The 2018-19 New Jersey Devils did not make the playoffs so their season ended at 9:55 PM ET on April 6, 2019. While the team broke down for the offseason, some players will get to hit the ice later this month. Multiple Devils will be taking part in the top annual international tournament for men: the 2019 International Ice Hockey Federation World Championship. Adding intrigue to this year’s WCs for the Devils fan as the tournament should include a few future Devils getting a chance to show how their games measure up against other NHLers and professionals. Since the tournament will start today, let’s learn more about this year’s tournament and who to keep an eye on.
The 2019 IIHF World Championship - The Basics
This year’s World Championship tournament is hosted by Slovakia. Games will be played in Bratislava and Kosice. The tournament itself will run from May 10, 2019 through to May 26, 2019. Sixteen national teams will participate in this year’s tournament.
As with previous WCs in recent memory, there will be a group stage where two groups of eight teams will compete with each other. The top four teams in each group will move onto a single elimination bracket to compete for the gold medal. The semifinals and finals will take place in Bratislava. There will be a bronze medal game for the teams who lost in the semis. The bottom two teams in each group will be relegated to Division IA for the 2020 World Championships. Everyone has something to play for, whether it is glory or survival. Here are the groups:
Group A (Bratislava): Canada, United States, Finland, Germany, Slovakia, Denmark, France, and Great Britain
Group B (Kosice): Sweden, Russia, Czech Republic, Switzerland, Norway, Latvia, Austria, and Italy.
The only team that is guaranteed to not be relegated is Switzerland since they will host the 2020 World Championships. New to this year’s tournament are Great Britain and Italy; they earned promotion from Division I-A last year. They will do their best to avoid finishing last in their respective groups. Whoever is last will be relegated to Division I-A; those two teams will be replaced next year by Kazakhstan and Belarus, the first and second place teams from the 2019 Division I-A tournament.
The group games are already scheduled as per the IIHF website for this year’s WCs. Slovakia is about six hours ahead of the Eastern Time Zone so keep that in mind. The United States’ group games will be of upmost interest; particularly their May 10 opener against the hosts, May 13 against Finland, and May 21 against Canada. All of the United States’ games will be aired on the NHL Network.
The 2019 IIHF World Championship - The Devils
Several Devils will participate in this year’s WCs. In fact, one Devil has already played his role. Yegor Sharangovich represented Belarus and contributed a goal in four games in their successful run to earn promotion to the main WCs next year. Congratulations to Sharangovich and Belarus. They will join Kazakhstan, winner of Division I-A, in the 2020 IIHF World Championship. Here are the Devils who are set to play in the tournament itself starting today:
- Canada: Damon Severson (D), Mackenzie Blackwood (G)
- United States: Cory Schneider (G), John Hynes (Assistant coach)
- Switzerland: Nico Hischier (C)
- Sweden: Jesper Bratt (LW/RW)
- Slovakia: Marian Studenic (RW)
That is a good level of representation, a little more than last year. I am pleased to see both Schneider and Blackwood accept their invitations. The last month or so of the season provided some hope that this is a viable goaltending tandem for the Devils. However, only one of the two figures to see the ice right away. Schneider bounced back a bit after a terrible 2018 and Blackwood showed he was not a flash-in-the-pan call-up. This tournament should provide a little more evidence whether they are good to rely on. As the United States’ other goalies are Thatcher Demko, Vancouver’s backup, and Cayden Primeau, who played for Laval in the AHL last season, I’m hopeful Schneider will have the opportunity to be the main man in the net for the Americans. Unfortunately, Blackwood will be behind Matt Murray and Carter Hart were selected by Hockey Canada. As reported by Brent Wallace on Twitter, Murray and Hart are #1 and #2 to start the tournament. If Blackwood gets a game, then it will be because of the schedule or injury. For his sake, I hope he gets an opportunity at some point.
I am also interested in Severson playing for Canada. He is one of the oldest defensemen on what is a young blueline with some potential. While plenty of attention will be paid to Thomas Chabot and Dante Fabbro, Severson should be able to command plenty of minutes. This would be a good stage to really show what he could do. Besides, playing for Canada is an honor of sorts and a good WC may slightly open the door for future international play.
