After a disappointing end to the 2022-23 season, fans of the Calgary Flames will thankfully have more hockey to cheer for. Beginning on May 12, 2023, is the IIHF World Championship tournament that is held annually. This year, four Flames will represent their countries on the international stage: Tyler Toffoli, Mackenzie Weegar, and Milan Lucic will play for Team Canada, while Matt Coronato will suit up for Team USA. Weegar will be making his international hockey debut, whereas the other three men have played for their respective countries before. Let’s have a look at what each player brings to the proverbial table for their team as well as the details of their prior experiences.
Mackenzie Weegar, D
Weegar came almost exactly as advertised for the Flames this season. Acquired in the blockbuster Matthew Tkachuk-for-Jonathan Huberdeau trade last summer, Weegar had made a name for himself alongside perennial All-Star defenseman Aaron Ekbald with the Florida Panthers. Weegar was solid enough to have played his way into 14th and 8th place finishes in Norris Trophy voting for the 2021-22 and 2020-21 seasons, respectively. In 2022-23, after moving across the continent and ditching the year-round sunshine, Weegar put up a respectable 31 points in 81 games for the Flames. He posted a whopping 61.2 Corsi For percentage (CF%), which means that the Flames controlled puck possession whenever he was on the ice. Luckily, he was on the ice 21:06 a night, good for third on the team.
Weegar is the epitome of a two-way defenseman; he does a solid job shutting down opposing forwards but can also jump up in the play and contribute offensively from the blue line. He’ll clog up shooting lanes for the opposition, as evidenced by his career-high 186 blocked shots with the Flames this season. As previously mentioned, Weegar has never suited up for Team Canada before but he will not look out of place. He stands as the fourth-oldest player on Team Canada’s roster and will likely handle top-pairing duties given his status and quality of play in the NHL.
Milan Lucic, F
That’s right, 1,173-game veteran and Flames fan favourite Milan Lucic will also be suiting up for Team Canada. While he has taken on a lesser role now in the twilight years of his career, he can still be an effective physical force up front at 6-foot-3 and 240 pounds. Lucic can also be utilized as a big-bodied net-front presence on the right power play line. Unfortunately with such size, other areas like foot speed tend to be lacking and his age (turning 35 in June) doesn’t help either. With the Flames this season, he put up the lowest offensive totals of his career with seven goals and 19 points in 77 games. Once the most feared fighter in the game, he only dropped the gloves three times in 2022-23. To his credit, Lucic still tosses around his body a fair amount as he registered 168 hits this season and uses it to protect the puck; he has never put up a CF% below 50 in his career and only had 27 giveaways this year.
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Internationally, Lucic has represented Canada once and in a very unique setting. Back in 2007, powers in the hockey world decided to try and re-create the infamous Summit Series between Canada and Russia as that year would mark the 35th anniversary of the storied 1972 event. They did and dubbed it the “Super Series,” subsequently naming Lucic team captain of Canada. Instead of a competitive event, however, Team Canada crushed Russia in the eight-game series, winning seven games and tying one. Lucic recorded three assists and 16 penalty minutes in the series.
Tyler Toffoli, F
As the Flames leading scorer from 2022-23, Tyler Toffoli was one of the only positive narratives from this season. The Canadian winger put up a career-high 34 goals and 73 points in 82 games as he seemingly continues to age like a fine wine and get better as time rolls on. The 31-year-old Stanley Cup champion also led the Flames in shots on goal and shooting percentage while only playing 16:37 per night. He is also defensively responsible, finishing second on the team in plus-minus rating at +16 and only recording 32 giveaways to his 41 takeaways. An effective and consistent scorer, 2022-23 was the second time in which Toffoli scored 30 or more goals in a season and he has scored at least 20 in a season on five other occasions in his 11-year career.
Toffoli has twice played for Team Canada, having donned the maple leaf first at the 2009 World U-17 Hockey Challenge for the Ontario team. In six games at that tournament, Toffoli scored four goals and nine points as Canada Ontario won the gold medal against Canada Pacific. Next, Toffoli played for Team Canada at the 2015 rendition of this same World Championship event. He put up two goals and five points in 10 games with Team Canada going undefeated to secure gold. That team was relatively stacked with such names as Sidney Crosby, Brent Burns and Ryan O’Reilly among others dressing for the Canadian side. This year, Toffoli will undoubtedly be a more prominent figure as no other member of this year’s Team Canada came close to his offensive totals in the NHL this season. He will also be the third-oldest player on the roster.
Matt Coronato, F
Lastly is Flames prospect Matt Coronato who will be representing Team USA for the second time in his hockey career. The Flames’ first-round pick (13th overall) in the 2021 NHL Draft, Coronato starred for the Harvard Crimson in the NCAA for the last two seasons. He accumulated a total of 72 points in 68 games, most notably leading them to a 2022 ECAC championship win in which he was named the most outstanding player. He is also a Clark Cup winner as champion of the USHL when he played with the Chicago Steel from 2019-2021. Recently signing his three-year, entry-level contract with the Flames, he got to make his NHL debut in the team’s regular-season finale. Coronato didn’t record a point but went plus-one and committed a minor penalty in a 3-1 win over the San Jose Sharks.
Previously, Coronato put on the red, white, and blue in the 2022 IIHF World Junior Championships. There, he scored four goals and seven points in five games as Team USA suffered a disappointing fifth-place finish. Coronato will join his former Harvard linemate and Montreal Canadiens prospect Sean Farrell for the World Championships and the two could benefit the team with their pre-existing chemistry. With names such as Alex Tuch, Nick Bonino, and Conor Garland up front, Coronato will likely not be hard-pressed to face opposing top lines or lead the team in scoring. However, by perhaps starting more of his shifts in the offensive zone and perhaps garnering a spot on the team’s power play, he could perform quite well. It will be interesting to see if Coronato plays at centre or the wing for Team USA as he has experience with both positions.
To end, all four men will make valuable additions to their respective teams. Each individual is a competitor at heart and will be motivated for success after their NHL season ended on such a rough note. Armed with that bad taste in their mouths as well as their own unique skill set, look for these four Flames to make big impacts at this year’s World Championships.