Vikings promise ‘havoc’
Vikings promise ‘havoc’
Extra firepower has Denmark dreaming of QFs
With Denmark getting ready to host in 2018, a good showing in Russia would do wonders for the country’s hockey program in the run-up to the big event. The Danes have shown great resilience to remain at the highest level since 2003, but it’s a long time since that QF run in 2010.
However, the 2016 roster features some big-name NHL talent, including a WC debut for Nikolaj Ehlers of the Winnipeg Jets, who previously impressed at the 2015 World Juniors and posted 38 points in his rookie NHL campaign. That’s why there’s genuine optimism that Moscow might be the perfect stage for another memorable success.
Sebastian Dahm is likely to be the #1 for Denmark this time around. He got the bulk of the game time in Ostrava a year ago, helping the country rank fourth on SVS for the tournament. With Patrick Galbraith not joining the roster in Moscow the 29-year-old Copenhagen native is the most senior of the three netminders available. He’s just completed his first season with Graz 99ers in the EBEL, maintaining a good save percentage in a struggling team. He’s backed up by Simon Nielsen of Herning Blue Fox and World Championship rookie George Sorensen of Frederikshavn White Hawks.
Defence can be a problem for the Danes. One reason for the impressive save percentage in the Czech Republic was the large number of shots on goal allowed: 239 in seven games was the heaviest fusillade endured by any team. Much will depend in Jesper B. Jensen’s performance. He spent the season with Jokerit Helsinki in the KHL and after a year playing at a higher level than his fellow blue-liners, he’ll be expected to lead the team once again here. Mads Bodker and Markus Lauridsen are other men to look out for at the back while Daniel Nielsen is set to play in his 10th World Championship.
The big news is the availability of Winnipeg’s Nikolaj Ehlers, Montreal’s Lars Eller and Vancouver’s Jannik Hansen. None of the NHL trio were available last time as Denmark iced an almost entirely European-based roster and there’s real excitement about the extra firepower they can bring in 2016. Hansen, in particular, talked up the team’s chances prior to the competition, pointing out how rare it was for all these Viking stars to assemble on a single roster. After mustering just 10 goals in Ostrava, the additional firepower will be more than welcome here.
Kirill Starkov will surely capture plenty of local interest in Moscow. The 29-year-old was born in Sverdlovsk (now Yekaterinburg) where his father Oleg played for Avtomobilist. The family then moved to Esbjerg, where Starkov senior played for the local team and Kirill became a Danish citizen shortly after he turned 18. Now he’s with Red Ice, a team with a strong Russian accent in the Swiss second tier, and will hope to show Russian fans more than he managed in a brief stint at CSKA Moscow in 2009.
Kim Staal is the most glaring absentee: now 38, the veteran forward is returning to the Danish league next season but isn’t in his country’s plans here. A shoulder injury rules out Jokerit Helsinki’s Peter Regin while Mikkel Bokren is a free agent and cannot risk injury while he seeks a new club. There are two young prospects taking their World Championship bows: Mikkel Aasgaard (Sudbury Wolves) and Mathias From (Rogle Angelholm).
Head coach Jan Karlsson is promising to “wreak a little havoc” in Moscow after assembling his tournament roster for his fourth Worlds behind the Danish bench. It won’t be his first time working in Russia: he went to Atlant Mytishi in 2011 as assistant to Bengt-Ake Gustafsson and found himself promoted to the top job after Gustafsson’s dismissal early in the season. After finishing in the minor places in the three previous editions Karlsson, who was an assistant coach on Sweden’s Olympic and World Championship-winning 2006 teams, is hoping for a break-out result this time around.
After dodging relegation by a single point last time out, Denmark is hopeful that a stronger roster with more NHLers can lead to a more comfortable campaign in Russia. The presence of the three Canadian-based forwards gives a real lift to the offence and could be enough to steer Denmark into more comfortable waters in Russia and get them battling with Switzerland for a play-off spot. There’s a wealth of experience in the roster as well, from captain Morten Green in his 18th IIHF World Championship and nine other players with more than 100 games for their country. That could make the difference in the clashes with fellow outsiders Kazakhstan, Latvia and perennial rival Norway.
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