With the Kings failing to reach the post-season, four Kings players have elected to play for their countries in the IIHF World Championships this year.
Ilya Kovalchuk has rejoined the Russian team for his 11th appearance at Worlds. He didn’t go last year, after winning gold with the team at the Olympics in February. Thanks to the wildness of the first round of NHL playoffs, Alexander Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin are also members of the team.
Adrian Kempe returns to Sweden’s national team. He’s joined this year by his brother, Arizona Coyotes forward Mario Kempe, so we can look forward to off-ice shenanigans from them. This year, Sweden’s roster is made up almost entirely of names NHL fans will recognize, including Henrik Lundqvist and William Nylander. The Swedes are the defending Worlds champs and are looking to repeat. The repeat I’m hoping for is a rematch of the handsomest hockey fight ever: Kempe vs. USA’s Dylan Larkin.
Speaking of Team USA, Alec Martinez is back on the blue line for them. He seemed to have a great time last year, and the US is pretty stacked for 2019. The team features both Hughes boys among the many NHL stars. This will be the first time many fans will be seeing Jack Hughes play and how he competes with and against NHL players will be an interesting barometer for when he goes pro. Another player making his Men’s World’s debut is goalie Cayden Primeau (yes, Keith’s son). He’s a Habs prospect, but he killed it at World Juniors and for Northeastern University this year.
In action outside of the “elite” division, our beloved captain Anze Kopitar showed up for Slovenia. He didn’t participate last year, but came out this year as Slovenia risked being relegated to Division 1 Group B. As you should all know from Sarah’s recaps, Slovenia played from April 29 - May 5, came in fourth, and avoided relegation. Yay, Kopi!
Kempe and Kovalchuk face-off on May 21. Martinez won’t see his fellow Kings in the preliminary round, but you can find the rest of the 2019 schedule here.