It’s that time of year again: time for Canucks fans to care about the World Hockey Championships.
Two more Canucks have announced they’ll be playing for their respective countries at the 2019 World Championships in Slovakia after three announced their intention to play at the end of the Canucks season. Elias Pettersson and Loui Eriksson will be joining goaltender Jacob Markstrom on Team Sweden.
Sweden has won back-to-back gold medals at the World Hockey Championships, with Pettersson taking home gold last year in his first tournament with the men’s national team. Pettersson had three points in five games at the 2018 World Championships before he was knocked out of the tournament with a fractured thumb.
Pettersson seemed uncertain if he would play in the World Championships at the end of the Canucks’ season, but announced on Wednesday that he would join Sweden, saying (via Google Translate), “It is sickly to be with last year and we will go there to win gold again.”
Okay, so Google Translate isn’t perfect, but I’m definitely going to start saying, “That is sickly” instead of “That’s sick” when something super cool happens.
Likewise, Eriksson also announced he would be playing for Sweden this week. This will be Eriksson’s sixth World Championship appearance and he’s historically been one of Sweden’s best players. He’s been a point-per-game player at the World Championships, with 44 points in 44 games.
In Eriksson’s last appearance in 2015, he led all of Sweden’s forwards with 10 points in 8 games. Somehow, I’m skeptical he’ll be as potent an offensive player this time around. Instead, Eriksson will likely play a similar role as he did in Vancouver this season: an experienced veteran on the checking line. As a bonus for Sweden, he won’t cost $6 million to play on the fourth line.
This will be Markstrom’s fourth appearance at the World Championships for Sweden and he has two medals: a gold medal from 2013 and a bronze medal from 2010. His last tournament, however, was one to forget. He had an .896 save percentage in 2016 and gave up six goals in the quarterfinals, as Sweden was knocked out of the tournament by Canada. Markstrom, coming off his best NHL season, will look for a better performance this year.
Meanwhile, Team USA announced the first 17 players for their World Championship roster, including two Canucks: Quinn Hughes and Thatcher Demko. Both had already stated their intention to play in the World Championships, so there’s no surprise there.
Hughes won a bronze medal with Team USA last year as an 18 year old, putting up two points in ten games, and could play an even larger role this year. Of the three other defenceman named to the team so far, only Ryan Suter plays on the power play, and his value as a power play quarterback has been questioned in the past. Hughes could get be a power play mainstay for Team USA.
As for Demko, this will be his second World Championships, though he didn’t play in his first tournament back in 2016. He arguably should have played, as Mike Condon and Keith Kinkaid each had save percentages under .880 ahead of him.
Demko should get some starts this time around. He’ll compete for the starting role with his future self, Cory Schneider, while 19-year-old Montreal Canadiens prospect Cayden Primeau will fill the same role Demko did back in 2016: practice with the veterans and gain some valuable experience for the future.
Pettersson, Eriksson, Markstrom, Hughes, and Demko are likely to be the only Canucks going to the World Championships. Brock Boeser, Bo Horvat, Markus Granlund, and Sven Baertschi have already declined invitations from their five respective countries, while a knee injury will keep Antoine Roussel from representing France for a sixth time.
Chris Tanev has left the door open to play for Team Canada, but the time frame for his own injury recovery is likely to prevent that from happening. Meanwhile, Alex Edler is unlikely for Team Sweden with no contract for next season.
Barring a late invite for Troy Stecher, it’s unlikely any other Canucks play in the World Championships. Maybe there could be a couple wild cards, like Ben Hutton, who won a gold medal with Canada in 2016, or Tanner Pearson.
The 2019 World Hockey Championships kick off in Slovakia on May 10th and will run until May 26th. Games will be broadcast on TSN. Most games will start at 7:15 am or 11:15 am PST, with some games starting as early as 3:15 am PST with the time difference, so either get ready to wake up super early in the morning (and take the day off work) or set the PVR. You should probably just go with the PVR.