The 2018 Ice Hockey Classic sees Team USA and Team Canada do battle at Auckland’s Spark Arena on June 22nd, outdoors at Wellington’s Westpac Stadium on June 23rd, and Queenstown’s Ice Arena on June 28th.
Check back often as we continue to update this article with more information as players get officially announced by the organisers. And no, we can’t spill the whole lineup to you!
TEAM CANADA / Coach: Paul Rosen
Nolan Yonkman (captain)
A veteran of over 700 AHL games, plus 76 career NHL games, Nolan Yonkman now enjoys playing in Finland with JYP of the Finnish elite league where this season they took out the Champions Hockey League. Drafted in the second round of the 1999 NHL Entry Draft by the Washington Capitals, Yonkman has played in the big league for the Caps, Arizona Coyotes, Florida Panthers, and the Anaheim Ducks.
He proved his leadership qualities wearing the ‘C’ for three seasons with the AHL’s Milwaukee Admirals from 2007-08 to 2009-10, before captaining the San Antonio Rampage for two seasons, followed by the Adirondack Flames. Now Yonkman is ready to come back down to New Zealand and lead Canada with the determination to beat USA in the 2018 Ice Hockey Classic.
Originally drafted by the Anaheim Ducks as the 15th overall pick in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, Peter Holland currently plays for the New York Rangers and their AHL affiliate the Hartford Wolf Pack. Prior to that, he enjoyed a three-year stint with the Toronto Maple Leafs, playing 166 games for the historic franchise before being traded to the Arizona Coyotes in 2016. Holland is considered to be a centre that can provide any lineup with scoring depth, making him a great addition to the Ice Hockey Classic.
While Ben Scrivens will be holding the fort for Canada during the Australian portion of the tour, Driedger will be in the crease across the New Zealand dates.
Currently scheduled to become a RFA on July 1st, Chris Driedger has been working hard to develop his game as a goalie prospect within the Ottawa Senators organisation. Last seen playing for the Brampton Beast in the ECHL, in 17 games this season his numbers have been improving with a .922 save percentage and 2.55 goals against average.
Drafted in the fourth round of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft by the Chicago Blackhawks, Byron Froese has bounced from their system, to the Toronto Maple Leafs organisation where he played on a very talented 2016-17 Toronto Marlies team that included young stars Travis Dermott and Kasperi Kapanen, along with 58 games for the big club before being traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning. He now currently plays for the Montreal Canadiens’ AHL affiliate the Laval Rocket.
Seen by many as a reliable third-liner who can provide depth scoring, Froese (that’s pronounced fray-ze, like freeze but fray it up a little ok?) has a wicked release on his wrist shot. To date his most offensively productive season was in 2013-14, tallying 42 points in 46 games for the Marlies. As for the big leagues, Froese’s best came this season scoring 3 goals and 8 assists for the Montreal Canadiens.
TEAM USA / Coach: Dennis Maruk
Zenon Konopka (captain)
During an NHL career that spanned over 300 games, Zenon Konopka played for the Anaheim Ducks, Columbus Blue Jackets, Tampa Bay Lightning, New York Islanders, Ottawa Senators, Minnesota Wild, and the Buffalo Sabres.
Konopka can also be seen in the documentary ‘Ice Guardians’ that looks at the role of enforcers in hockey and the impact that position has on the players. Hailing from St. Catharines, Ontario but with dual residency, the former NHLer has been chosen to lead Team USA.
Considered to be one of the elite offensive defencemen in the AHL today, T.J. Brennan has a wicked shot, so watch out when he winds up from the point. Brennan is another success story from the Toronto Marlies system in the AHL, during the 2015-16 season he was scoring close to a point per game pace with 25 goals and 43 assists in 69 games – finishing third equal in league scoring.
Now playing for the Philadelphia Flyers’ AHL affiliate the LeHigh Valley Phantoms, Brennan signed a contract extension on March 6 that sees him with the club for two more years.
In goal for Team USA will be Richard Bachman who most recently played for the Utica Comets – the AHL affiliate of the Vancouver Canucks. Prior to joining the Canucks in the 2015-16 season he also played for two years with the Edmonton Oilers/OKC Barons and four with the Dallas Stars/Texas Stars, whom selected Bachman in the fourth round of the 2006 NHL Entry Draft.
In 31 games for Utica, Bachman ended the 2018-18 AHL season with a 13-13-5 record while registering a .902 save percentage and 2.98 goals against average. The 5-foot-10 net minder is slated to head into free agency on July 1st as a UFA.
In the 2001 NHL Entry Draft, Aaron Johnson was selected in the third round by the Columbus Blue Jackets where he played the majority of his 291 career NHL games – he also played for the New York Islanders, Chicago Blackhawks, Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, and the Boston Bruins. Johnson spent most of his professional hockey career in the AHL, playing 455 games and scoring 215 points, including twelve in the Calder Cup playoffs for the Syracuse Crunch and Milwaukee Admirals.
Now with Adler Mannheim in the German elite league, expect Johnson to be paired up with T.J. Brennan to create a formidable top defensive pairing for the 2018 Ice Hockey Classic.
Check out these highlights from some of the players that you will see in New Zealand at the 2018 Ice Hockey Classic.