Pre-tournament games are under way for the World Cup of Hockey, and whether you’re a fan of this tournament or not, it is providing some interesting opportunities for several Canucks. Six members of the Vancouver Canucks will be competing in this tournament, which is taking place from September 17th to October 1st in Toronto. Here’s a look at what to expect from Vancouver’s participating players.
Two Canucks are competing with Team Europe, and both are expected to play key roles on the team. Danish winger Jannik Hansen, who is coming off of a great season with the Canucks in which he had a career-best 22 goals, is one of them. It is anticipated that he will contribute to the team’s penalty kill, and may also be given opportunities to play on the powerplay.
“If you look at his two-way game, he’s going to be a very important player for us in both directions,” Team Europe coach Ralph Krueger told The Province. “When I look at Jannik, he could be a big surprise in this tournament. He had elite speed and that’s going to be important … He’s just a very complete individual who has strong character, and he can be a strong physical presence for us too.”
The second Canuck competing on Team Europe is Swiss defender Luca Sbisa, one of only two defenders on the team who is under the age of 30. Sbisa suffered from injuries last season and played just 41 games. However, Krueger is looking forward to having him on the team.
“Having coached Switzerland for 13 years, I know Luca really really well,” said Krueger. “He’s going to help our team, in giving us a two-way game. He’s a tough player both physically and mentally. He’s a good tournament player.”
Four Canucks – Henrik Sedin, Daniel Sedin, Loui Eriksson, and Jacob Markstrom – are representing Sweden. Not only is Henrik the team’s captain (and Daniel an alternate captain), but this will be the first chance for fans to see the Sedins play with the newly acquired Loui Eriksson this season. The trio last played together (and won gold together) at the 2013 IIHF World Championship.
“I think those guys are thinking hockey alike,” Team Sweden coach Rikard Gronborg told nhl.com. “I think they like to play with each other and they feed off each other. It’s a great combination.”
Already they are producing goals; Eriksson scored in Sweden’s first pre-tournament game on September 8th against Finland with a goal assisted on by Daniel (and Victor Hedman). The three will also play on Sweden’s top powerplay unit along with defenders Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Erik Karlsson. This unit is projected to be the best powerplay unit in the tournament.
“[Eriksson] is a really smart player. You can tell right away when you step on the ice with him he seems to find the rights spots. We know where he’s going to be,” Henrik told nhl.com. “He’s smart on the forecheck. None of us are super fast skaters or strong in the corners. We try to rely on our smarts and being in the right spot, so it’s fun to play with a guy like that.”
Besides the chemistry the Sedins and Eriksson are expected to display, the Sedins bring a wealth of experience and leadership to Team Sweden. The Sedins and goalie Henrik Lundqvist are the only players on the team who won Olympic gold for Sweden in 2006, and the Sedins’ extensive experience in the NHL (which includes a trip to the Stanley Cup Final) made them obvious choices for captains.
“[Henrik’s] experience is invaluable in a tournament like this,” said Gronborg. “He’s been around and had success nationally as well as in the National Hockey League. For me and the rest of the staff it was pretty natural for him to be the guy.”
As for Markstrom, while he played part of Sweden’s first pre-tournament game against Finland, it’s unlikely we will see him in net again (unless something happens to Lundqvist, Sweden’s number one goaltender).