The 2021 IIHF World Championship finished today, with Canada winning gold, Finland getting silver, and the United States winning bronze.
It was a big tournament for the Arizona Coyotes players who traveled to Latvia to compete. Michael Bunting, Conor Garland, Liam Kirk, Adin Hill, and Darcy Kuemper all competed, and all but Liam Kirk walked away with a medal.
Bunting, Hill, and Kuemper all won gold with Team Canada. Canada and the two Coyotes netminders struggled to start the tournament, losing their first three games. Canada would rotate their goaltenders looking for a winning combination, only to come back to starting Darcy Kuemper.
Kuemper had looked a bit rusty when he returned to the Coyotes after missing a fair amount of time with injuries towards the end of the season. That rust seemed to carry over into the start of the tournament, but he was eventually able to shake it off completely.
Team Canada must have wanted Kuemper to feel at home, so they played him for most of their games. He played in eight of the ten games, including the gold medal game against Finland and the semi-finals game against the United States.
Adin Hill played well as Kuemper’s backup, although he didn’t have too much to do. He was in net for one win, a 7-1 trouncing of Italy.
Another quiet player for Team Canada was forward Michael Bunting. Bunting went on a tear after being called up by the Coyotes last season, scoring ten goals in 21 games.
Bunting didn’t seem to get the same opportunity with Canada that he did with the Coyotes. He was given some prime ice time during the regular season, occasionally with the Desert Dogs’ top line, but he spent most of the tournament on the third line.
And with that reduced role came a reduction in production. He was pointless for the tournament and finished a -6. But there are more ways than just scoring to have a positive impact, and it will be interesting to see how this impacts the negotiations with the pending unrestricted free agent.
Conor Garland was the other Coyotes’ player to win a medal, earning bronze with Team USA after beating Germany 6-1.
Garland was a big part of that victory like he was for a lot of America’s wins. He had the game-winning goal and two assists in another great performance for the pending restricted free agent.
With three points in his final match, Garland finished with a team-leading 13 points. Thirteen points would also move him to second overall in points, and tied for third in goals scored with six. His numerous highlight-reel moves on the ice and ability to generate offense would also result in him being named to the tournament All-Star Team.
The other Coyotes’ player to make the All-Star Team was prospect Liam Kirk.
Nobody expected Kirk or Great Britain to do much this year. The last time he played at the World Championship, he failed to register a single point, and Great Britain isn’t a big hockey country.
But Kirk was full of surprises. He finished with a tournament-high seven goals, and he accounted for over half of all British goals scored.
Like Garland and Bunting, Kirk isn’t signed for next season. If nothing else, this tournament should earn him a contract, even if he is only going to spend the season in the AHL or ECHL.
With Covid-19 shutting down much of the world, Kirk spent the past season playing in Europe. It can be easy to overlook prospects who play in Europe, but even though he failed to win a medal, Kirk was able to tell the hockey world and the Coyotes’ fanbase that he shouldn’t be ignored.