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2022 IIHF World Championships Preview: Several Blue Jackets ready to star for their home countries

Including several of our most important prospects

Ice Hockey - Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics Day 8 Photo by Mario Hommes/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

This morning, the 2022 IIHF World Championships will begin in Finland, in the cities of Tampere and Helsinki. While the Columbus Blue Jackets will visit those cities in November, several players are there now with their national teams.

Group A

Canada

The defending champions will feature two Blue Jackets rookies: Cole Sillinger and Kent Johnson. Sillinger played a full season in the NHL at just 18 years old, while Johnson split time this season among the University of Michigan, Canada’s World Juniors and Olympics teams, and the Jackets. Also of note: former Jackets Josh Anderson and Pierre-Luc Dubois. Director of Player Development Rick Nash is part of Team Canada’s front office for this event.

Switzerland

Defenseman Dean Kukan will be making his fifth world championship appearance for the Swiss team. An unrestricted free agent this summer, Kukan can use this opportunity to audition for his next contract, whether in the NHL or back in Europe.

Slovakia

With the delayed start to the CHL playoffs, Samuel Knazko can’t compete for another medal with the Slovaks, trying to build on their bronze medal effort from the Olympics. Worth watching, however, are likely top 10 draft picks Juraj Slafkovsky and Simon Nemec.

Denmark

No Maestro this year, but older brother Patrick BJORKSTRAND will represent the family.

France

Perhaps the most important Blue Jacket to watch in this competition, Alexandre Texier will return to competitive hockey for the first time since breaking a finger in late January. It will be good for him to get some game action before the off-season so there is less rust in September. In his previous appearance with the French national team, Texier scored four points in three games of Olympic qualifying.

Ice Hockey - Men’s Final Olympic Qualification - Group E Photo by Xavier Laine/Getty Images

Also appearing in Group A: Germany, Kazakhstan, Italy

Group B

Finland

Alas, injury appears to prevent Patrik Laine from competing on home ice. But hey, there’s former Jacket and future “who’s that, when did he play here?” Mikko Lehtonen.

USA

With the Stanley Cup playoffs in full swing, obviously you don’t get all of the very best players. So a guy like Andrew Peeke that was a top pair defenseman for most of the season makes sense. Great opportunity and honor for him, and shocking he still has the energy for it after playing all 82 games in the regular season. More surprising is the inclusion of Nick Blankenburg after just seven NHL games. Clearly there are many people in the hockey world that love this kid. Also on the red, white, and blue line are former Jacket Seth Jones and his brother and Chicago teammate Caleb.

Sweden

Emil Bemstrom makes his senior world championship debut, having last worn the three crowns at the 2019 WJC, where he scored six points in five games. He’s an RFA, so his career is in flux this summer as well.

Latvia

For the second consecutive season, a Blue Jacket wearing #80 will start in net for Latvia. This time it’s Elvis Merzlikins, wearing the number in tribute for his late friend and teammate Matiss Kivlenieks. He makes it look good, too:

Also appearing in Group B: Czechia, Norway, Great Britain, Austria

In the US, select games can be viewed live on NHL Network or on ESPN+.

The teams are split into two groups of eight, which will each play a round robin schedule. The top four from each will move on to a single elimination playoff. The gold medal match will be held on Sunday, May 29. The full schedule can be found here.

If you watch any games and something catches your eye, post about it in the comments! If there are any other cool clips or videos, share them here as well. Which players or teams are you expecting the most out of?