The younger Devils will be represented elsewhere and that is encouraging. On paper, Nico Hischier is Switzerland’s top forward on their roster. I anticipate he will be their best forward on the ice this year. I am pleased to see that Bratt has recovered enough to represent Sweden. I am also curious to see how Studenic does as a member of the host team. He turned professional last season and has plenty of room for growth in Binghamton. That he will be on the Slovakian roster is a good sign of how their hockey people regard him and his future.
All the same, there should be plenty of Devils representation throughout the WCs and there could be a Devil or two coming back with a medal. Canada, Sweden, and the United States should be able to easily get to the medal tournament. I like Switzerland’s chances of getting in too if they can get off to a good start. Even if they do not, I think they can finish ahead of Norway, Latvia, Austria, and Italy.
There are also two players who will become Devils as of June 21 who will be in this tournament that deserve their own recognition.
The 2019 IIHF World Championship - The Top Two for the 2019 NHL Draft
Kaapo Kakko of TPS and Finland did not participate in the World Under-18 Championships. He chose to train and prepare to play for the men’s World Championships for Finland. His focus was for the bigger tournament. The Finnish U-18 team missed him. They barely finished ahead of Switzerland to make it to the medal tournament and they were easily eliminated by the United States in a 6-0 rout. Still, Kakko’s focus is to help the main team and it appears he will get the chance to do that. His appeal has been centered around how he played in a men’s professional league and excelled as an 18 year old. This tournament should be able to justify his choice.
Jack Hughes of the United States National Team Development Program did participate in the World U-18s. While the United States was limited to a bronze medal, Hughes thrilled observers with his skating and continued being the program’s most prolific point-machine in history. Hughes finished the U-18s with 20 points in the 2019 tournament, totaling 32 points over his two U-18 appearances. That set a new record in IIHF history, surpassing Alex Oveckin’s 31 points in all World U-18 play. He was dominant against his peers. So much so that USA Hockey reached out and offered a spot on this year’s roster to Hughes. He has accepted, which will make him the youngest American to appear in the WCs. One of the few concerns one may have for Hughes is that he has not played a lot against professional players who are more developed in terms of their bodies and their games. That concern can now be addressed in part.
Such as in a head-to-head match-up. The United States will play Finland on May 13.
To be fair, while both Kakko and Hughes will be in the tournament, it is likely they will have different roles. On paper, Finland’s team is not very strong. There is only one NHL forward going to Slovakia for Finland and it is not even the best Finnish player on Florida. Kakko may end up playing a lot of significant minutes in their top six and on special teams situations. Hughes, on the other hand, is on a deeper American team that is bringing Patrick Kane, Johnny Gaudreau, James van Reimsdyk, Jack Eichel, Alex DeBrincat, Clayton Keller, and Dylan Larkin at forward. That is a lot of offensive talent with a mixture of experience and youth. Hughes may have a more limited role just because of who else is here. The head-to-head match-up maybe something like oranges to tangerines. It will still be something to watch for.
There is an edge for the Devils, though. Schneider and Devils head coach John Hynes will have the opportunity to directly work with Hughes before and during this tournament in sessions, practices, and games. They’ll get a better understanding of what he can do, which should help guide the Devils’ decision for June 21. So if you’re hoping for the World Championship to answer once and for all who is better between the top two picks for the 2019 NHL Draft, then you may not get a clear determination.
This is the place to discuss all of the games in the 2019 IIHF World Championship. The rules are the rules, even if this is an IIHF-run tournament.
The Rules: The rules remain the rules even as this is a non-Devils playoff game open post. Please keep your comments clean, legal (read: no streams, no links to streams, no asking for streams, no streams, no streams at all), and all about the game itself. Other scores are OK, but let’s make sure the comments here are primarily about the IIHF World Championship. Also, let’s respect each other, there’s no need for drama or unwelcome nature of any sort. Thank you for reading.