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May 26: Gold-Medal Thriller Goes to Host Czechia

Seven Kraken players and one top prospect have now finished their play in Czechia, where the celebration of the host country's 2024 IIHF World Championship gold is likely to last beyond Sunday. The Czechs won a tightly played title game Sunday, 2-0, moving Switzerland to the silver-medal platform.

NHL star David Pastrnak (Boston) scored the game-winner mid-third period to break a scoreless tie, and NHL center David Kampf scored a late empty-net goal with 19 seconds remaining to get the party started for Czechia, which last won the Worlds in 2010 and last medaled (bronze) in 2022.

Recap on Kraken: Burky Wins Bronze and Finishes as Top-10 Scorer

Forward Andre Burakovsky earned a bronze medal with Sweden, which edged Team Canada, 4-2, Sunday. Burakovsky notched the primary assist on a game-tying goal (making it 2-2) early second period, five minutes after Canada seized a one-goal lead. In the first period, Canada defenseman and Kraken stalwart Jamie Oleksiak took advantage of pressure inside the Swedish defensive zone to set up Canada’s first score in the opening period, tying the game at 1-1 after 20 minutes.

Oleksiak, Brandon Tanev and Jared McCann will all return to North America without a medal after dropping a heartbreaker shootout matchup with Czechia Saturday, then falling in a tight game Sunday salted late on an empty net goal by former Kraken forward Marcus Johansson. The original Kraken led Sweden with six goals and six assists in nine games.

Tanev finished Worlds with four goals and an assist for five points in 10 games. Oleksiak assisted on three goals and played stellar defense in the tourney, while McCann scored three goals. Kraken forward Tomas Tatar scored a goal and added five assists for Slovakia, which lost in the quarterfinals. Seattle forward Pierre-Edouard Bellemare scored two goals for France, which did not make the final eight but avoided relegation. Philipp Grubauer helped Germany reach the quarterfinals with two wins in four starts. Oscar Fisker Molgaard, 19, a Kraken 2023 second-round draft choice, was one of only 14 players under 20 at Worlds. He represented Denmark and Seattle with impressive production and increasing trust from his coaches, notching a goal and three pivotal assists in seven games.

When asked about Worlds participation at his end-of-season press conference, Kraken GM Ron Francis said he was happy for Burakovsky to keep playing “highly competitive” games given the winger’s injury disruptions the last two seasons. Sunday, Burakovsky was active again in a tournament during which he compiled four goals and seven assists, a top-10 mark among players. Only five skaters scored more points.

“We came here to win the gold, and we didn't, but at least we go home with bronze, which is way better than nothing,” said Andre Burakovsky post-game, per the International Ice Hockey Federation website. “It was a hard game. I think a lot of guys were feeling tired. It's a long tournament, but we had a good talk at the hotel last night, and it's always fun to play Canada. We came out and wanted to win, and that's all that matters.”

May 24: Gold Medal Final to be Switzerland Facing Host Czechia

A disappointing day for four Kraken skaters playing for Canada and Sweden was just the opposite for host nation Czechia at the IIHF 2024 World Championships on Saturday. In the early semifinal, the Czechs and Swedes were tied 2-2 at first intermission before the hosts poured in three straight second-period goals in three minutes to take a lead that didn’t relinquish amid mega-decibels from the partisan and joyous crowd. The final was a 7-3 upset of the tourney’s No. 1 seed, advancing Czechia to Sunday’s gold medal game. Kraken forward Andre Burakovsky and his Sweden teammates will vie for the bronze medal in Sunday’s earlier game.

In the second semifinal, Switzerland jumped out to a 2-0 lead against Canada. Kraken fan-favorite Brandon Tanev halved the Swiss lead four minutes into the middle period, scoring his fourth goal at Worlds. Tanev tallied net front while teammate and Seattle D-man Jamie Oleksiak was also at the crease wreaking havoc. Canada dramatically knotted the game with two minutes remaining in regulation on a score by captain John Tavares, but Czech prevailed in the best-of-five-attempts shootout. Tanev, Oleksiak and Kraken forward Jared McCann will look to help No. 2 overall seed Candan win bronze against Sweden. Both games will be televised on NHL Network.

