D-Day for Zac Jones & Nils Lundkvist at the World Championships

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Zac Jones #6 of the New York Rangers s. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

It’s going to be D-Day for Zac Jones and Nils Lundkvist at the IIHF World Championships starting later this week in Latvia.  D-Day stands for decision day as two of the New York Rangers’ top prospects will face off against each other on display to the hockey world.

How they do may very well determine which of these young players has a future in New York or elsewhere. Ironically, if Lundkvist or Jones star at the tournament, it could mean a departure for one of them from New York as their trade value will get a big boost.

Zac Jones will be playing for Team USA, one of three New York Rangers who will be on that squad.  He will be joined by forwards Colin Blackwell and Kevin Rooney.  Lundkvist will be one of the top  blueliners on Team Sweden.

A showcase of Zac Jones

Jones is one of nine defensemen selected for the team.  He is the youngest by two years and one of five blueliners who played in the NHL last season. One defender, Chris Wideman, played in the KHL last season.

Jones had an impressive NHL debut, playing in ten games, averaging almost 15 minutes of ice time per game and adding four assists.  Though only 20, he didn’t look out of place in the Ranger lineup and was comfortable playing the right or left side as well as the power play.

He made the leap to the NHL after an NCAA season when he had nine goals and 24 points in 29 games for the NCAA championship UMass team. He also starred for Team USA at the World Junior Championships a year ago.

A showcase for Nils Lundkvist

Meanwhile, Nils Lundkvist has been named to Team Sweden.  He is one of nine defensemen on the team, a group that includes former NHLers Klas Dahlback, Viktor Loov and Lawrence Pilut.   Lundkvist is one of several prospects on the team including Detroit pick Albert Johansson and Carolina.

Though still only 20 years old, Lundkvist led all blueliners with 14 goals and  finished sixth in scoring among Swedish Hockey League (SHL) defensemen. He is an important player for Team Sweden and should see a lot of ice time.

With the graduation of Vitali Kravtsov, Igor Shesterkin and K’Andre Miller to the varsity, the common belief is that Lundkvist is the Rangers’ top prospect.  He was chosen as the best defender in the SHL as the winner of the Borje Salming Award.

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