2014 IIHF World Championship: Group A Primer

Martin Rose

A brief roster overview of Group A teams competing at this years Worlds.

The 16-team tournament is broken into two groups: A and B (Canada features in Group A). Here is a roster overview for Group A teams.

Group A

Czech Republic

2014 World Ranking: 5
2014 Olympic Final Standing: 6

The Czech hockey program was in disarray at the recent Olympics; the team competing at the Worlds would like to erase that failure. Jiri Hudler, controversially left off the Olympic roster in favour of such throwbacks as Petr Nedved, will be in Belarus. NHLers Jakub Kindl, Roman Polak, and Vladimir Sobotka will be joining him. Two things to watch for with the Czech team: another chapter in the legendary career of Jaromir Jagr, who will represent his country for the 18th (his eighth Worlds), and perhaps final time in Minsk, and Tomas Hertl, the San Jose Shark's rookie standout who missed the Olympics with injury.

Player to Watch

Tomas Hertl

Norway

2014 World Ranking: 9
2014 Olympic Final Standing: 12

Norway will be icing almost the exact same team that finished 12th in Sochi. Just four players who dressed for Norway at the Olympics won't be headed to Minsk among them: NHLer Mats Zuccarello, who is still playing with the New York Rangers, and Norway's Olympic Captain Ole-Kristian Tollefsen, who also won't be making the trip. Per-Age Skroder, who plays his club hockey for MODO Ornskoldsvik, scored two of Norway's three goals at the Olympics.

Player to Watch

Per-Age Skroder

Denmark

2014 World Ranking: 13
2014 Olympic Final Standing: N/A

The Danish team boasts NHLers this year (Philip Larsen, Oliver Lauridsen on defense; Mikkel Boedker, Jannik Hansen, and Nicklas Jensen at forward) and is primarily made up of players from several European leagues. In his sixth NHL season, Boedker had a breakout year, tallying 19 goals and 51 points while playing in all 82 games. The Phoenix winger will be key to Denmark's offense in the tournament.

Player to Watch

Mikkel Boedker

Italy

2014 World Ranking: 18
2014 Olympic Final Standing: N/A

The Italian team is made up of Canadian nationals with dual citizenship and those playing in Italy as well as Italian nationals playing in the Italian (Elite.A formerly Serie A), German, and Swiss leagues. There are worse things than getting paid to play hockey and live in Milan.

Slovakia

2014 World Ranking: 8
2014 Olympic Final Standing: 11

The Slovakian Team comprises mainly veterans from the Czech Extralia and the KHL. Slovakia is bringing four NHLers: Martin Marincin, Marek Hrivik, Richard Panik, and Tomas Tatar. Ottawa/Gatineau locals will recognize Martin Reway, a member of the Gatineau Olympiques and Canadiens draft pick, as well. Tatar's first full season in the NHL saw him almost hit the 20-goal mark (19G in 73) and play for Slovakia at the Olympics, but was interrupted by the sudden death of his father. The 23-year-old winger has the talent to be a consistent top-six scoring threat in the NHL.

Player to Watch

Tomas Tatar

France

2014 World Ranking: 12
2014 Olympic Final Standing: N/A

The French will be dressing just one NHL player in Minsk - Dallas Stars forward Antoine Roussel. However, France will have experience in goal, as former Montreal Canadien Cristobal Huet, now of Lausanne HC, will be between the pipes. Ottawa's AHL forward Stephane Da Costa, one of the more NHL experienced French-born players will also represent his country. The rest of the French team is comprised almost entirely of players who play in France.

Senator to Watch

Stephane Da Costa

Sweden

2014 World Ranking: 1
2014 Olympic Final Standing: 2

Sweden's roster features a mix of players with NHL experience and players from clubs in the SHL. Senators goaltender Robin Lehner decline an invite because of injury and Joacim Eriksson (Vancouver Canucks), Anders Nilsson (New York Islanders), and Linus Ullmark (MODO) will be between the pipes for Tre Kronor.

On defense, the Swedes have just three players currently in the NHL (Mattias Ekholm of the Nashville Predators, Tim Erixon, Columbus Blue Jackets, and Erik Gustafsson from Philadelphia). Defense, such a strength for Sweden at the Olympics, looks to be much more questionable at the Worlds. Erik Karlsson declined his invitation, after a long NHL and Olympic campaign, complicated by Achilles injury rehab.

Sweden's forward ranks are considerably thinner than at the Sochi Olympics. NHLers Mikael Backlund and Calle Jarnkrok have joined the team as well as former NHLers, like Frolunda captain Joel Lundqvist (Henrik's twin) and Oscar Moller have also been added. Jimmie Ericsson (brother of Jonathan), captain of Skelleftea AIK, and the only non-NHLer on Sweden's 2014 Olympic Team, will also be in Belarus. The biggest star joining team Sweden in Minsk is Red Wing Gustav Nyqvist.

Player to Watch

Gustav Nyqvist

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