It was a World Championship to remember.
Underdog wins galore. A tournament favorite out before the quarter-finals. Unikely scoring stars. And the eventual champions clawing back from an 0-3 start to the tournament to win gold.
The World Championship simply didn’t disappoint. Even without many of the world’s greatest players, there were memorable moments almost every day of the tournament, even if the competition wasn’t at the pace it usually is. Given the troubles of hosting a tournament in a pandemic, the fact it went off without a hitch – and zero positive COVID-19 cases – is something to be proud of.
Now that 64 games have been completed, here are the top performers from the 2021 men’s World Hockey Championship from Riga, Latvia.
Andrew Mangiapane, F (CAN)
The easy choice as the tournament MVP, Mangiapane missed the first three games of the World Championship and still finished third in scoring with seven goals and 11 points – his goal count tied Great Britain’s Liam Kirk for the tournament lead. Mangiapane seemed to spark the top line of him, Adam Henrique and Connor Brown, scoring over half of Canada’s goals in the tournament. As Mangiapane continues to make his mark with the Calgary Flames, his performance in Riga will not soon be forgotten by Canadian hockey fans as one of the best in recent years.
Jussi Olkinuora, G (FIN)
He didn’t leave the tournament with the medal he wanted, but there’s nothing for Olkinuora to be ashamed about. Olkinuora was fantastic in the final game and all tournament long, battling with USA’s Cal Petersen all tournament long near the top of the major goaltending categories. The former Winnipeg Jets prospect, was the backbone for a Finnish team that didn’t score a lot and needed it’s goaltending to step up, and he did.
Peter Cehlárik, F (SVK)
Slovakia was a major threat to win the Group A title and Cehlárik was a big reason why. The former Boston Bruins forward had five goals and 11 points for Slovakia, recording a point every single outing, including the games where the Slovaks just scored one goal. He looked like someone who had something to prove, and with Cehlárik still being Boston property with no deal signed in Europe officially for 2021-22, he picked a good time to play at the top of his game.
Moritz Seider, D (GER)
The tournament ended without a medal for Seider, but he erased any doubt that he’s ready to make the jump up to the NHL next season. Hot off of an incredible season in the Swedish league, Seider was involved heavily in every German victory and other than a few hiccups along the way, the Germans could really count on him to be a 20-minute man all tournament long. Seider never scored, but he looked confident bringing the puck in the zone to set up scoring chances. Not that this needs to be said, but Seider is the future of German defense – and, hopefully soon, Detroit’s too.
Connor Brown, F (CAN)
He started off the tournament without a point in Canada’s first three games and he ended it with the scoring title with 16 points and a championship. That’s quite the run for the Ottawa Senators forward who really was a leader for this Canadian team. Brown set up all three of Canada’s goals on Sunday, including the championship winner in overtime after setting up his teammate Nick Paul. Given Brown’s strong campaign in Ottawa, finishing off the season with a gold medal is a good way to end things off.
Conor Garland, F (USA)
I said prior to the tournament that Garland would need to be an instrumental part of USA’s offense if the team was going to win a medal and he was just that. With 13 points in 10 games, Garland tied Brown for the tournament scoring lead following the bronze medal game, failing to record a point in just three of the 10 games – and recording at least two in five games, including a three-point run in the final. That’s a nice boost for the undersized, skilled forward in the midst of signing a new contract with Arizona this off-season.
Korbinian Holzer, D (GER)
Seider wasn’t the only defense getting all the attention on Germany. Holzer, an NHL veteran, who scored just six goals in eight NHL seasons, had two in 10 games for Germany and was one of the leaders in blocking shots all tournament long – something the Germans excelled at. Holzer was named to the tournament all-star team and rightfully so.
Cal Petersen, G (USA)
Petersen had a big coming-out party this tournament. Not that LA Kings fans expected anything less, but it was nice seeing him playing for a competitive team at this point in his career. That time will come in California, but the Americans got a chance to witness what he could do. One of the top goaltenders all tournament, he finished with an incredible .953 save percentage and 1.29 goals-against average, allowing more than two goals just once – unfortunately, it was in the semifinal game that eliminated them from gold contention against Canada. At least he won the top goaltender award, right?
Gregory Hofmann, F (SUI)
It’s been a long time since the Carolina Hurricanes drafted Hofmann and it never worked out. He got moved to Columbus back in the winter, and while he has two years left on his deal to remain in Zug, he could still end up in the NHL at some point. With six goals and eight points in eight games, Hofmann was challenging for the goal-scoring lead throughout the round-robin and typically found a way to help charge his team’s offense. He didn’t score in tight games against Germany, Denmark or Russia, but Hofmann didn’t have many off nights despite not averaging a ton of ice time this year. At 28, he’s NHL ready.
Liam Kirk, F (GB)
It’s a shame Kirk only had seven games to prove what he could do, because Kirk simply played the best hockey of his career. Kirk had seven goals in seven games, giving the team a shot in nearly every game they played. He scored over half of his team’s goals and in our daily three stars awards, he showed up on multiple occasions. Now, it’s time for the Arizona Coyotes to decide what they want to do with him, and all signs point to him being brought over to help further his development.