The 2019 IIHF World Championship is just around the corner, and for fans of NHL teams not in the playoffs, the tournament can be a great way to see some of your favorite players on the international stage. Nashville Predators fans likely thought they’d still be cheering on the team, but instead were subjected to a first-round exit. And while watching the World Championship doesn’t replace the excitement of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, it is a nice alternative for Predators fans wanting to watch hockey.
This year, there are five Predators who will represent their nations at the tournament. This article tells who those players are, as well as which ones likely could have played had they wanted to.
Predators at the 2019 World Championship
The 2019 World Championship will be Dante Fabbro’s second experience representing Canada at the senior level. The 20-year-old defenseman has represented Canada at four junior tournaments – the 2015 World Hockey Challenge (U17 Tournament), the 2016 U18 Tournament, and the World Junior Championship (U20 Tournament) in 2017 and 2018 – as well as one senior tournament, the 2018 Spengler Cup. He even served as an alternate captain on the 2018 U20 team. In the junior tournaments, he’s totaled nine points, all assists, in 21 games. Canada medaled in both U20 Tournaments, capturing silver in 2017 and winning it all in 2018.
At the 2019 World Championship, Fabbro will be Canada’s second-youngest player after goaltender Carter Hart. He’ll also be part of a defense corps that doesn’t include anyone over the age of 25. Who knows how much playing time he’ll receive, but it’s clear that the way he played after turning pro, both in the regular season and in the playoffs, had an impact on him being added to the roster. It’s likely 2019 will be the first of many times Fabbro represents Canada at the senior level.
Kyle Turris is somewhat of a surprising addition to Canada’s roster, largely because of how much he struggled for the Predators the past two seasons. But regardless, he’s there, and is the roster’s elder statesman, as he’ll turn 30 in August. This will be Turris’ third time representing Canada at the World Championship, having done so in 2014 and 2018. He served as an alternate captain in 2014. In those tournaments, he’s accumulated four goals and eight points in 12 games. Canada didn’t win a medal in either year he’s played. Prior to playing at the senior level, Turris represented Canada three times on the junior level – at the 2006 U17 Tournament, the 2007 U18 Tournament, and the 2008 U20 Tournament. He and Canada won gold in 2008.
Mattias Ekholm has represented Sweden nearly every year since he was drafted in 2009. The defenseman, who was a darkhorse Norris Trophy candidate in the first half of 2018-19, will be participating in his fifth World Championship in 2019. He also played at the tournament in 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2018.
He and Sweden won gold in 2018 and bronze in 2014. Individually, he’s totaled four goals and 14 points in 24 World Championship games. As a junior-level player, he represented Sweden at the 2008 U18 Tournament and the 2010 U20 Tournament, winning bronze in 2010. He’ll be the oldest player on Sweden’s blue line at the 2019 World Championship.
Another Predator who’s a veteran on the international stage is defenseman Roman Josi, who’s been a mainstay on Switzerland’s senior teams since 2009. The 2019 World Championship will be his eighth, and he’s helped Switzerland win two silver medals, in 2013 and 2018. He’s also served in a leadership capacity, wearing an ‘A’ in 2014, 2015, and 2018. In his seven previous tournaments, he’s played in 46 games and has totaled eight goals and 27 points.
In addition to playing at the World Championships, Josi represented Switzerland on the senior level at the 2014 Sochi Olympics and was a member of Team Europe at the 2017 World Cup of Hockey. Furthermore, at the junior level, he played in two U18 Tournaments and four U20 Tournaments. Switzerland’s 2019 World Championship roster is an interesting one, comprised of four current NHLers, four others who’ve previously played in the NHL, and one 2018 draft pick with high upside (Philipp Kurashev). Josi isn’t the oldest player on Switzerland’s roster or on the blue line. However, he is the team’s most accomplished player and will have to play a key role for Switzerland to have success.
Although defenseman Yannick Weber isn’t the most accomplished NHL blueliner (456 games, 27 goals, 91 points), he is well known in his native Switzerland. The 2019 World Championship will be the fourth time he’s played in the tournament, having done so previously in 2009, 2014, and 2016. In 17 World Championship games, he’s totaled four goals and seven points. He’s also represented Switzerland at the 2010 Vancouver and 2014 Sochi Olympics and, as a junior-age player, participated in two U18 Tournaments and three U20 Tournaments. He may have been a seventh or eighth defenseman for the Predators in 2018-19, but he’ll likely have a top-six role on Switzerland’s 2019 World Championship team.
Predators with Previous World Championship Experience
In addition to the five players listed above, the Predators have a number of players who’ve played in previous World Championships and likely could have represented their nations in 2019 had they wanted to.
Two members of the Predators’ blue line, Ryan Ellis and P.K. Subban, have represented Canada in the past and likely could have again in 2019. Both have participated in World Championships, Ellis in 2014 and 2016 and Subban in 2013. When Canada takes their best defensemen, neither Ellis nor Subban are likely to make the roster. However, with players like Brent Burns, Drew Doughty, Aaron Ekblad, and Morgan Rielly not on the roster, Ellis and Subban are both talented enough to be on the team. But if Team Canada is intentionally going with a younger roster, it doesn’t make sense to include either player.
Mikael Granlund, Miikka Salomäki, and Eeli Tolvanen are all forwards with previous experience at the World Championships. Granlund even captained the squad in 2018. He and Tolvanen both would have been on the 2019 squad had they wanted to. It’s likely that Granlund wanted to take some time away from hockey given that he has a young child and also likely hasn’t had time to settle down following his trade at the deadline. Meanwhile, Tolvanen has played a lot of hockey the past two years; he played at the 2018 and 2019 U20 Tournaments, the 2018 World Championship, and the 2018 Winter Olympics. And that’s not including his play in the regular season.
In net, both Pekka Rinne and Juuse Saros have represented Finland in the past. Even at 36, Rinne remains one of Finland’s best netminders and would have had the chance to backstop the team again in 2019 had he wanted to. Meanwhile, Saros, who’s played at three World Championships, is one of the nation’s best goaltenders but hasn’t played internationally since 2016.
Viktor Arvidsson and Filip Forsberg are Predators forwards who’ve played in previous World Championships, including 2018. Both are two of Sweden’s most talented wingers and would’ve played in the top-six had either wanted to play in 2019. Arvidsson is a relative newcomer to representing Sweden at the senior level, but both will be two of the country’s foundational pieces for the foreseeable future. Both likely wanted an offseason to rest considering each suffered injury in 2018-19.
Nick Bonino may only be a third-line center, but he’s represented the United States on a number of occasions, including at the 2015 and 2018 World Championships. Team USA won bronze at both tournaments, and he’s even produced with three goals and eight points in 15 games. Plus, with the country not getting Sean Couturier or Auston Matthews, among others, Bonino would have been a welcomed addition to the bottom-six, especially in a defensive role. However, with him playing in 277 games not including the preseasons over the past three seasons, it seems obvious why he’d want to pass on participating in 2019.
The 2019 World Championship
The 2019 IIHF World Championship takes place from May 10-26. Slovakia is the host nation this year with games taking place in Bratislava and Košice. With Canada and Sweden as two of the favorites in the tournament, there’s a strong chance Predators players earn some hardware. The World Championship may not be a replacement for playoff hockey, but it is exciting to see the world’s best players compete against each other.
My name is Kyle, and although I’m from Pennsylvania and grew up a Penguins fan, I cover the Predators here at The Hockey Writers. And while I would consider myself a Predators fan, I really enjoy watching all hockey and try to always take an objective approach to things. In addition to covering the Preds, I write hockey history and some statistical analysis pieces as well as book reviews.