with Minnesota State – Mankuto this season, registered eight goals and 23 assists. He was named defensive player of the year for the Western Collegiate Hockey Association. The 22-year old remains undrafted to the NHL. But perhaps an impressive showing at the MWC will land him a nice contract in the NHL. Brickley will serve as a healthy scratch for the opening matchup.
A mostly youthful defensive squad is well complemented by an attack group of young players as well. The Team USA forwards are: Anders Bjork (Univ. Notre Dame), Nick Bjugstad (Florida Panthers), JT Compher (Colorado Avalanche), Andrew Copp (Jets), Christian Dvorak (Coyotes), Jack Eichel (Sabres), New Jersey-native Johnny Gaudreu (Calgary Flames), Jordan Greenway (Boston University), alternate captain Dylan Larkin (Red Wings), Clayton Keller (Coyotes), Andrew Lee (Islanders), alternate captain Brock Nelson (Islanders), and Nick Schmaltz (Blackhawks).
Like Nelson, Anders Lee also achieved a career-high in points this season with the Isles, scoring 34 goals and 18 assists. His last appearance with Team USA was at the 2015 MWC where he tallied one goal and four assists in ten games. Lee, like Petersen, was a former captain at the University of Notre Dame.
Petersen’s teammate, Anders Bjork, makes his debut with the USMNT. Chosen 146th in the fifth round by the Bruins in 2014, he served as alternate captain for the Fighting Irish where he scored 21 goals and 31 helpers in 39 contests. Bjork was a Hobey Baker Award Finalist this past season (top NCAA player). Bjork will serve as a healthy scratch for the opening matchup against the Germans.
Jordan Greenway and Clayton Keller are also making their USMNT debut. Both skaters won Gold at the 2017 World Juniors. Greenway, a towering 6’5”, 230-pounder, notched three goals and five assists. This past season with Boston University, he scored ten goals and 21 assists in 37 games. Keller led Team USA in points with 11 at the WJC. He was third overall in points and second in assists among all skaters at the 2017 WJC.
Johnny Gaudreau made his first appearance with the MNT in 2014. There, “Johnny Hockey” scored two goals and eight assists. With the Flames this season, he scored 18 goals and 43 assists. Calgary was swept in the first round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs, but Johnny Hockey registered two helpers before his time was up.
Similar to the roster in terms of young players, many of which are making their debuts at the annual IIHF tournament, Head Coach Jeff Blashill is making his first appearance as bench boss as well. Blashill just finished his second season behind the bench for the Red Wings. In 2013, he led the Grand Rapids Griffins of the American Hockey League to the team’s first Calder Cup. He is supported by his assistants for Team USA by Rand Pecknold, Seth Appert, and former New York Islanders’ Head Coach, Jack Capuano. Capuano was relieved of his duties in January of this year.
Two names familiar in the New York-area hockey world, Chris Drury and Bill Guerin, serve as managers of the 2017 USMNT. As if Team USA wasn’t already stacked well enough with great hockey minds, the USMNT has an Advisory Group made up of Stan Bowman, David Poile, Jim Johannson, Dean Lombardi, Ray Shero (New Jersey Devils’ GM), Dave Tallon, and Don Waddell.
The Philadelphia Flyers are well-represented at the 2017 IIHF MWC. Claude Giroux, Travis Konecny, Brayden Schenn, and Wayne Simmonds are playing for the Canadians; Radko Gudas and Jakub Voracek are on Team Czech Republic; Valtteri Filppula for Finland; Pierre-Edouard Bellemare for the French; and young defenseman Ivan Provorov is playing for Russia.
Aside from those mentioned above playing for the USMNT, the New York Islanders are represented by Calvin De Haan for Canada, and both Thomas Greiss and Dennis Seidenberg for Germany. While the New York Rangers are tied at two with the Ottawa Senators in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, Rangers’ prospect goaltender Igor Shestyorkin will man the crease for Team Russia.
The New Jersey Devils are noticeably absent from the 2017 MWC. Of the few who had been invited to play, they all refused participation, including Kyle Palmieri, Taylor Hall, Corey Schneider, and Andy Greene. While coach John Hynes coached Team USA last year, he has opted to concentrate on the Devils in the off-season instead.
The preliminary round will take place from May 5 through May 16. The quarterfinals will be held on May 18. On May 20, the final four will compete in the semifinals. The Medal games will then be played on Sunday, May 21. All of USA’s preliminary matchups will be televised live on NHL Network except for two 10:15am EST matchups on May 10 and 16, which be will televised on NBCSN. NBCSN will show a tape delay of all preliminary games as well. For a full schedule, visit USAHockey.com.