Host of Red Wings to earn invitations to world hockey championships

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
Anthony Mantha

Detroit — More than a few Red Wings are likely to be playing more hockey in several weeks.

With the IIHF World Championship beginning May 10, countries are beginning to release their preliminary rosters.

Team Canada has invited forwards Anthony Mantha, Tyler Bertuzzi and Andreas Athanasiou to play in the tournament, this year to be held in Slovakia.

Athanasiou is slight a question mark, general manager Ken Holland said, because of nagging injuries from late in the regular season — but it’s likely Athanasiou will join Team Canada.

For Team USA, coached by Wings’ coach Jeff Blashill, forwards Dylan Larkin, Luke Glendening, defenseman Danny DeKeyser and goalie Jimmy Howard will get invitations.

Similar to Athanasiou, Larkin is uncertain about whether he’ll participate in this year’s world championships due to late-season injuries.

Larkin said on locker clean-out day last week he would like to play in the tournament for a third consecutive year, but wants to be completely healthy for the start of training camp.

Larkin, centering Bertuzzi and Mantha, became a formidable line late in the season.

“They complement each other really well,” Blashill said. “Dylan, on a pretty consistent basis, is a worker. Bert works, and Bert’s a natural net-front guy. When Mo (Mantha) is skating (with authority), it’s a high-end line. It’s certainly something that we’d love to stay together and see that line real grow.”

Depending on how Grand Rapids does in the first-round of the AHL playoffs, both defenseman Filip Hronek and forward Filip Zadina could join the Czech Republic at the world championships.

The invitations were a fitting reward for Mantha, Bertuzzi and Athanasiou.

Bertuzzi had his first 20-goal season with 21 goals and 47 points, and became for first Red Wings’ player to string together four consecutive three-point games, while Mantha scored a career-high 25 goals with 48 points, including eight goals over his last 11 games.

Athanasiou reached the 30-goal mark for the first time in his career.

Griffins in playoffs

The Wings' minor league affiliate Grand Rapids Griffins qualified for the American League playoffs, barely.

The Griffins lost nine consecutive games to end the season, but because of Manitoba losing Saturday, the Griffins crawled into the playoffs.

Grand Rapids (38-27-11, 87 points) is the Central Division's fourth seed, and will play No. 1 seed Chicago (44-22-10, 98 points). 

The best-of-five series begins Friday and Saturday at Allstate Arena in Chicago, before returning to Grand Rapids for Game 3 (April 23). Game 4 would be April 24 in Grand Rapids. A potential Game 5 is April 28 in Chicago.

Chicago won the season series, 5-3-0.

The Griffins have made the AHL playoffs a franchise-record seven consecutive seasons.

Larsson signs

The Wings signed goaltender Filip Larsson to a three-year entry-level contract.

Larsson’s contract will begin with the 2019-20 season, but he signed a tryout contract with the Grand Rapids Griffins and be able for the Griffins in the AHL playoffs beginning this week.

A 2016 sixth-round draft pick of the Wings, Larsson, 20, just completed his freshman season at the University of Denver.

The top goaltending prospect in the Wings’ organization, Larsson helped lead Denver to the Frozen Four after posting two consecutive shutouts in regionals. Denver was eliminated in the national semifinals.

In 22 games with the Pioneers, Larsson had a 13-6-2 record with a 1.95 goals-against average and .932 save percentage and was a finalist for the conference’s goalie of the year.

Larsson moved from Sweden to play junior hockey in the USHL prior to the 2017-18 season and was named USHL Goaltender of the Year after posting a .941 save percentage and 1.65 GAA.

Still playing

Several Red Wings prospects are still competing in the junior hockey playoffs.

Drummondville forward Joe Veleno (2018, first round) is in the Quebec junior league conference semifinals.

In the Ontario Hockey League, Saginaw forward Brady Gilmour (2017, seventh round) and defenseman Reilly Webb (2017, sixth round) and London defenseman Alec Regula (2018, third round) are playing postseason hockey.

Twitter: @tkulfan