Another year, another season without playoff hockey in the Motor City. Luckily for Detroit Red Wings fans, there are some familiar faces to watch at the 2019 IIHF World Championship. The tournament will serve as a valuable development tool for a few of the younger players in Hockeytown.
With the 2019 NHL Entry Draft still far in the distance, this is the best way for Red Wings fans to get their hockey fix. There are six players from the organization that will be representing their countries at the tournament. This article addresses all of the players participating and their potential impact.
The 2019 World Championship will be the first time Tyler Bertuzzi has represented Canada in an international tournament at any level. The rugged 24-year-old winger was a surprising bright spot for the Red Wings during the 2018-19 season as he posted 21 goals and 26 assists in 73 games. Bertuzzi, who played his junior hockey with the Guelph Storm in the OHL, was a second-round pick (58th overall) back in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft.
Bertuzzi will likely rotate between Team Canada’s bottom two lines throughout the tournament. He was skating alongside Mathieu Joseph and Anthony Cirelli of the Tampa Bay Lightning at practice on Monday. The trio is capable of providing an offensive spark while hounding opposing defenseman on the forecheck. Coincidentally, Bertuzzi was filling in on the first line after John Tavares went down with an injury on Thursday. There is no guarantee he will be utilized on the top unit once the tournament starts, but it is a situation worth monitoring. Regardless of where he plays in the lineup, the entire event serves as a valuable aid for a younger player that is starting to find his footing in the NHL.
Yes, Red Wings fans north of the border can rejoice as there are two players on Team Canada this year. Anthony Mantha joins Bertuzzi as the first Red Wings to play for Team Canada in the World Championship since defenseman Kyle Quincey made the team back in 2012. Mantha endured an inconsistent season in 2018-19, but he finished the year strong with 28 points in his final 26 games. The 6-foot-5 winger also set a career high with 25 goals despite only playing in 67 games.
Mantha does have a bit of international experience from back in junior, as he played in the 2012 World U18 Championship as well as the 2014 World Juniors. Canada lost in the bronze medal game of the 2014 tournament, but Mantha led the squad in scoring with 11 points in seven games en route to being selected for the tournament All-Star Team.
Mantha will play on Canada’s third line alongside Jared McCann and Kyle Turris to open the World Championship. Both players seem to suit Mantha’s play style as they can act as the defensively responsible forwards on the ice while he focuses on scoring. Mantha possesses a hard, accurate shot as well as smooth hands around the net. He has the potential to move up the lineup as the tournament progresses.
At just 22 years old, Dylan Larkin already has a bevy of experience on the international stage. He produced seven points in six games at the 2013 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge. Likewise, the following year, he served as an assistant captain at the 2014 World U18 Championship en route to a gold medal. Finally, he capped off his junior international career by leading Team USA in scoring with seven points in five games at the 2015 World Juniors.
Larkin is also a World Championship veteran as 2019 will be his fifth straight year at the tournament. Dating back to 2016, he has 28 points in his last 28 games at the event. No player on the 2019 Team USA roster has more points over that span. Larkin has also won two bronze medals over the past four years and served as an assistant captain twice.
Larkin, who is the unquestioned leader of the Red Wings, will be relied upon as an offensive leader for Team USA. In the final pre-tournament game against Germany, he centered the second line alongside Chris Kreider and Johnny Gaudreau. Jeff Blashill, the Red Wings own head coach, will be behind the American bench for the third straight year, so Larkin will have all the freedom in the world to play his game.
While Larkin could serve as Captain America’s stunt double in Avengers: Endgame, Luke Glendening is making his first appearance on the international stage. There is not much to say about the Michigan-born Glendening except for that he plays his role well. He is a bonafide checking forward that serves as an effective penalty killer, but he has never scored more than 23 points in an NHL season. Glendening is essentially Blashill’s Swiss Army knife for the tournament.
Team Czech Republic
The 21-year-old Filip Hronek is another Red Wings player who has had their fair share of appearances in global tournaments. Hronek has played in the 2015 World U18 Championship, both the 2016 and 2017 World Juniors tournaments, and the 2017 World Championship where he produced three points in eight games.
Hronek has legitimate breakout potential heading into the 2019-20 season. Aside from Radko Gudas, Hronek may play more than any other defensemen on Team Czech Republic. He produced 23 points in 46 games for the Red Wings during the 2018-19 season and looks like the power-play quarterback of the future. A strong showing during the event could do wonders for his confidence and help him blossom into a dependable rearguard for years to come.
25-year-old goaltender Patrick Rybar is expected to fight for the starting role on Team Slovakia at this year’s tournament. The Red Wings signed him as an undrafted free agent in 2018. He started three games at the 2018 World Championship and posted a 2.49 goals-against average to go along with a .906 save percentage.
Rybar had a modest season with the Grand Rapids Griffins during his first year of North American professional hockey. He had an unsightly 16-21-4 record as well as a 2.49 goals-against average and .908 save percentage. All things considered, Rybar is just organizational depth for the Red Wings as there are several more promising goaltender prospects in the pipeline.
The 2019 World Championship
The 2019 IIHF World Championship starts on May 10 and culminates on May 26. This year’s tournament is in Slovakia, particularly the cities of Bratislava and Košice. Sweden reigned supreme at the event in 2018, and they are one of the favorites again alongside the United States, Canada, and Russia. While Red Wings fans would prefer to be watching playoff hockey at this time of year, the tournament will offer a great look at some of the key players on the team.