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2017 IIHF World Championships: Final week preview

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Could we see William Nylander versus Mitch Marner next Sunday going for gold?

USA v Sweden - 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Photo by Martin Rose/Getty Images

The 2017 IIFH World Championships is deep into the round-robin stage. The two well-known Maple Leafs players are doing well, but Miro Aaltonen has fallen off the roster.

The next few days are all about gaining the right placement in the quarterfinals. The format is as follows:

The top team in Group A, the one playing in Cologne, plays the fourth place team in Group B. The second place team in Group A plays the third place team in Group B. Those games are also in Cologne. The first and second place teams in Group B crossover in the same way and play their Group A opponents in Paris.

There’s one wrinkle in that plan. Germany is guaranteed to play in Cologne if they make the quarterfinals. France is guaranteed to play in Paris.

The semifinals and finals are in Cologne.

New players

But before the quarterfinals on May 18, there area some games to be played and placings to be decided. To make these final few games extra fun, a few teams have or are about to add players from the NHL second round losers. They make for quite a list:

  • Henrik Lundqvist
  • Nicklas Bäckström
  • Oscar Lindberg
  • Evgeny Kuznetsov
  • Dmitry Orlov
  • Colton Parayko
  • Leon Draisaitl
  • Phillipp Grubauer
  • Vladimir Sobotka
  • Kevin Hayes
  • Brady Skjei

That’s the start of a very good team.

These additions change the picture for forecasting the remaining games quite a lot. None more so than the first name on the list.

Sweden

Sweden’s biggest weakness has been in net, and their only fair overall quality of forwards have done very well to score enough to make up for it. They have a defence corps so good, it should be illegal, so we won’t feel too sorry for them.

Sweden played their toughest games first, and looked like they were in trouble early, but they’ve maintained focus and kept winning against the easy teams, which is often harder to do than to say. They play little brother Denmark today, and they always bring their A game out against the Danes. The trouble is, the Danes always bring their A game out against Sweden.

Bäckström isn’t confirmed to start, but indications are Lundqvist will play.

Sweden finishes up on Tuesday against Slovakia.

They currently sit in third in Group A with 10 points. You get three points for a win, so they could end up with 16 in total. They likely won’t win the group, Russia seems poised to do that, but they could be second and not have to go to Paris.

William Nylander has two goals and four assists in five games, and the burning question right now is where he’ll end up in the lineup once Bäckström and Lindberg are slotted in.

Russia and the USA

They are the main competitors for the top spot in Group A. They play each other on Tuesday, and USA has an easier match against Slovakia prior to that. Russia plays Latvia, who has the hottest of hot goalies and is stealing games. That final game may well decide the Group A placements no matter what Sweden does.

Fourth place in Group A

Fourth place is a contest between Germany and Latvia. No one else is close, but Germany wants it most. Draisaitl joins the team in his home town of Cologne and Grubauer is a huge upgrade in net. They only play one more game, and it’s against Latvia who are currently holding fourth place. Latvia play Russia first.

Canada

The Canadians added Parayko, lost Tyson Barrie to an off-ice injury, and then lost to Switzerland. Mitch Marner had a great game in the overtime loss. You can see the highlights here:

Fabrice Herzog was the hero for Switzerland, and if that name rings a bell, it should. He was drafted by the Leafs in the fifth round in 2013, and the Leafs still hold his rights. He played one year in Canadian Junior hockey, got a five-game tryout on the Marlies where he went pointless and went back to his home club in Switzerland. That club is the ZSC Lions, so he played with Auston Matthews last year. He has shown no sign of ever wanting to try to slog through an AHL career towards an NHL callup—and it’s hard to imagine why he would given his position back home.

That loss was Canada’s first, and they have a lock on first place in Group B with Norway and Finland left to play.

Mitch Marner has two goals and four assists in five games. That stat line seems very familiar...

The rest of Group B

This group is parity come to life. Finland has struggled, and Miro Aaltonen went from top line to scratch in 60 seconds as the coach decided maybe Jess Puljujärvi could play hockey after all. They started to win. There are five teams vying for the last three places in this group, including Finland and host France. Any result is possible.

The relegated teams

There is no relegation game, and Italy and Slovenia will finish last and be out next year. The promoted teams are Austria and Korea (a major victory for them and gives them another tournament to play in after hosting the Olympics next year).

Today’s game

Sweden faces Denmark at 2:15 p.m. Eastern Time and is on TSN 1 and 4.