The Edmonton Oilers’ season has come to an end and for most players at this time their hockey is done until training camps open next fall.
That isn’t true of a number of the Oilers this season however, as there will be at least six members heading to the IIHF World Hockey Championships to represent their country.
Canada has four players representing the Oilers as Devan Dubnyk, Justin Schultz, Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle will all wear the red and white.
Ladislav Smid will play for the Czech Republic and his blue line partner Jeff Petry will suit up for the USA. Nail Yakupov, who publicly stated his desire to represent Russia was not added to their preliminary roster.
Obviously all of the players involved would rather be participating in the Stanley Cup playoffs, but the World Championships provide a different type of experience and opportunity.
It’s an excellent chance to play with fellow countrymen and the thrill of representing your country can be a once in a lifetime chance. Especially with a lot of the younger members who may not have had the option before.
There is also the opportunity to make a good impression for future tournaments on the international stage.
This is especially true in the case of Canada, where a number of the players will be using the WHC as a chance to audition for the 2014 Canadian Olympic squad.
Everyone remembers Drew Doughty being a force on the blue line in the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver. Part of the reason he made the team was a strong showing in the previous World Championships.
There will be plenty of players in that boat for Canada at the tournament, as they will bring a very talented squad. Leading the way will be 2010 Olympic member Eric Staal as well as 2014 candidates such as Steven Stamkos, Claude Giroux, Matt Duchene and Jordan Staal.
All of the Oilers playing for Canada could have a shot, to varying degrees, at getting an invite to the Olympic camp. It will be the fourth WHC for Dubnyk and Eberle and the first for Hall and Schultz.
Dubnyk would be a long shot based on the other Canadian candidates and the competition he would face.
Justin Schultz has been impressive in his first campaign and could be valuable on the big ice, especially on the power play, but he will have to make a significant impression to jump over a number of Canadian defencemen already on the depth chart.
Such is not the case for Hall and Eberle. Both players have legitimate chances at making the team in 2014.
Eberle had an all-star season last year and who can forget the heroics he has performed with the maple leaf on, especially during his WJC career.
Hall had a breakout season and lead the Oilers in most offensive categories and finished in the top ten in league scoring. His type of speed is rare, even in the NHL and he could be dangerous on the big ice overseas.
The World Championships could be a chance to make their mark internationally. The problem, as it usually is with the Canadian team is the numbers game. Canada in most years could field two teams and both would be extremely competitive. There will be a number of established as well as up and coming talents pushing for one of the 23 spots on the roster come 2014.
From an Oilers perspective it will also be interesting to see how Dubnyk and Mike Smith co-exist as the two goaltenders, as Smith could be a free agent target for the Oilers if he doesn’t re-sign in Phoenix.
The same can be said for the other two Oilers participating as both Smid and Petry will be vying for spots with their respective countries as well.
Smid was left off the Czech roster in 2010, and it would be surprising if the same happened in 2014. One of the better defensive defencemen in the league, he has proven his worth as he has worn the Czech uniform at many previous international tournaments including three WJC appearances and one previous WHC.
There will be spots available to be had one would think for 2014, as defencemen such as Tomas Kaberle, Filip Kuba and Pavel Kubina from 2010 will be far past their prime by then.
Smid will be a key to the 2013 WHC team as well as he is one of three NHL defencemen on the roster. Joined by Colorado’s Jan Hejda and Phoenix’s Zbynek Michalek, he will be expected to play big minutes and likely against the other team’s top line.
Petry was not a full time NHLer in 2010, but he has certainly established himself since. The ice time leader for the Oilers the last two seasons, he is an excellent skater, moves the puck well and is responsible in all three zones. He will get a chance to play for the USA in his second straight WHC.
He will face more competition with the American squad for the 2014 Olympics than Smid, as all defencemen from 2010 will be eligible to return with the exception of Brian Rafalski.
There are also a number of skilled young American defencemen entering the league in a similar situation to Petry that he will have to compete with. With a strong WHC however, he could have a leg up on the competition for next year.
There will be some of those defencemen with him on this year’s WHC team as well as they have gone with a very young group. They have even included junior prospect Jacob Trouba, similar to what Canada did last year with Ryan Murray.
The tournament gets underway Friday May 3 in both Helsinki and Stockholm.
Click here to see all preliminary rosters