The 2015 International Ice Hockey Federation World Championships start on Friday in Prague, Czech Republic and the Colorado Avalanche will be well represented with seven players skating for four different countries. The tournament spans about two weeks, culminating with the championship game on May 17.
Zach Redmond will be the Avs’ only representative on team USA. The 26-year-old will be making his Team USA debut. Redmond has skated in just 77 NHL contests, but 59 of them came this season with the Avalanche.
Erik Johnson would have been a lock to join Redmond on Team USA and lead their defensive corps, but the All-Star defenseman is still recovering from a knee scope he underwent in late January. Johnson set a career high with 12 goals in just 47 games before the procedure. He was leading the Avs with a whopping 24:25 of average ice time.
The Avalanche are sending four players to join Team Canada’s stacked roster. Forwards Matt Duchene, Ryan O’Reilly, and Nathan MacKinnon and defenseman Tyson Barrie will skate for the tournament’s heavy favorites. The larger ice surface should be beneficial to this speedy group of talented players.
Duchene is set to represent his country in the World Championships for the fourth time in his career. He also won a gold medal with Team Canada in the 2014 Olympics. Duchene, 24, has collected 318 points in 419 NHL games over the course of his six-year career. He led the Avalanche with four game-winning goals this season. He also has eight goals and four assist in 22 World Championship games.
O’Reilly will join Duchene on Team Canada for the World Championships for the third appearance of his career. In his first two appearances, O’Reilly tallied three goals and four assists in 15 games. The two-way forward tied for the NHL lead with 98 takeovers this past season. He also led all Avalanche forwards by winning 53.4 percent of his faceoffs and averaging 19:43 of ice time per contest. He was second on the club with 38 assists while playing in all 82 games on the season.
MacKinnon had his disappointing sophomore season cut short by a fractured foot in March, but the young stud is healthy now and he’s ready to represent his country in the World Championships for the second time in his young career. The 19-year-old scored four points in eight games in his tournament debut in Belarus last season. The former no. 1 overall draft pick has 101 points in 146 career NHL games.
Barrie is coming off one of the most impressive offensive seasons a defenseman has had in an Avalanche sweater. The 23-year-old scored 12 goals and a team-leading 41 assists to become just the fourth blue-liner in club history to break the 50-point mark in a season. Barrie also led Colorado with a plus-5 rating and was second on the team with 16 power play points. He previously represented Canada in the 2011 World Junior Championships.
Jan Hejda will represent the tournament’s host country, the Czech Republic. He was named the club’s assistant captain after a two-year hiatus from international competition. The 6-foot-4 defenseman is no stranger to the Czech Republic National Team – he previously played in six World Championships and an Olympic games. Hejda, 36, led all Avs’ defensemen with 170 hits this past season.
Team Russia will have to make due without the services of Semyon Varlamov. The 27-year-old goalie can’t join his Russian countrymen in Prague due to complications stemming from his 2013 domestic abuse case, according to Eurolanche.com. He was Team Russia’s starter in the 2014 Olympic games in Sochi, Russia and they would certainly love to have him back if he was available.
Landeskog will also miss the opportunity to represent his country, Sweden, after undergoing offseason wrist surgery. The Avs’ captain – who led the team with 59 points this past season – is expected to be ready for the start of the next season.
The Avalanche will also send one player to the Czech Republic from their minor league system. Defenseman Markus Lauridsen will skate with Team Denmark for the third time in his career. The 24-year-old registered 16 points with the Lake Erie Monsters this season.
Nathan is a staff writer for Mile High Sports. He can be reached on Twitter at @TheRealNatron.