The 2018 IIHF World Championships begin Friday, May 4, and there are four members of the Toronto Maple Leafs on four different teams.
Frederik Andersen jumped at the chance to backstop his national team in an arena a few kilometers from where he grew up. Denmark is never a top team at Worlds, but they are often a persistent and annoying giant killer who play with enough structure to beat better teams. Add in an NHL starter, and their chances to wreak havoc in Group B go way up.
The top team in Group B, Canada, did not luck out in the goalie draw this year. With some injuries plaguing NHL goalies that are out of the playoffs, Hockey Canada went with Darcy Kuemper, who split the season between Los Angeles and Arizona. He has just finished the best season on his NHL career where he has always played as a backup.
Joining him in net is Michael DiPietro, who won the Memorial Cup last year with Windsor, and just finished his second OHL season. The choice of DiPietro as a future Team Canada goalie getting some experience was a good one, but they still needed another starter.
Enter Curtis McElhinney, who was named to the team after the Leafs were eliminated from the playoffs. At the age of 34, and coming off the best results of his career, he is going to compete with Kuemper for the starter’s chair, according to Hockey Canada.
Also on hand in Herning for Group B action is Finland, and for the first time, the senior men’s team for Finland includes Kasperi Kapanen, who was loaned to his national team rather than the Marlies.
Joining those three teams in Group B is Germany, Korea, Latvia, Norway and the USA.
The USA could have been a powerhouse with Jack Eichel and Auston Matthews down the middle, but both of those players suffered injuries this year and declined to play. They have Keith Kinkaid and Scott Darling in net, however, and some good skaters. They will be competitive.
Germany, who shocked the world with their Olympic silver medal, might be a team who will surprise in this pool.
Games to watch out for are USA - CAN on Friday at 10:15 a.m. (all time Eastern Time), CAN - DEN on Monday, May 7 at 2:15 p.m., FIN - DEN on May 9 at 2:15 p.m., and CAN -FIN at 2:15 on May 12.
Nikita Zaitsev joined Team Russia as he has every year he’s been available since 2012. He missed last year when he was not medically cleared by the Leafs to travel.
Russia is the obvious dominant team in Group A, with Sweden the number two team. They are missing most of the players who won them the gold medal last year, including William Nylander. Sweden is weak in net, and might struggle to put up a good performance this year as more NHLers turned them down than said yes to playing this year.
Also in Group A, and playing in Copenhagen, are Austria, Belarus, Czech Republic, France, Slovakia and Switzerland.
This pool should have a tough fight for spots two though four, but Russia will have to give the top spot away.
Edited to add that Tomas Plekanec is on the Czech team. I missed that happening. So we’ll call it 4.5 Leafs at Worlds. He told a French language news outlet last week that his heart is in Montréal, and he’d like to be re-signed there. So, I think we should expect that to happen.
The format is similar to other years, with eight teams in each pool and only four teams in each moving on to the quarterfinal medal round. The semifinals and finals are in Copenhagen, but the teams play in separate cities until the quarterfinals which are crossovers with home-ice and no travel for the game going to the teams that finish first and second in each group.
The two lowest ranked teams, almost certainly Korea and one other, will be relegated next year to the division below the top rank of teams. They will be replaced with the 2018 winners who are Great Britain and Italy.
IIHF games are three points for a regulation win, and two points for a post regulation win, with one point for the loser when there’s a tie after regulation time. This point system means getting to overtime can be a lucrative way to get enough points to sneak into the top four, but wining in overtime instead of regulation can be a very bad idea.
Overtime is a five-minute three-on-three and then the game moves to a shootout. This holds for all preliminary games. For any playoff game, quarterfinals onto the medal round, the overtime period is ten minutes of four-on-four followed by a shootout if necessary. However, the gold-medal game overtime would be 20 minutes of four-on-four if required.
The IIHF tournament website has all the game schedules for you, but as of Wednesday, the rosters were not available. Official rosters are not due until Thursday. Elite Prospects has all players confirmed by their national teams as on the roster on their site.
Streaming and Broadcast
Games are televised in Canada on TSN and all games involving Canada will be broadcast, usually live, as well as all medal round games, but some preliminary round games are not available. TSN usually streams games on their pay streaming service. NHL Network carries Team USA games in America.
Most games air at 10 a.m., with the latest game time at 2 p.m.