The 2016 IIHF World Championships are well underway in Moscow and St. Petersburg, Russia, but there’s not a lot of excitement about the event. Canada, Russia and other European countries will always be ready for the event. However, that same love doesn’t translate to the United States.
NBCSN is broadcasting all the Team USA games and matches from the quarterfinals up to the medal games, but the event is barely talked about among hockey fans.
The Worlds are lost in the shuffle with playoffs in the NHL and NBA still going on, the start of Major League Baseball season and the Kentucky Derby, but hockey fans should pay attention to this event for five reasons.
I wrote about it last year and I borrowed some of the reasons from last year’s tournament. However, the reasons do bear repeating, but I tossed in some new reasons for this year’s tournament.
A Final World Cup Warmup
This event may not have the sizzle or the star power of the upcoming World Cup, but this will serve as a dry run. I’m sure there are some members of Team USA or the Under 23 team that would love to pay back Canada for the 5-1 drubbing it received.
Wins in the tournament will go a long way to building confidence and setting the tone. There will be more urgency in this year’s tournament with the World Cup looming.
The Fight for Roster Spots
While this tournament will be a dress rehearsal for September’s international showcase, there are plenty of talented players who aren’t sure if they make the cut. Team Canada will always have a mad scramble for roster spots, and the IIHF World Championships is a great audition before the last roster decisions.
Corey Perry is captain of the team, but was left off the first 16-man roster for Canada. He’ll be given a second glance if he can lead Canada to repeat as gold medalists. Players like Taylor Hall and Matt Duchene would also do well to make some waves in this tournament.
The same thing works for the other squads as there are plenty of players that want to use the tournament is a springboard to getting a coveted roster spot.
This year’s tournament is already a glimpse into the future. The aforementioned USA-Canada game featured plenty of young players. The oldest American player is Matt Hendricks (34), but everyone else on the roster is under the age of 30 with a good chunk of them under 25.
Most of the American team has young players that will be international stalwarts like Noah Hanifin, Dylan Larkin and Kyle Connor.
We got to see this year’s projected number one draft pick Auston Matthews take on last year’s number one pick Connor McDavid. Matthews may have lost that matchup, but he’s done well for himself in this tournament.
Momentum For Players on Eliminated Teams
It may have been a rough year for teams like the Edmonton Oilers, Buffalo Sabres and others that missed the postseason, but a solid tournament will go a long way to getting the ball rolling for next season.
The Oilers did show some signs of life at the end of the year and could finally break out of that decade-plus playoff drought.
Players like Tomas Plekanec of the Czech Republic, Lars Eller of Sweden and Alexei Emelin of Russia would love to put the taste of a disappointing season with the Montreal Canadiens behind them. A good tournament will wipe the slate clean for 2016-17.
Guys like Hall and McDavid will get an extra chance to work together in the next couple of weeks. I’m sure Oilers coach Todd McLellan won’t mind that his cornerstone duo will get a chance to work on some things for next year.
The same could be said about the Sabres’ pair of Sam Reinhart and Ryan O’Reilly, who are both representing Canada. Any extra work will go a long way to making Buffalo better.
Should You Watch the 2016 IIHF World Championships?
A hockey fan should watch it because it’s a chance to catch some good international hockey before the World Cup. There aren’t the names that were in last year’s tournament like a Sidney Crosby, but there’s a chance to see the stars of tomorrow in a high-pressure international tournament.