Rangers forward Derek Stepan
and Ryan McDonagh
might have seen their first NHL seasons end with the Blueshirts' exit from the playoffs on Saturday, but it wasn't the end of hockey for either player in 2010-11.
On Tuesday, USA Hockey announced that Stepan and McDonagh will play on the U.S. squad competing in this year's IIHF World Championship tournament in Slovakia. The two American Rangers join the Blueshirts' 2009 first-round draft pick Chris Kreider
on Team USA, which opens play against Austria on Saturday at Kosice. The Americans will compete in Group C of the tournament, playing round-robin games against Austria, Norway, and Sweden.
Stepan and McDonagh are both making their first World Championship appearance, although they have represented the U.S. at previous IIHF World Junior Championship tournaments. In 2010, Stepan and Kreider, who just completed his sophomore year at Boston College, were teammates on the gold-medal winning squad.
Kreider is returning to the World Championships, having made the team as a 19-year-old last spring. Last year, he was the only NCAA player on the roster, while this year, he is one of two. Once again, he will have a pair of Rangers as teammates. Last year, Kreider was joined by Brandon Dubinsky
and Matt Gilroy at the Worlds, which were held in Germany.
Teammates at the University of Wisconsin from 2008 to 2010 and with the Rangers over the past season, longtime friends Stepan and McDonagh will represent their country for the first time together. The two Minnesota natives both expressed excitement about the prospect of going to Slovakia when asked about it on Monday.
One of the biggest names in this year's World Championship tournament will also come from the Rangers. Forward Marian Gaborik
goes home to Slovakia to represent the host nation, which begins play against Slovenia on Friday. With Slovaks paying so much attention to this tournament as they look to win gold on home soil, Gaborik will carry the hopes of his country over the next few weeks.
The Slovaks won the World Championship gold medal in 2002. Slovakia also won a silver medal in 2000 and bronze in 2003, but Gaborik was not a member of any of those teams.
Look for more information about the World Championship on a day-by-day basis here on newyorkrangers.com once games begin this weekend.