Colorado Avalanche forward Nathan MacKinnon

Colorado Avalanche forward Nathan MacKinnon

Players to watch at world championships

MacKinnon among players to watch at IIHF world hockey championship

By Stephen Whyno, The Canadian Press

MINSK, Belarus – The 2014 IIHF world hockey championship begins Friday in Minsk, Belarus. Here are some players to watch in the tournament:

Nathan MacKinnon, Forward, Canada

Eight years after Sidney Crosby played at the world championship as an 18-year-old, MacKinnon is doing the same. The Colorado Avalanche rookie and Calder Trophy front-runner played on the wing in Canada’s exhibition game against Switzerland in Zurich. The natural centre could remain there for at least the start of the tournament given the team’s strength down the middle.

Tim Thomas, Goaltender, United States

This could be the international swan song for the 40-year-old goaltender, who is representing the U.S. for the eighth time in his career. Part of his job could be mentoring young Jets prospect Connor Hellebuyck, but his main role will be to stop pucks behind a very young group. Expectations are high after John Gibson led the U.S. to a gold medal last year in this event.

Alex Ovechkin, Forward, Russia

Ovechkin returns to the Russian team three months after a national failure at the Sochi Olympics, when he didn’t score after his first goal early in the first game. Ovechkin is the biggest star in hockey taking part at the world championship and is doing so for the 10th time in his career. After the disappointment in Sochi, there’s even more pressure for him to produce.

Tomas Hertl, Forward, Czech Republic

Hertl mania gripped the NHL early in his rookie season, and this world championship is another chance for the young Sharks winger to shine. Even after missing a huge chunk of the season with a knee injury, Hertl was up to his old tricks early in San Jose’s first-round series, and the bigger ice could be a nice showcase for his skills.

Seth Jones, Defenceman, United States

Along with Jacob Trouba and maybe even Jake Gardiner, Jones is being groomed for future U.S. competitions, whether it’s the return of the World Cup of Hockey or the 2018 Winter Olympics. Like most defencemen his growth will take time, but he led the Americans to the 2013 world junior title and could play a big role in this tournament.

Gustav Nyquist, Forward, Sweden

Nyquist was the NHL’s hottest scorer for a stretch after the Olympic break, then had zero points in the Detroit Red Wings’ five-game first-round loss to the Boston Bruins. He also had zero points in six games in Sochi, but this time there’s more of an expectation for Nyquist to put up numbers as one of just two Swedish returnees.

Leo Komarov, Forward, Finland

A year after leaving the Maple Leafs to sign with Dynamo Moscow in the KHL, Komarov could be eyeing a return to the NHL for 2014-15. This tournament is not a bad place for the 27-year-old to remind general managers what he can do. Komarov should have a bigger role for Finland here than in Sochi, when he played 12 minutes a game.

Morgan Rielly, Defenceman, Canada

Rielly is the kind of player Team Canada GM Rob Blake loves because he can move the puck quickly and also use his skating to get out of trouble. If coach Dave Tippett lets him loose on the big ice, the 20-year-old defenceman’s risk-reward game will be fun to watch. Given the lack of left-handed Canadian defenceman, there’s no reason Rielly can’t be in consideration for the 2018 Olympics.

Mikhail Grabovski, Forward, Belarus

This isn’t Ovechkin in Sochi, but the soon-to-be unrestricted free agent centre is the biggest star for the host country, so eyes will be on him leading the Belarusians. Grabovski missed part of the Capitals’ season with injury, and though that probably won’t affect his July 1 pay day, a good showing at worlds wouldn’t hurt either.

Kristers Gudlevskis, Goaltender, Latvia

The Olympic goalie who almost killed Canada is back. Gudlevskis made 55 saves in the Sochi quarter-finals and almost made history by upsetting a Canada team that is now considered one of the best ever constructed. Latvia is in the opposite group at worlds, but that just means a quarter-final matchup with the Canadians is possible yet again.

Follow @SWhyno on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Environment Canada has issued a wind warning for Greater Victoria, with winds expected to get up to 70 km/h Friday morning. (Don Denton/Black Press Media)
Wind warning promises blustery Friday for Greater Victoria

Winds up to 70 km/h expected Friday morning

Passengers in rows 13 to 19 on Air Canada Jazz flight 8069 from Vancouver to Victoria Feb. 28 were exposed to a case of COVID-19. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)
COVID-19 exposure found on flight from Vancouver to Victoria

Passengers in rows 13 to 19 on Air Canada Jazz flight 8069 Feb. 28 affected

Low interest rates have acted as a catalyst for the pandemic real estate market. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy)
Real estate sales surging across Greater Victoria but risks lie ahead

Single family home prices jump nine per cent over past year while condo values remain stable

Crews deal with a rock slide on the Malahat section of Highway 1 in 2017. (Black Press Media file photo)
Rock work closes Highway 1 in Langford for spurts

Friday closures could delay drivers up to 20 minutes

Crews disassemble the iconic red and white KFC bucket from a sign on Goldstream Avenue. (Photo courtesy of Mark Schoor)
Iconic KFC bucket removed from Goldstream Avenue

Popular fast-food chain closes Langford location

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry head for the B.C. legislature press theatre to give a daily update on the COVID-19 pandemic, April 6, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. nears 300,000 COVID-19 vaccinations, essential workers next

564 new cases, four deaths, no new outbreaks Thursday

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of March 2

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

(Black Press Media file photo)
POLL: How’s your butter?

Recent reports have some Canadians giving a second look to one of… Continue reading

Walter Gretzky father of hockey hall-of-famer Wayne Gretzky waves to fans as the Buffalo Sabres play against the Toronto Maple Leafs during third period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky, father of the Great One, dies at 82

Canada’s hockey dad had battled Parkinson’s disease and other health issues

The intersection of Melrose Street and Third Avenue. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Suspect in custody after two pedestrians struck in Port Alberni hit and run

RCMP asking for video footage, credit witnesses for quick arrest

(National Emergency Management Agency)
No tsunami risk to B.C. from powerful New Zealand earthquake: officials

An 8.1 magnitude earthquake shook the north of New Zealand Thursday morning

Comox Valley RCMP had access to 20 Street blocked off between Cousins and Choquette avenues as they conducted a raid of a house on the block. Photo by Terry Farrell
Comox Valley RCMP raid Courtenay problem house, several arrests made

Comox Valley RCMP conducted a raid of a problem house on 20th… Continue reading

(AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)
Pandemic stress, isolation key factors as to why Canadians turned to cannabis, alcohol

Study found that isolation played key role in Canadians’ substance use

A Cowichan Valley mom is wondering why masks haven’t been mandated for elementary schools. (Metro Creative photo)
B.C. mom frustrated by lack of mask mandate for elementary students

“Do we want to wait until we end up like Fraser Health?”

Most Read