Over the past two seasons, the Vegas Golden Knights have secured a spot in the upper echelon of the NHL. In season one, they made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Final, losing to the Washington Capitals. In season two, they were sent home in a controversial Game 7 against their bitter rivals, the San Jose Sharks. Two seasons in, two playoff visits. Not a bad start for the Golden Knights.
Through the expansion draft, trades, and smart free agent acquisitions, they have set themselves up for success for the foreseeable future. A silver-lining of their first-round exit is the players’ newfound ability to play in the IIHF World Championships in Slovakia. Starting on May 10, the tournament will showcase high-level talent from around the world. Some players choose to opt out of the tournament, whereas others are excited for the chance to play. With their star-studded roster, including the likes of Mark Stone, Paul Stastny, Max Pacioretty, Jonathan Marchessault, and William Karlsson, the Golden Knights will be well represented at the tournament.
Golden Knights Participating
Despite Canada being one of the deepest pools to get players out of, Stone has to be a shoo-in for the roster. At 26 years old, he has the reputation of a solid 200-foot player with elite scoring touch. He led all Golden Knights in points in both the regular season and playoffs. Acquiring the elite winger from the Ottawa Senators at the trade deadline single-handedly turned their season around. Stone has been confirmed as a member of Team Canada’s roster.
Joining Stone in Slovakia will be defenseman Shea Theodore and the speedy Marchessault. Theodore is a plus-defender with offensive upside, making him an easy add for the boys in red. He has a chance to be the biggest surprise of the tournament, just not to the Golden Knights faithful. Playing in his first IIHF tournament for Team Canada, Marchessault brings speed, tenacity, and an above average wrist shot to the mix. Seeing him alongside the likes of John Tavares, Sean Couturier, and Anthony Mantha will be a blast for the fans back in Vegas.
Will Any Other Golden Knights Players Make a Roster?
At the time of publication, the only countries to release their final rosters have been Canada and the United States. Potential American additions could have been defenseman Nate Schmidt, defenseman and Hobey Baker finalist Jimmy Schuldt, power forward Alex Tuch, or Pacioretty. Neither of those men are on the final Team USA roster, but they all would have been great additions. As of now, it is not public knowledge who was/was not approached to play, by either Canada or the USA. With numerous talented international players in their system, expect to see more Golden Knights participating in the tournament this summer.
Last year’s tournament included two current Golden Knights roster members. Playing for Team Russia in the 2018 IIHF World Championships was Nikita Gusev, the reigning Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) MVP. With his defection to the NHL, there is a chance that Gusev is left off the roster, but odds are that the Russians invite the skilled winger. Tomas Hyka (Chicago-AHL) also participated in last year’s tournament as a member of the Czech team. Hyka will most-likely reprise his role on their roster.
Two interesting names who did not play last year, due to the Golden Knights’ Stanley Cup Final run, are Pierre-Edouard Bellemare (France) and Karlsson (Sweden). Last season was a coming-out party for Karlsson as he broke out for a career-high 43 goals in 82 games. That type of season surely puts his name on Team Sweden’s radar. A perennial powerhouse, the Swedes would have been foolish to go on without the dynamic two-way center, but he reportedly declined to compete. The restricted free agent (RFA) has been a workhorse for the Golden Knights over the past two seasons and deserves a long summer off.
Bellemare has represented France in numerous tournaments and should certainly be brought into the mix, depending on the health of his injured knee. He injured the knee in the last shift of their Game 6 loss to the Sharks. The penalty-killing ace ended up missing Game 7 and may have played his last game in a Golden Knights sweater. If he is good to go, he could add NHL experience and a well-rounded game to a French team with limited high-level professional experience. Bellemare would potentially be a leader of the French club.
Another supremely talented player with health questions is Erik Haula. He has missed a large part of the NHL season with a knee injury and it would be surprising to see him on the ice with Finland. Haula is certainly good enough to make their roster, but he will be spending the summer resting and preparing for the final season on his current deal. When healthy, he is a flashy skater, with an above average shot and puck skills. He will be very important for the Golden Knights during the 2019-20 season.
How to Watch
NHL Network is the exclusive home to the IIHF World Championships in the United States. They are planning to broadcast over 30 live games, starting with Canada vs Finland (don’t miss that one) on the first morning of the tournament. Be sure to check out all the action, culminating in the medal round on Sunday, May 26. Sweden, Finland, Canada, Russia, and the USA will be extremely fun clubs to watch. Team USA, specifically, will be loads of fun to watch as they embrace their roster’s youth.