May 23: Kraken Forwards Fortify Canada Victory

Looking for his country to get an early boost in Thursday’s quarterfinal round at the 2024 IIHF World Championships in Czechia, Kraken leading scorer, Jared McCann deployed his formidable skill set just 2:45 into a matchup with Slovakia. When Canada defenseman Colton Parayko (St. Louis Blues) intercepted a pass in the neutral zone, McCann smoothly and rapidly spun from skating back to curling into the offensive zone. He took the pass in full stride, then weaved through a pair of defenders (what was effectively a 1-on-4 to get the Slovakia goalie Samuel Hlavaj to commit to an unsuccessful poke-check. McCann protected the puck, then flipped it into an open net.

Canada scored again in the first frame and went into the second intermission with a 3-1 lead, sealing the game and a place in Saturday’s semifinals with a pair of early third-period goals. McCann started the sequence on Canada’s fifth goal but didn’t get an official assist. The sequence ended with Seattle teammate Brandon Tanev playing his hustle-and-get-netfront game, jamming in a rebound. Both Tanev and McCann have scored three goals for Team Canada while Kraken defenseman Jamie Oleksiak has been solid in all zones, pairing with young Buffalo Sabres defenseman Bowen Byram.

Sweden Outlasts Rival Finn in Overtime, Semifinals Set

In Thursday’s last quarterfinal, neighboring nations Sweden and Finland were locked in a scoreless duel until the Swedes broke the tie with five minutes left. Finland notched the equalizer in the final minute of regulation before Minnesota Wild forward Joel Eriksson-Ek ripped home the game-winner to afford top overall seed Sweden to advance to a Saturday semifinal match with host Czechia (it will be loud), the latter upsetting Team USA  in a 1-0 Thursday. Canada will face Switzerland in the other semifinal. The gold medal and bronze medal games will be Sunday. All games will be televised on NHL Network.

Germany, Grubauer Ousted by Switzerland

Kraken goaltender Philipp Grubauer made 22 saves, keeping his Germany teammates in the game throughout, but especially with the Swiss dominating play in the first two periods. Germany was only a goal short of forcing overtime in the third period but couldn’t find the equalizer. But a strong Switzerland squad moves on to the semifinals with a 3-1 victory that included an empty-net score with 50 seconds remaining.

May 21

The matchups are set for the quarterfinals of the IIHF World Championship in Czechia. Six Kraken players are advancing to the medals, including the trio of Brandon Tanev, Jared McCann and Jamie Oleksiak for Team Canada and Andre Burakovsky for Sweden. Both of those nations topped all contenders in group play and will be No. 1 seeds. Canada faces Slovakia and Kraken forward Tomas Tatar in one of Thursday’s early games (7:20 a.m. Pacific), while Sweden draws long-time rival Finland in a later game (11:20 a.m. Pacific).

Burakovsky scored again for Sweden Tuesday in a 6-1 victory over Slovakia. He now has four goals and six assists in seven games; only four players notched higher point totals in the preliminary round.

Thursday’s other quarterfinals include Germany and Kraken goalie Philipp Grubauer taking on Switzerland (7:20 a.m. Pacific) and Team USA looking at a quarterfinals showdown with host Czechia (11:20 a.m. Pacific), which nearly upset Canada Tuesday, overcoming a two-goal deficit later in regulation before a delirious crowd at Prague Arena only to lose in overtime. The tournament games are available on NHL Network.

May 20

Sweden extended its perfect record Monday, notching a sixth straight regulation win for the maximum 18 standings points with one more game to play in the preliminary round of the 2024 IIHF World Championship in Czechia. Kraken forward Andre Burakovsky set up the Swedes’ first goal in a tightly-contested game against France and Kraken center Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, then added an empty-net goal with four seconds remaining in the 3-1 victory.

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Burakovsky’s drop pass to linemate and countryman Lucas Raymond broke a scoreless tie eight minutes into the second period. Raymond scored 31 goals for the Detroit Red Wings this season and has been clicking with Burakovsky on scoring plays at Worlds. Burakovsky now has three goals and six assists in a half-dozen games. His nine points rank as the third-highest total among players from all nations. Sweden has clinched the No. 1 seed in Group B with Teams USA, Slovakia and Germany (with Philipp Grubauer in goal) jockeying of seeds No. 2 to 4 ahead of Thursday’s quarterfinals.

