With the regular NHL season over, not all players will be hitting the golf course straight away. That is because the 2022 IIHF World Championships are just around the corner. This season, they are being hosted in Finland. With the puck dropping on May 13th, all squads have now been announced. Today, we will look at who could take home the trophy and who could be relegated, plus those who may make a different type of mark on the tournament.
Who Will Impress and Disappoint at the 2022 IIHF World Championships
Possible Winner – Canada
There is a very good chance Canada retains their crown, with Hockey Canada announcing a squad mixing talent with a healthy blend of youth and experience. Canada boasts a strong 1-2 punch at the centre, with Mathew Barzal and Pierre-Luc DuBois donning the maple leaf this year. To complement their elite skill, they are joined by top talents such as Josh Anderson, Dylan Cozens, Max Comtois, Drake Batherson and Morgan Geekie. Canada has also been able to call on some of the country’s best youth with Dawson Mercer and Kent Johnson also making the trip.
Moving to defence and goal, Canada has remained consistent in its impressive recruitment. Elite defenceman Thomas Chabot will be available to lead the blueline and will receive support from the likes of Ryan Graves, Travis Sanheim and Damon Severson. Chris Driedger will likely start between the pipes, but he will be backed up by Logan Thompson. You may recall that Thompson was the goalie who kept Vegas Golden Knights‘ playoff hopes alive with sublime shootout performances. Those are the exact skills that could be useful in the knockout stages.
Dark Horse – Czechia
Czechia’s fans have endured some unfamiliar disappointment recently, with their team bowing out at the quarter-finals in Riga last year and failing to qualify for the 2022 Winter Olympics. However, with a strong group travelling to Finland, Czechia look primed to roar back into medal contention. Amongst the ranks will be the supremely talented Tomas Hertl. His supporting cast includes Jakub Vrana, David Krejci and Dominik Simon, which will be a fun group to watch. Oilers fans will also want to keep an eye out for young winger Matej Blumel, who was Edmonton’s 100th overall pick in 2019 and has been excellent for his country recently.
Goaltending will also be a strong suit for Czechia. Arizona Coyotes’ young goalie Karel Vejmelka will likely get the starting job, after a tremendous season in the desert. With the Coyotes being one of the league’s bottom feeders Vejmelka battled puck after puck most nights. However, the rookie impressively was able to manage 1499 saves in 52 games, including a 46-save first-ever shutout. Vejmelka’s talents will likely be called on almost as often, as their defence could prove to be concerning. The best talent on offer is Radim Simek and Filip Hronek. However, neither would be considered world-beaters.
One intriguing aspect is 18-year-old prospect David Jiricek. In his draft year and considered a late first-rounder, he may prove to be a very useful wildcard in the Czech defence. If he does, his pay could potentially inject life into older teammates.
Disappointment – USA
The squad representing the USA is somewhat underwhelming compared to years past, with the Americans seeming unable to attract top-tier NHL talent to the 2022 IIHF World Championships. Highlights in the forward group include Adam Gaudette, Austin Watson, Nate Schmidt and Alex Galchenyuk, names which do not immediately pop and would struggle to break into the top lines of most NHL teams. Additionally, a large portion have seen time in the AHL this season.
The States’ defence does have a little more to be excited about. Star Seth Jones captaining the side and youngster Luke Hughes will make the trip. Both could prove to be difference makers on the blueline, with their strong abilities to quarterback play and score goals. In goal, former Calder Trophy nominee Alex Nedeljkovic will likely get the nod to start. However, Nedeljkovic had his struggles with the Detroit Red Wings this season and the alternatives are not exactly improvements. Only Strauss Mann has senior tournament experience, after playing in two games at this year’s Winter Olympics.
Relegated – Great Britain
It is likely that Great Britain’s time in the top division may be coming to an end. From the start, an uphill battle was always on the cards, with Brendan Connolly and Liam Kirk, who made last year’s team of the tournament, ruled out early in the season with ACL tears. The pair are essential to Britain’s primary scoring and last week’s internationals have shown the team is vulnerable without them.
Britain’s warm-up games were a testament to their struggles. Saturday’s 2-0 loss to Denmark was promising, with just a lack of clinical finishing and a red hot goalie preventing a deserved goal. However, Sunday’s 8-0 defeat also to the Danes was difficult to watch, with defending and goaltending all over the place. Additionally, respective 3-1 and 3-0 losses to lowest seed Italy on home ice, were even more concerning. In an extremely tough group, Great Britain must convincingly beat the closest seeds Norway and Austria to avoid relegation. This could prove to be difficult with their goalscoring troubles and defensive red flags.