REPORT: Troy Stecher will join Team Canada at the 2019 World Hockey Championship

Pass it to Bulis

Team Sweden will have plenty of Canucks content at the 2019 World Hockey Championship, with Elias Pettersson, Jacob Markstrom, and Loui Eriksson all committing to play for their country. So will Team USA, represented by youngsters Quinn Hughes and Thatcher Demko.

For a while, it seemed like Sweden and the US would be the only two countries with Canucks. Finland’s Markus Granlund declined the invitation, Switzerland’s Sven Baertschi is coming off a concussion, and France’s Antoine Roussel is recuperating from knee surgery.

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Even Team Canada looked to be devoid of Canucks, with Chris Tanev recovering from an injury and Bo Horvat getting married. The only other current Canuck that has been on Team Canada for the World Championships is Ben Hutton, who represented Canada in 2016, but he didn’t seem likely to get invited this year.

There was an outside chance that one other Canuck would get the call, however, and that outside chance came all the way inside this weekend. According to a report by Sportsnet 650’s Rick Dhaliwal, Troy Stecher has been invited by Hockey Canada to join the team at the 2019 World Championship.

 

 

It’s a pretty phenomenal turnaround from the beginning of the season, when Stecher seemingly had to prove himself all over again to Canucks head coach Travis Green. His average ice time was lower than all Canucks defencemen other than Alex Biega and he was even made a healthy scratch for a game in November.

As the season progressed, however, Stecher proved himself as arguably the Canucks’ best defenceman, taking on big minutes at both even-strength and on the penalty kill, where he has legitimately been among the best penalty killers in the NHL. Prior to the All Star break, Stecher averaged 17:13 in ice time per game. After the All Star break, that jumped up to 24:01 per game.

While Stecher’s increased ice time was partly due to injuries on the Canucks’ blue line, his steady and consistent play was the biggest contributing factor. The invite from Hockey Canada is a big honour for Troy from Richmond and a great confirmation of the hard work he’s put over the last few seasons.

Stecher has never represented Canada in international competition, though he was on Canada West for both the 2012 and 2013 World Junior A Challenge.

Stecher joins Thomas Chabot as the only defencemen confirmed for Team Canada so far. In net, Canada will be very strong, with Matt Murray, Carter Hart, and Mackenzie Blackwood all committing.

At forward, John Tavares and Mark Stone recently committed and will join forwards Sean Couturier, Sam Reinhart, Tyler Bertuzzi, Anthony Mantha, and Andreas Athanasiou. There are unconfirmed reports that Adam Henrique will play for Canada as well.

At the moment, Team Canada doesn’t look overly strong, but more players will be added in the coming weeks, particularly as teams get eliminated in the second round of the playoffs. Until then, this is what the roster looks like:
 

Athanasiou - Tavares - Stone
Bertuzzi - Couturier - Reinhart
Guy - Henrique - Mantha
Guy - Guy - Guy

Chabot - Stecher
Guy - Guy
Guy - Guy

Murray
Hart
Blackwood

Those top two lines are pretty good: Athanasiou scored 30 goals this season, Tavares had 47, and Stone was one of the best two-way wingers in the NHL and led the first round of the playoffs in scoring. Reinhart had a great season, Couturier is a seriously underrated two-way centre, and Bertuzzi showed shades of his Uncle Todd’s game in his first full season in the NHL.

The strength of their forward lines will be determined by who joins the team in the future. If a couple of the players on those top two lines can be bumped down a line or two, particularly on left wing, they’ll be in good shape.

In net, Canada looks very strong. Matt Murray, for all his complaints about Brock Boeser’s luck, is among the best goalies in the NHL, while Carter Hart had a great rookie season. Mackenzie Blackwood might not play any games, but he was solid for the New Jersey Devils this season.

The big questions remain on defence. Chabot was a workhorse for the Ottawa Senators and Stecher is great, but they don’t have anyone else committed yet. Expecting Stecher to play top-pairing minutes at his first international tournament with Team Canada is asking a lot.

It all depends on who gets eliminated in the second round. For example, if the San Jose Sharks get eliminated, Brent Burns and Marc-Edouard Vlasic could be available. If the Colorado Avalanche get eliminated, Tyson Barrie and Cale Makar could be options.

The 2019 World Hockey Championships kick off on May 10 in Slovakia, with games broadcast on TSN in Canada.

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