Molgaard Assists on Alex True Goal for Denmark

Team Denmark finished the preliminary round at Worlds with a 2-5-0 record and seven standings points, finishing sixth in Group A after falling to Finland, 3-1, Monday. The lone Danish goal was tallied by Alexander True, the Kraken’s 2021 expansion draft choice from the San Jose Sharks roster who was a major contributor to AHL Coachella Valley’s deep run the 2023 Calder Cup Playoffs. True tipped countryman’s Oscar Molgaard one-timer shot late game with the Denmark goaltender pulled for an extra attacker.

Molgaard, 19, of course, a Kraken 2023 second-round draft pick who earned trust and more playing time at Worlds. He started as third-line center and finished on the second line, totaling a goal and three assists over the last four games of the preliminary round.

May 18: Canada Withstands Early-Game Barrage

Canada forward Brandon Tanev was no doubt recruited to his national team roster for the 2024 IIHF World Championship in Czechia for his solid two-way play and high-energy work ethic. As a bonus, Tanev has scored two goals for his home country in the last two wins. Canada beat Finland Saturday, 5-3, for a fifth straight victory in the Group A preliminary round.

Finland burst out to a 2-0 lead against Canada and St. Louis Blues goaltender Jordan Binnington within the first four minutes of the game. But Tanev equalized late in the opening frame to make it 2-2 at the first intermission. Tanev, positioned net-front, took a pass from Team Canada captain and Toronto Maple Leafs star John Tavares. Finland goalie Harri Sateri made the initial stop, but while trying to cover the puck, he put it over the goal line with his own stick. A video review verified the puck fully crossed the goal line. Tanev was plus-two for the game.

The game was all Finland for the first six minutes, with the Finns firing 12 shots on goal before Canada’s first shot.

“After the first 10 minutes, I think we responded well," said Kraken/Canada D-man Jamie Oleksiak. "It was a good challenge for us. I think it was good for us to go through that, experience that and learn as a team.”

The squads were tied at three-apiece after two periods before Canada notched a pair of third-period scores to stay in contention for the top spot in Group A. The Canadians have fellow Group A leaders Switzerland and host Czechia to fill out their preliminary round schedule.

Sweden, Burakovsky Stay Perfect in Group B

Sweden is the only squad at Worlds to earn the full 15 points in five games played (three points for a regulation win, two for an overtime win and one for an OT loss). The Swedes walloped Latvia, 7-2, with Kraken winger Andre Burakovsky picking up a primary assist to make it seven points (two goals, five assists) so far for a player that Kraken GM said he was happy to see get more high-competition games played before the 2024-25 NHL season begins in October.

May 17

As a 19-year-old center playing second-line minutes for his native Denmark, Seattle prospect Oscar Fisker Molgaard is turning heads in the qualifying round of the IIHF Men’s World Championship, now entering a second week of play in Czechia. Molgaard assisted on both of linemate Mikkel Aagaard’s two goals, the first and third scores in what turned out to be a 4-3 final over a surprisingly tough-to-handle Great Britain squad (the Brits lost to Canada by just a 4-2 margin last weekend).

Molgaard’s first assist was highlight-reel quality and entertainment, along with tying the game at 1-1 just a minute after Great Britain opened the scoring five minutes into the contest. The 2023 second-rounder (No. 52 overall) sped into the offensive zone, taking a pass from fellow linemate Nick Olesen before driving toward the net. He suddenly and successfully pulled off a full spin move and backhanded a pass net-front while by then on the right-side goal line. Aagaard was there to flick the puck past the British goalie still busy with Molgaard’s burst—great stuff and fun for Kraken fans.

Molgaard, who has already played two seasons in Sweden’s top pro league, now has a goal and two assists in Denmark’s last two games and is earning the trust of the coaching staff, as evidenced by his increased shifts and time on the ice. The pivotal third goal for Denmark broke a 2-2 deadlock with Molgaard and linemates on the ice and the puck in the net just 1:43 into the middle period. Great Britain tied the game yet again late second period, but Denmark scored the lone goal of the final 20 minutes to secure the 4-3 victory. Molgaard and his Denmark squad (2-3-0 for the tourney) face a strong Switzerland outfit on Saturday. 

Grubauer, Germans Roll Against Kazakhstan

Germany took care of the necessary business of stocking up on standings points Friday, routing Kazakhstan, 8-2, with Kraken goaltender and fan favorite Philipp Grubauer making 18 saves. Germany (3-2-0) now has nine points in five games with another opportunity to tack on three more points with a potential regulation win against Poland Saturday.

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May 16

Team Canada remains undefeated at the 2024 IIHF World Championships in Czechia, notching a 4-1 defeat of Norway in Group A play at Prague Arena. Kraken wingers Brandon Tanev and Jared McCann, playing together on a line Thursday, both scored. Tanev opened the scoring mid-first period and McCann scored the Canadians’ final goal late third period.

Defenseman Jamie Oleksiak assisted on McCann’s goal, his second of the game. He also assisted on the game-winning goal by Calgary Flames forward Andrew Mangiapane two-plus minutes into the middle 20 minutes. McCann has scored two goals for Canada in the last two games. Canada plays Finland next on Saturday.

Burakovsky Sparks Sweden Scoring in 3-1 Win

While Canada is undefeated in qualifying rounds play at the Worlds, so is Sweden in Group B. The Swedes lead the group on the merit of four regulation wins for 12 points, the most standings points of all nations. Teams Canada and Switzerland are tied for Group A with four wins, including one each in overtime, for 11 points. Sweden’s 3-1 win over Kazakhstan on Thursday was kickstarted by Andre Burakovsky’s primary assist on the game’s opening goal midway through the first period.

Sweden scored the first three goals to ride the lead to a successful finish and play Latvia on Saturday. Burakovksy now has two goals and four assists for six points in the four games, including a three-game point streak.  Only two players at the tourney have notched more points.

May 15

Kraken 2023 second-round draft choice Oscar Fisker Molgaard scored his first goal for Denmark’s men’s team in a Wednesday Group A match at the IIHF World Championship in Prague.  His goal tied up the game with host Czechia at 3-3 four minutes into the third period. But the home crowd went home happy as Czechia poured in three unanswered goals in the ensuing seven minutes on the way to a 7-4 final.

Molgaard’s goal, set up three crisp, quick passes from teammates, showed off the Danish prospect’s skating speed as the trailer into the zone, able to take a feed without losing any pace, driving toward the net-front slot. The 19-year-old lefty then displayed his stickhandling and shooting chops by threading past two Czechia defenders (who looked like they were standing) before lifting the puck to the upper left corner. Here’s a clip of the goal (which unfortunately doesn’t show Molgaard’s emotional reaction in full.

Tatar Leads Slovakia to 4-0 Win with a Goal and Two Assists

Veteran Kraken forward Tomas Tatar has been a prolific scorer for his homeland, Slovakia, since lighting it up during international play as a junior. He was at it again Wednesday in Ostrava, CZ, leading his squad to a 2-0 first-period lead over Poland. Tatar assisted on the first goal two-plus minutes into the game, then scored the second one mid-frame, with the primary assist going to New Jersey Devils rookie defenseman Simon Nemec.

As it turned out, underdog Poland kept it close through the majority of the final two periods, with Slovakia notching two late goals to make it a 4-0 final.

Grubauer Solid in Germany Win to Move Ahead of USA

In other Wednesday action, Germany was victorious in an important Group B game in the standings behind 21 saves from Kraken goalie Philipp Grubauer. Meanwhile, German scorers notched eight goals on Latvia, chasing the starter after four scores and netting another four on NHL goaltender Elvis Merzlikins in a relief role. Germany now has six points in four games of the qualifying round while keeping Latvia at seven points through four games. The Slovakia win puts the neighboring nation at seven points, tied for second behind leader Sweden (with a maximum of nine points in the first three games).

Team USA sits behind Slovakia and Germany with four points in its first three games, which includes losses to Sweden and Slovakia (the latter in overtime). The Americans will get a chance to make up ground Thursday against France and Kraken center and penalty-killer extraordinaire Pierre-Edouard Bellemare (also with four points after three games). Bellemare has two goals in the tournament to date. Canada teammates Jared McCann, Jamie Oleksiak and Brandon Tanev return to action Thursday against Norway.  

May 14

Going into Tuesday’s qualifying-round game against Austria, the expectation was Team Canada would post its third Group A win in three outings at the 2024 IIHF World Championship in Prague. Not many observers would change that expectation after Canada built a 6-1 lead after 40 minutes. Kraken leading scorer Jared McCann scored his nation’s fourth goal to start a three-goal second period to add to the 3-1 lead at the first intermission.

But Austria roared back with five goals. Minnesota Wild rookie forward Marco Rossi tied the game, notching an unassisted goal with less than a minute remaining. Toronto Maple Leafs star and Team Canada captain John Tavares saved his squad from a major upset by scoring a half-minute into the five-minute extra period. In post-game interviews, Tavares looked at the bright side, saying he expects the third-period letdown to be a lesson for future play.

Canada’s youngest team member, Chicago Blackhawks rookie Connor Bedard, scored his fifth goal in the first eight periods of his play for the men’s team. Bedard notched 13 goals and 18 assists in 14 appearances at World Juniors.

“He’s smart with the puck and seems to be able to create something out of nothing,” said McCann during the second intermission of the game broadcast. “I’ve been able to play with some really good players in the NHL, and he reminds me of a lot of them.”

Austria has never beaten Canada in international competition, with the Canadians now holding an 11-0-1 record over the years, with the Austrians nonetheless closing the goal differential from 68-7 to 75-13. The teams last played in 2015 during the World Championship, resulting in a 10-1 Canada rout. Canada, tied with Switzerland for the top spot in Group A, meets Norway on Thursday.

Bellemare notches goal in France win

In other action, France defeated Poland in Group B play at Ostrava. Kraken center Pierre-Edouard Bellemare scored the fourth goal to give his squad a comfortable lead and his country’s first win of this tourney. France faces Team USA on Thursday; both teams are 1-1-1 through the first three games.

May 13: Burakovsky in the Scoring Column

Team Sweden vanquished Poland, 5-1, Sunday with Kraken forward Andre Burakovsky setting up teammate and NHL star defenseman Erik Karlsson’s first of two goals, then notching his own first goal of the 2024 International Ice Hockey Federation Men’s World Championship tourney. Sweden is among the Group B squads playing in Ostrava.

Burakovsky, who has looked more in flow period-by-period in Sweden’s opening two wins (including a 4-2 verdict over Team USA), was again ramping up his production in a 6-1 win Monday over Germany with Kraken teammate Philipp Grubauer in the opposing goal. Sweden started strong with three first-period goals, the latter two garnering secondary assists for Burakovsky. The third goal got by Grubauer with just three seconds remaining in the first frame.

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Tatar, Slovakia Outlast USA

In earlier action at Ostrava on Monday, Slovakia took down Team USA (now 1-2 after three games) 5-4 in overtime. Slovakia jumped out to a 2-0 lead after 20 minutes, with veteran Kraken wing Tomas Tatar earning a primary assist on the second goal by long-time European pro-Libor Hudacek. After the Americans reduced the lead to 2-1, Slovakia responded with two more goals to go up 4-1 at the second intermission.

From there, Team USA applied consistent third-period pressure to pull off three highlight-reel goals to send the game into the extra five-minute period. The game-tying goal came on an end-to-end rush by 20-year-old New Jersey defenseman Luke Hughes, who matched goals with Devils teammate and fellow rookie D-man Simon Nemec for Slovakia.

Team USA fired 43 shots on goal, but Slovakia nabbed the win with time running out on the five-minute overtime. Nemec rocketed a shot from the blueline that teammate Milos Keleman redirected net-front to send the many rooters from neighbor Slovakia into a frenzy that next turned melodic with the tradition of playing the winner’s national anthem with both squads standing on blue lines. A closeup of Tatar showed pure joy on the well-traveled NHLer’s face.

Molgaard Gaining Valuable Experience

At 19, Kraken 2023 second-round draft choice Oscar Fisker Molgaard has already played two stellar seasons in Sweden’s top professional league. During these Worlds, he is playing with third-line center plus duties on the second-unit powerplay for Team Denmark. He faced three Kraken players, Jared McCann, Brandon Tanev and Jamie Oleksiak, in a 5-1 loss to Canada over the weekend. Molgaard is currently plus-1 and holding his own (50 percent) in the faceoff circle.

The IIHF Men’s World Championship is underway in Czechia en route to crowning a gold-medal team on May 26. Bookmark our “Kraken @ Worlds 2024” blog entries to catch all of the action, which includes seven Kraken players and one top prospect.

Opening Day, May 10: McCann and Team Canada Going for Gold Repeat

Kraken forward and 2023-24 leading scorer Jared McCann says he is “very happy to be back on the ice.” But rather than working out at Kraken Community Iceplex or in Toronto, where he trains in the summer with other NHLers, McCann is stationed in Prague, one of the two cities in Czechia hosting the 2024 International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) Men’s World Championship beginning Friday. McCann is representing Team Canada along with Kraken teammates Brandon Tanev and Jamie Oleksiak.

“It’s been great so far,” said McCann, arriving in Czechia from pre-tourney practices and a game against Team Hungary in Budapest. “I have past relationships with some players, such as Michael Bunting [now with the Pittsburgh Penguins]. We played together in the Soo [Sault Ste. Marie of the Ontario Hockey League]. Obviously, having Tanev and Jamie here makes things easier too.”

McCann said there hasn’t been much talk about defending last spring’s Team Canada gold medal because “there is no need; every guy here wants to win a gold medal.” The Canada squad is comprised of all NHL players whose teams did not advance to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Sizing Up Group A in Prague

The three Kraken and their Canada squad members (which includes likely NHL rookie of the year Connor Bedard playing in his first men’s championship after dominating the junior tournament) are part of Group A, based in Prague, for the qualifying round. The Canadians will face Great Britain to open play Saturday before facing opponents with deeper rosters with NHLers such as host Czechia and Finland in the coming days. Group A rounds out with Austria, Norway, Switzerland (getting much stronger in recent Worlds and a 5-2 winner over Norway in Friday’s first game in Prague) and Denmark.

Prospect Molgaard in Team Denmark Lineup

Kraken 2023 second-round draft choice Oscar Fisker-Molgaard will be competing for his home-nation Danish squad. Molgaard has impressed in pre-tourney practices and scrimmages. He will be joined on the team by countryman and former Coachella Firebirds forward Alex True (the Kraken’s expansion draft pick from San Jose). Molgaard finished a solid season in Sweden’s top pro league, notching nine goals and 12 assists in 50 games. The forward prospect scored two goals and three assists for Team Denmark’s U20 squad in five games this season and added four assists in two games of international play with the men’s team.

Grubauer Stars for Germany in Opener

In Group B, popular Kraken goaltender Philipp Grubauer will hear plenty of Gruuuuuu cheers while in goal for Germany. His hometown of Rosenheim is about a five-hour drive to Prague and closer to seven hours to Ostrava, where Group B is playing. The Germans opened the tourney with a 6-4 win over Slovakia and Grubauer’s Seattle teammate, Tomas Tatar. After a scoreless first period, Germany took a 2-0 lead only for Slovakia to tie the game. From there, the Germans notched up to a 4-2 lead they didn’t relinquish. Grubauer made 35 saves in net against a formidable Slovakia offensive group, which launched eight shots on goal in the first 20 minutes, then 11 in the middle frame, and 16 in the third period.

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Burakovsky in Group B Play, GM Francis Says Confidence-Builder

Friday’s second game in Ostrav matches powerhouses USA and Sweden, the latter squad including Kraken forward Andre Burakovsky. During his end-of-season media session, Kraken GM Ron Francis said he was happy for Burakovsky to get more high-competition game action: “He was our leading scorer [in 2022-23] when he tore his groin 19 seconds into his first shift [after the all-star break] ... So he missed a lot of hockey last year, didn't get to play in the playoffs. He comes into this year feeling pretty good. Game Six, he gets hurt, comes back one game, gets hurt again ... that's kind of a freak thing that happens, and now you're owed six weeks.

“Here's a guy that missed a lot of hockey. And as a result, he's not as confident in who he is and what he can do. I think that carried over into some of his game and his ability. I'm excited that he's going to go play in the World Championships. I think that's good for him to continue to play hockey and get some more games under his belt. And hopefully that helps him get his timing and back where next year he's ready to go.”

Sweden won the opener, outworking Team USA for a 5-2 final. Along with Germany, Sweden, USA and Slovakia, Group B includes France and Kraken center Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, a stalwart for his native country whose international play prompted NHL interest that landed him as a 28-year-old rookie who has now appeared in 700-plus games in the world’s top league. Bellemare and his French teammates will first face Kazakhstan. Poland (2002 was their last time in the top tier of IIHF Worlds) and Latvia fill out the Group B bracket.