While most of the hockey world is focused on the NHL playoffs, several New York Rangers players took to Latvia to participate in the 2021 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championships.
In total, eight players from the organization registered 21 total points while representing five countries on the international stage.
For some, it was a good learning experience to prepare for their NHL future. For others, it was an opportunity to build on their 2020-21 NHL seasons and get ready to fight for roster spots this fall.
Nils Lundkvist (Sweden)
The most exciting Ranger to watch in this year’s World Championships was our top prospect yet to debut in the NHL, Nils Lundkvist.
Unfortunately, he suffered a tournament-ending injury in the third preliminary game, but he still left a lasting impression. In only three games of action, he picked up five assists, highlighted by a four-assist game against Switzerland before getting injured.
Lundkvist, Sweden’s youngest player, led the team in ice time and tied for the most points, despite missing four of seven games.
He followed up his impressive SHL season by showing out on a larger, international stage. From the looks of it, the kid is the real deal.
Zachary Jones (United States)
Despite being the youngest defenseman on Team USA’s roster, like Lundkvist, Zac Jones led the team in time on ice, averaging almost 20 minutes per game. While he only compiled three points, all assists, in 10 games, his play was exciting and impressive.
Jones looked right at home against opponents with several years of experience in the NHL. It felt like every time he stepped on the ice, you heard the announcers saying his name. He showed no hesitation to join to rush or enter the zone by himself, and even ended fourth on the team with 23 shots.
It can be difficult to analyze prospects at smaller international tournaments due to the varying skill levels, but it was easy to see that no matter the situation, Zac Jones was one of the best players on the ice.
Colin Blackwell (United States)
Colin Blackwell was a revelation for the Blueshirts this past season. With only 33 games of NHL experience before joining the Rangers at 27 years old, there were no expectations. But when the season ended, his 12 goals and 22 points were good enough for 6th and 7th on the team, respectively.
His career year continued with 4 goals at the World Championships and plenty of more offense created. He was once of the hardest workers on the team and played key minutes for Team USA the entire tournament. He has most likely earned himself the Rangers last protection spot for the 2021 Seattle Kraken Expansion Draft over Brett Howden and Julien Gauthier.
Kevin Rooney (United States)
While Blackwell was more present on the scoresheet this season, Kevin Rooney was another great offseason acquisition.
A prototypical 4th line center, Rooney played 54 games for the Rangers and surprisingly made the Team USA roster. Similar to his time in New York, his impact on the games was mostly defensive, tallying only one point but ending with a +5 rating.
I’m sure it was an honor for Rooney to make the team, and the fact that he dressed for all 10 games shows that his strong defensive abilities can help improve any team.
Filip Chytil and Libor Hajek (Czech Republic)
Out of all the Rangers in Latvia, the least noteworthy results came from the two Czechs. Filip Chytil is one of the best young Czech players and had a solid four points in eight games, which was to be expected.
Libor Hajek did surprise me by making the national team, but he played almost exclusively on the third defensive pair. He did manage to pick up three points including an empty-net goal, but the Czech team didn’t have a memorable showing this year.
Adam Huska (Slovakia)
The 24-year-old starting goaltender for the Hartford Wolf Pack saw his struggles continue in net for Slovakia.
Three goalies played throughout the tournament, with Huska playing two complete games and a third period. Purely based on the scoresheet, you may think he struggled mightily with a 4.32 GAA and .855 SV%, but he was tasked with starting against Team USA, the best team Slovakia played, and relieving Julius Hudacek in a blowout against the Czech Republic.
Aside from the eight goals he gave up in those four periods, he had a strong 26-save game against Sweden. Overall, it was a good experience for Huska who must be feeling too pressured to perform next year. If he struggles again in Hartford next season, he may lose his starting job for good.
Braden Schneider (Canada)
One of the youngest players in the tournament, the Rangers 2020 first-round pick only played a small role on Team Canada.
While he dressed in 9 of the 10 games due to the expanded roster size, he only played 27:43 in total. He was able to pick up one assist and a +2 rating, but these few weeks were more about challenging himself at a higher level in practice. He may not have been a key part of the team, but he still went home with a Gold Medal. That’ll look good on his trophy case.