10 World Championship takeaways: Sad Laine, Toronto-ready Matthews

Sportsnet's Ryan Dixon caught up with former NHL defenceman Alexander Khavanov, who shared his thoughts on new Maple Leafs d-man Nikita Zaitsev, free agent forward Vadim Shipachyov and just how important the world championship is to Russians.

Canada rules again, top draft prospects Patrik Laine and Auston Matthews surpassed their own hype, Nail Yakupov got slammed by the Russian coach, and Brad Marchand befriended Brendan Gallagher.

Here are 10 important takeaways from 2016’s thrilling IIHF World Championship.

1. Sad Laine, happy Jets
Patrik Laine, the presumptive second-overall selection of the upcoming NHL Draft, came painfully close to winning his third major title of 2016.

The 18-year-old, who had a brilliant scoring chance turned away by Canada’s Cam Talbot in Sunday’s gold-medal game, had to settle for a silver to go along with his 2016 world junior and SM-liiga championships.

He did tie Sweden’s Gustav Nyquist for the tournament lead in goals (seven), rack up 12 points, and get voted the World Championship’s best forward and overall MVP by the media.

The all-but-certain future Winnipeg Jet surely impressed future teammates Mark Scheifele (Canada) and Nikolaj Ehlers (Denmark), who also turned heads in Russia.

2. Connor McClutch
Canada’s seemingly jet-powered Connor McDavid waited until a gold medal was on the line before scoring his first goal of the tournament.

The Calder Trophy finalist, who had eight assists in the tournament, was the only Canadian to beat Finland’s Mikko Koskinen (named best goaltender of the championship) in 120 minutes of action, and Canada avenged its 4-0 round-robin loss to the Finns to claim its first back-to-back World Championship golds since 2003-2004.

McDavid, 19, became the youngest player ever to win gold at the Under 18, World Junior and World Championship levels.

3. Big breakouts for Maple Leafs, Panthers blueliners
Plenty of unsung defenceman got some well-deserved shine over in Russia (we see you, Ryan Ellis), but two in particular stood out, setting the stage for potentially breakout NHL seasons in 2016-17.

Florida Panthers prospect Michael Matheson of Canada was named the best defenceman of the tournament. The 22-year-old Quebec native has just three NHL games on his resume but led his country with a plus-11 rating and chipped in six points, ranking him second among all D-men. Matheson skipped his Boston College graduation to participate and was the only member of Team Canada named to the all-star team.

The other defenceman appointed to the championship all-star squad was Russia’s Nikita Zaitsev. Now property of the Toronto Maple Leafs, you can read more about Zaitsev’s prowess in colleague Ryan Dixon’s story here.

4. Auston Matthews is a Mike Babcock type of player.
Team USA’s 18-year-old centre had no issue breaking games as a teen among men. And although he leaves Russia without the hardware of Laine, Matthews proved to be the more complete and NHL-ready player, impressing in all three zones.

Maple Leafs head coach Babcock, who was taking in the action live, will love his No. 1 pick: big body, responsible defensively, boring interviews, makes game-breaking plays, and should be able to steal the Leafs a few shootout points with moves like this:

It’s hard to imagine Matthews not being selected to the World Cup’s Team North America and invading the Air Canada Centre a few weeks earlier than scheduled after his six-goal, nine-point show overseas.

5. Corey Perry redeems his spring after playoff disaster
Perry, who had not captained a hockey team since minor hockey, became the latest member of the Triple Gold Club, having won the 2007 Stanley Cup, gold medals at the 2010 and ’14 Olympic Games and now a world championship.

Surely this takes some sting out of his NHL post-season debacle — zero goals in Anaheim’s first-round exit to Nashville — and increases his shot at one of Canada’s final seven World Cup roster spots, which will be announced soon.

6. The Breadman doesn’t need no Patrick Kane
Hey, I love me some Connor McDavid, don’t get me wrong. But the argument that Artemi Panarin’s incredible NHL rookie campaign was propped up because he relied on linemate Patrick Kane in Chicago irked me. (Flip it around: Kane would not have had a Hart Trophy season were it not for Panarin.)

Panarin had an incredible, Kane-free tournament, putting up six goals and 15 points — good for second overall (behind teammate Vadim Shipachyov) in the tournament. That’s five more goals and six more points than McDavid had. Alos, Panarin finished seventh in plus/minus with a plus-9 and had three points in the host nation’s 7-2 drubbing of Team USA in the bronze medal game.

7. Time to buy low — way low — on Nail Yakupov
Team Russia coach Oleg Znarok called Yakupov’s contentious absence from his World Championship roster “addition by subtraction.”


The chances of Znarok picking the Edmonton Oilers winger for the World Cup squad dropped from slim to none, and Yakupov’s trade stock took another hit. We’re betting Peter Chiarelli hated that quote as much as he loved seeing McDavid, Taylor Hall and Cam Talbot play like winners.

8. Hungary for victory
It only took 77 years, but underdog Hungary won its first World Championship game since Feb. 3, 1939 — a 5-2 victory over Belarus in round-robin play.

Hungarian goaltender Adam Vay, 22, so impressed during the tournament that the 6-foot-5 free agent landed a two-year, entry-level contract with the Minnesota Wild.

9. Brad Marchand and Brendan Gallagher switch from mortal enemies to BFFs
You can’t make this stuff up:

10. Time to start fearing Finland in World Cup
With a golden world juniors and a silver-lined World Championship, perhaps it’s time we start considering that Suomi, and not Sweden, could be the country to beat in Group B of September’s World Cup.

The trio of Aleksander Barkov, Jussi Jokinen and Laine sparked incredible chemistry. Their goaltending — Tuukka Rask, Pekka Rinne, and now Koskinen(?) — is as strong as anyone’s. And role players like Leo Komarov and Valtteri Filppula play the brand of team-first hockey needed to win.

Canada, USA, Sweden, Russia and Team North America will all get more press, but Finland should be your darkhorse contender for gold this fall.

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