The 2019 World Championships have come and gone, with Team Finland capturing gold. In what was a highly-competitive tournament, the World Championships were a great way for fans of NHL teams not in the playoffs to still watch their favorite players on the international stage.
The Nashville Predators were a team that was ousted early in the playoffs, and as a result, their players were able to participate in the tournament. In total, five Predators played at this year’s World Championships, and all five advanced past the preliminary round. Here’s how each of those players performed.
Canada entered the tournament as one of the favorites to win gold. Therefore, it shouldn’t be surprising that they won their group with a 6-1-0 record and their only loss occurring against Finland. In the quarterfinals, they beat Switzerland 3-2 in overtime after Damon Severson tied it with one second remaining in regulation and Mark Stone ended it early into overtime. In the semifinals, Canada beat the Czech Republic 5-1, setting themselves up for a rematch with Finland for gold. However, they were unable to achieve a better result, losing by an identical 3-1 score. There were two Predators on Canada’s roster, including the captain, Kyle Turris.
This year’s World Championships were 20-year-old Dante Fabbro’s first of his career. Being that young on a Canadian blue line that included proven NHL defensemen Shea Theodore, Darnell Nurse, and Severson, Fabbro wasn’t expected to play much. And, at first, he didn’t, playing just 7:31 of ice time in the tournament-opening game against Finland.
However, as the games wore on, and Brandon Montour went down with injury, Fabbro was leaned on more heavily, with his ice time increasing at the same time. In the gold medal game, he played 20:32, second-most on either team behind Theodore. Fabbro finished the tournament with one goal and two assists in nine games, and his plus-10 plus/minus rating tied for second on the team despite missing one game with injury after he was hit in the face with a puck.
Oh, and he didn’t take any penalties. Given how well he played against top competition, Fabbro’s development and trajectory continue upward. I’d expect him to enter Predators’ training camp with an inside track at a top-four spot on the blue line.
In his third World Championships, Turris captained Canada for the first time in his career. After a down 2018-19 season in which he struggled to stay healthy and produce, he was looking to turn his play around at this tournament. He did just that, finishing with four goals and six assists in 10 games. His 10 points tied for second on the team behind Mark Stone and Anthony Mantha, and his plus-11 was tops on the team. Centering a line between Mantha and either Tyson Jost or Jared McCann, Turris thrived. He made great passes, displaying his playmaking abilities, and went to the net to score goals. He was also strong defensively.
Following his season with the Predators, a successful World Championships was exactly what Turris needed and it can only result in good things. Either the Predators keep him and this performance propels him to a successful 2019-20 season, or they trade him and his play will increase his trade value.
Sweden was another favorite to win the 2019 World Championships, and it’s easy to see why with players like Henrik Lundqvist, John Klingberg, Elias Pettersson, and William Nylander on the roster. However, when the games started, Sweden struggled, dropping their first game 5-2 to the Czech Republic. That was in spite of Nylander’s 18 points leading the tournament.
Throughout the preliminary round, Sweden had a 5-2-0 record, finishing third in their group. They still qualified for the playoff round and faced rival Finland in the quarterfinals, dropping the game 5-4 in overtime. Although the Predators have plenty of Swedes on their roster, only one participated in the tournament.
Mattias Ekholm represented Sweden at the World Championships for the second straight year and fifth time overall. He was part of the leadership group this time, wearing an ‘A’ for the first time. As a result, he had a heavy workload throughout the tournament, regularly playing over 20 minutes a game, including 23:04 in their quarterfinals loss, second only to Klingberg in the game. He finished with two assists in eight games, second-fewest points among Swedish defensemen who played in at least one game. He was also a plus-two and only took two penalties during the tournament. That’s encouraging considering his issues with penalties during the playoffs.
Switzerland is generally not one of the favorites to do well on the international stage, although they have been known to pull off the upset. The 2019 World Championships were no different. A majority of their roster is comprised of players who play in the Swiss league, although they did have a few NHL players, including Nico Hischier, Nino Niederreiter, former Predator Kevin Fiala, and current Predators Roman Josi and Yannick Weber. In the preliminary round, Switzerland went 4-3-0, losing to Sweden, Russia, and the Czech Republic. They qualified for the playoff round as the fourth seed from their group and lost to Canada in overtime in the quarterfinals.
Roman Josi is one of the regulars to represent Switzerland on international ice, and the 2019 World Championships were his eighth time participating in the tournament. He wore an ‘A’ for the fourth time and was expected to be a workhorse on the blue line. Switzerland relied heavily on him throughout the tournament, and he typically played around 23 minutes in close games. In their quarterfinals loss to Canada, he played 29:26, nearly five minutes more than anyone else in the game.
Offensively, he posted one goal and six points in eight games. His six points tied for third on the team and were three more than any other Swiss blueliner. He also finished with a plus-eight rating, which led the team by three. Josi’s performance was as expected, stepping up in the biggest moments and guiding the Swiss blue line.
To me, Yannick Weber was somewhat of a surprising addition to Switzerland, even though it was his fourth World Championships, although it was his first time doing so since 2016. He was one of the more well-known Swiss defensemen, however, he didn’t play a big role in the tournament. He was often kept to under 15 minutes a game and was twice a healthy scratch, including the quarterfinals match. He had one assist in seven games, was a plus-four, and accumulated 18 penalty minutes, eight more than any other Swiss player. He even received a game misconduct for a boarding penalty he took against Austria. It was not a good showing for Weber.
All-in-all, it was a good tournament for Predators players. Although none of them won gold with Finland, all five players reached the playoff round. Fabbro and Turris were the most encouraging, and both players’ performances will hopefully be a sign of things to come this fall.