Edmonton Oilers: McDavid and Nugent-Hopkins To Play For Canada

EDMONTON, AB - MARCH 14: Connor McDavid
EDMONTON, AB - MARCH 14: Connor McDavid /

Per Oscar Klefbom, his Edmonton Oilers teammates Connor McDavid and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins will play for Team Canada at the 2018 IIHF World Championship in Copenhagen and Herning, Denmark.

Edmonton Oilers defenceman Oscar Klefbom told hockeysverige.se on Sunday that Connor McDavid and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins have booked their tickets to Europe in May. While it’s going to be another long off-season in Edmonton without any playoff hockey, Oilers fans can at least look forward to watching two of the team’s best players at the World Championship. Klefbom, who is scheduled to have shoulder surgery later this week, will be unavailable for Sweden this spring.

“Yes, unfortunately [I will not be playing]” said Klefbom. “It would have been amazing fun, especially for us Swedes when it goes Copenhagen. It is close to Sweden. There will be a lot of people and many friends to me will go down. So it’s badly sour. I know that Connor [McDavid] is going to go there and I also believe [Ryan] Nugent-Hopkins.”

Edmonton Oilers
Edmonton Oilers /

Edmonton Oilers

McDavid helped Canada claim back-to-back gold medals at 2016 IIHF World Championship and was named one of Canada’s three most valuable players. McDavid ranked tied for fourth in the tournament in assists (8) and tied for 12th in points (9) in 10 games. The Newmarket, Ontario native became the youngest player in history to win gold at the World U18 Championship, World Junior Championship and the World Championship (19 years, 130 days) and tied Sidney Crosby’s Canadian record for assists by a teenager at the tournament.

Nugent-Hopkins played for Canada at the 2012 IIHF World Championship but did not bring home a medal. However, that was not his more recent appearance for Canada on the international stage. During the 2012-13 NHL lockout, the Oilers loaned Nugent-Hopkins to Hockey Canada for the 2013 IIHF World Junior Championship, where he was named the captain. Although Canada, unfortunately, failed to medal, Nugent-Hopkins made history at the tournament by becoming only the second Canadian born player to ever play at the Worlds before the World Juniors.

Keep 97 and 93 Together

I wrote earlier this month that the Oilers must find out if McDavid and Nugent-Hopkins can be a good fit on the top line before possibly trading Nugent-Hopkins in the off-season. Though I think the Oilers should keep Nugent-Hopkins regardless, the two have been dynamite since Head Coach Todd McLellan put them together.

There has been no official statement from the Oilers or either player about going to Worlds in May. But if McDavid and Nugent-Hopkins are both going to be there, Oilers fans should hope that they get to have the chance to continue building that chemistry with Team Canada.

Hockey Canada brings typically as many centres as possible to the tournament, so we could see Nugent-Hopkins continue to play the wing. However, playing in international size rinks, we could see a reversal of roles for the duo. It might make more sense to play Nugent-Hopkins at centre, which would allow McDavid to take full advantage of his superior speed on the larger ice surface.

Other Players Going

It’s a safe bet that the McDavid and Nugent-Hopkins will not be the only Oilers’ players at the Worlds this year. I think there could be as many as six other roster players heading to Denmark including Darnell Nurse (Canada), Yohann Auvitu (France), Jesse Puljujarvi (Finland), Leon Draisaitl (Germany), Andrej Sekera (Slovakia) and Adam Larsson (Sweden).

Darnell Nurse has been Edmonton’s best defenseman all year and deserves a chance to represent his country for the first time since winning gold at the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship. Auvitu has played for France at each of the last eight World Championships and does not see that trend ending this year.

Two years ago, Puljujarvi did not receive much ice time at the tournament. But if Finland had enough confidence to bring him as an 18-year-old, then he should surely be there at 20. Draisaitl is the best hockey player Germany has ever produced and never passes up an opportunity to play for his country. Like Auvitu and Draisaitl, Sekera should also be a lock to play for Slovakia.

Sweden has a deep talent pool to pick from on the back-end, but Larsson performed well at the tournament in 2016, and I fully expect him to be there again this year if he wants to.

That said, he tragically lost his father last month, so he might opt out this year to spend more time with his family.