Why Detroit Red Wings fans should pay attention to the IIHF World Championship

Detroit Free Press

The NHL draft lottery is over, the draft isn’t until late June, and it’s been four weeks since the Detroit Red Wings played their last game of the season. Time, then, to turn toward Europe.

The annual World Championship is a great consolation event for NHL players who aren’t in the playoffs — a situation the Wings have been in now for seven straight seasons. The event begins Friday, with the U.S. taking on host Finland in Tampere, Finland; and Canada taking on co-host Latvia in Riga, Latvia.

The tournament runs through May 28, when gold, silver and bronze medals will be awarded.

Here’s what you need to know about the best hockey outside the playoffs.

Keep an eye on the U.S.

All U.S. games will air live on NHL Network, starting with Friday’s match against the Finns at 9:20 a.m. One of the men behind the bench is Wings coach Derek Lalonde, who is serving as an associate coach under David Quinn. (During intermissions, they can reminisce about that poll last year where Lalonde was ranked third-most handsome coach in the NHL, and Quinn was ranked 29th). The player to keep an eye on is Carter Mazur, a 21-year-old forward from Jackson, Michigan who is a Wings prospect dating from the third round (No. 70) in the 2021 draft. It’s Mazur’s first time on the men’s national team, but he was leading scorer for the U.S. at the 2022 world junior championship, with five goals and two assists in five games.

Mazur (6 feet, 173 pounds) collected 22 goals and 15 assists in 40 games with the University of Denver this past season before joining the Grand Rapids Griffins, where he recorded six points in six games. Playing on a big stage at the World Championship is an excellent test for him to see how he fares against men.

Finland has ties to the Wings, too

Finland’s roster includes Wings defenseman Olli Määttä, who turned a one-year deal signed last summer into a two-year extension in February. He played on the second or third pairing, showing a smart, simple game and taking advantage of jumping up in plays and contributing offensively. Ex-Wing Jussi Olkinuora is one of three goaltenders on Finland’s team. The Wings signed him last year in the hopes he could give them so stability in goal with the Griffins, but Olkinuora struggled so much he was placed on unconditional waivers and bought out in January. He was brilliant at the 2022 World Championship, though, where as the starting goalie he backstopped the Finns to the gold medal over team Canada, and was selected as the tournament’s best goalkeeper.

TAKING CARE OF BUSINESS: Red Wings’ free agents: Who should stay and who should go?

Great experience for two young Swedes

Last year, Lucas Raymond said he had nothing left in the tank after playing all 82 games in his rookie year. This spring, he’s all in: “I feel really good and I want to keep playing. That was my thought process. I’m very excited to go,” Raymond, 21, said in April. Wings forward Jonatan Berggren, 22 is also on the team. It’s excellent experience for the two to play in such a competitive tournament, and should help prepare them for the day the Wings make the playoffs.

PASSPORT READY: Why this year, playing in World Championship appealed to Red Wings’ Lucas Raymond

America’s hat is red and white, with a touch of maize and blue

Team Canada has Steve Yzerman as an associate general manager, Alex Tanguay as part of the coaching staff, Paul Boyer as the equipment manager and forward Joe Veleno. (Jake Walman was on the roster, but had to pull out because of an upper-body injury.) The Canadians are perennial medal contenders, and this year they’re bringing a squad built almost entirely from NHL players. One exception: Adam Fantilli, the Michigan Wolverine forward who the Wings were robbed of being in contention for because as usual they had no luck in the annual NHL draft lottery draw. Fantilli is projected to go second in the draft, after Connor Bedard (who as of this week’s roster is not participating in the WC). The Wings pick ninth.

NEXT GENERATION: Red Wings hold ninth pick in 2023 NHL draft. Here are Steve Yzerman’s options

Border patrol

Moritz Seider said at the end of the season he was leaning towards not going, but that changed this week. The German national ice hockey team’s Twitter account announced that “Moritz Seider kommt!” to the event. Dominik Kubalik will be playing for his native Czechia. The Wings could have had more players there, but Dylan Larkin and Andrew Copp (both U.S.) and Ville Husso (Finland) opted not to go. Switzerland’s roster includes goaltender Joren van Pottelberghe, who was drafted at No. 110 by the Wings in 2015. His one notable contribution to team history was that his agent was Claude Lemieux, which is how Lemieux and Kris Draper came to talk face-to-face in 2015 for the first time since Lemieux’s hit in the 1996 playoffs that left Draper with a shattered jaw and sparked the Wings-Colorado Avalanche rivalry.

How it works

The 16 teams are divided into two groups for a preliminary round played in s single round-robin format. Group A features Austria, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Sweden and the U.S., and will be based in Tampere. Group B features Canada, Czechia, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Norway, Slovakia, Slovenia and Switzerland and will be based in Riga. The top four teams in each group advance to the quarterfinals, which will be crossover — for example, the first-place team in Group A will play the fourth-place team in Group B. (Should co-hosts Finland and Latvia match up, however, the quarterfinals would not be crossover.) The winners go onto the semifinals, where the best-ranked team will play the lowest-ranked team, and the second-best and third-best will face one another. The two winners from that round meet for gold and silver, and the losers play for bronze. The semis and medal games are in Tampere.

Contact Helene St. James at hstjames@freepress.com. Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames.

Read more on the Detroit Red Wings and sign up for our Red Wings newsletter.

Her latest book, “On the Clock: Behind the Scenes with the Detroit Red Wings at the NHL Draft,” is available from  Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail.

Articles You May Like

Red Wings: 5 Potential Alternate Captains
Which NHL Playoff Drought Will End This Season?
Red Wings’ Playoff Drought Will End This Season

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *