Preds prospects Mattias Ekholm (Sweden) and Antti Pihlstrom (Finland) were selected by their respective countries to participate in the 2012 World Championships. The annual tournament takes place from May 4 –20 in Helsinki, Finland and Stockholm, Sweden.
Ekholm is one of the top defenseman prospects not currently in the NHL. The 21-year old made his North American debut at the start of the season with a strong showing during Preds training camp. He was returned to his club in Sweden later in the fall and posted one of the top seasons in the Swedish Elite League earning the league’s top defenseman honors while helping his team win the Elite League playoffs. Ekholm led all defensemen with nine points during the playoffs (in 17 games), after scoring nine goals and 17 points in 41 regular season contests.
The World Championships will give him a showcase against high-level NHL talent. He opened his tournament preparation with an assist in Sweden's 3-2 exhibition loss to Team USA on May 1. The Preds view Ekholm as a top option for next season’s d-corps, perhaps with a similar path as Roman Josi took this season – opening the season in Milwaukee adjust to the North American pace and then earning a mid-season NHL recall.
Pihlstrom has found a home as star in Europe, splitting 2009-10 between the Swedish and Finnish Elite Leagues and ’10-11 in Finland, before signing with the KHL in Russia this season.
Team Sweden is in a round-robin group with Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Norway, and Russia, opening on May 4against Norway
Team Finland and Team USA are in the same round-robin group, along with Belarus, Canada, France, Kazahkstan, Switzerland, and Slovakia. Team Finland opens May 4 against Belarus, while Team USA opens against France, also on May 4.
The top four teams from each group will advance to the Quarterfinals on May 17, with the Semifinals on May 17 and the Medal Games on May 20.