Their dream of hoisting the Stanley Cup deferred for at least another season, several National Hockey League players are going for the gold overseas, and players of color are no exception.
Edmonton Oilers defenseman Darnell Nurse and Los Angeles Kings defenseman Alec Martinez are in Denmark hoping to power their countries to a gold medal at the International Ice HockeyFederation World Championship, which begins Friday.
Nurse’s Team Canada will face Martinez’s Team USA in an opening round match Friday at Jyske Bank Boxen in Herning, Denmark, at 10:15 a.m. Eastern Time. The NHL Network will televise the May 4-20 tourney in the United States and TSN will carry it in Canada.
Nurse and Martinez became available to play in the 16-country tournament after the Oilers had a disappointing 2017-18 season and didn’t qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs and the Kings got swept in the first round by the surprising expansion Vegas Golden Knights.
They’ll join other NHLers whose teams also either missed the playoffs or suffered early Stanley Cup exits to form world championship tournament squads with way more talent than the U.S. and Canadian teams that skated at the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea.
Those teams were stocked with U.S. and Canadian players from North American minor leagues, colleges, European and Russian leagues after the NHL opted not to suspend operations during the Winter Games to allow its players to participate.
So how good are these IIHF teams?
Team Canada is captained by Oilers center Connor McDavid, he of 41 goals and 67 assists in 82 games.
He’s joined by fellow Oilers center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (24 goals, 24 assists, 62 games); St. Louis Blues center Brayden Schenn (24 goals, 46 assists, 82 games); New York Islanders center Mathew Barzal (22 goals, 63 assists, 82 games); Buffalo Sabres center Ryan O’Reilly (24 goals, 37 assists, 81 games); and, of course, Nurse (6 goals, 20 assists, 82 games).
Martinez (9 goals, 16 assists, 77 games) is joined on the U.S. team by Chicago Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane (27 goals, 49 assists, 82 games); Calgary Flames left wing Johnny Gaudreau(24 goals, 60 assists, 80 games); New York Rangers left wing Chris Krieder (16 goals, 21 assists, 58 games); Blackhawks right wing Alex DeBrincat (28 goals, 24 assists, 82 games); and Columbus Blue Jackets right wing Cam Atkinson ( 24 goals, 22 assists, 65 games).
New York Rangers center Mika Zibanejad (27 goals, 20 assists, 62 games) is representing Sweden at the worlds. He tallied a goal and an assist in Sweden’s 5-0 rout of Belarus on Friday.
And speaking about international hockey tournaments, congrats to Team USA defenseman K’Andre Miller and Team Canada forwards Serron Noeland Akil Thomas –three potential first-round picks at the 2018 NHL Draft in June – for their play at the 2018 IIHF U18 World Championship that ended last weekend in Russia.
Noel, a right wing for the Ontario Hockey League’s Oshawa Generals who’s ranked the 10th-best North American skater eligible for the draft by NHL Central Scouting, had 2 goals and 4 assists in five games for Canada.
Miller, ranked as the 23rd-best North American skater available for the June 22-23 draft in Dallas, had a goal and 2 assists for the silver medal-winning U.S. team that lost 3-2 to Finland in the tournament final.
Whichever NHL team selects Miller will have to wait for his services. He’s committed to play hockey for the University of Wisconsin Badgers starting this fall.
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