Chicago Blackhawks teammates won’t be ‘friends on the ice’ while representing different countries in the World Championship

Chicago Blackhawks defensemen Seth Jones and Alex Vlasic were among the first 15 players named to the U.S. men’s hockey team for next month’s IIHF World Championship in Czechia.

They’ll have a chance to face several other Hawks who will represent their countries, including Connor Bedard (Canada) and Philipp Kurashev (Switzerland).

Top priority: winning a gold medal.

A close second: scoring on Hawks goalie Petr Mrázek, who will represent the host nation.

“Me and Kurshy were talking, and our main goal is to score on Mrázek,” said Bedard, who confirmed a week ago that he’ll represent Canada, which is in Group A with Switzerland and Czechia. “That’s a lot of fun getting to compete against those guys. Even in practice you’re doing little things and playing for something, so an actual game is a lot of fun and you’re excited for that.”

Here’s a breakdown of the Hawks who will be playing — or could play — and their outlook for the tournament.

Petr Mrázek, goaltender, Czechia

Mrázek is happy to play host — especially to Jones. Team USA will begin Group B play against Sweden on May 10 in Ostrava, Mrázek’s hometown.

“I already told him some good stories as far as where to go. He doesn’t like my city,” Mrázek said with a laugh, adding there isn’t a lot to do there.

Asked about his supposed lukewarm feelings toward Ostrava, Jones replied: “Yeah, well, that’s because it’s Raz’s hometown. I’ve actually done a World Championship there before (in 2015), so I’ve been to the city. It’s not a bad city. It’s not Prague, obviously, but hopefully we get there in the middle round.”

Mrázek will be waiting for any Hawks teammates whose national team reaches the quarterfinals in Prague.

“We can have a coffee, go for dinner and enjoy some good atmosphere,” he said.

Seth Jones, defenseman, U.S.

Jones, who won a bronze medal with Team USA in 2015 in Prague, knows the Americans haven’t won gold at the worlds since 1933.

“Just talking to some of those guys in a little text string, obviously we’re going over to win,” said Jones, who’ll reunite with former Columbus Blue Jackets defensive partner Zach Werenski. “We haven’t won in a long time. We’re not going over there just to mess around.”

Jones has represented the U.S. in five previous international tournaments, including gold-medal teams at the 2013 World Junior Championship and the 2011 and 2012 Under-18 World Championship and a fourth-place finish at the 2022 worlds in Finland.

“I’m excited for Vlassy,” Jones said of Vlasic’s first appearance in a World Championship. “I’m not sure if we’re going to play together or what the ‘D’ pairings will be yet, but I’m happy he’ll get to show his game on the world stage and put the USA sweater on again.

“It’s always an honor to go over there and play for your country. It doesn’t matter what tournament it is or year it is.”

Alex Vlasic, defenseman, U.S.

A product of the U.S. National Team Development Program, Vlasic won bronze at the 2019 U18 worlds, but a positive COVID-19 test robbed him of a chance to play in the 2021 world juniors, which Team USA won.

“I’m kind of over it,” Vlasic told the Tribune earlier this month before he was named to this year’s roster. “I mean, it sucks. I definitely wish I had a gold medal to hang up in my bedroom. But I have a chance to get another one here.

“Putting on the USA sweater is something that you can’t take for granted. It’s such a good opportunity to play with some of the best players in the world, some of the best players for your country.”

During end-of-season interviews a week ago, Vlasic said he’s not intimidated by the larger international rinks.

“I remember loving it,” he said. “I remember at the time liking the Olympic sheet better than the NHL because I’m a bigger guy and can have a little bit more room to get my feet going and use my size to my advantage and get those big legs chugging.”

There’s a flip side, however.

“It’s definitely harder to close out plays,” Vlasic said. “It’s a lot wider and you have more room, more time with the puck, so you might not be able to kill plays as fast as you would like. So that’s something you have to adapt to. I’m sure after a couple practices and games I’ll get used to it.”

Connor Bedard, forward, Canada

Bedard’s international trophy case is already impressive.

In four previous times representing Canada, he won gold at the 2022 and 2023 world juniors and the 2021 U18 worlds. He also won the inaugural IIHF Male Player of the Year award in 2023.

All smiles during the Hawks’ exit interviews, Bedard seemed geeked about facing his teammates.

“Jonesy and Vlassy (are playing) for (the) U.S., so that’s going to be fun and that opportunity to play against guys you know,” he said. “It’s funny because you’re competitive with everyone but probably even more competitive with your friends, whatever you’re doing.”

The feeling is mutual. Jones also looks forward to facing Bedard in Czechia, where there will be no allegiances.

“I’m going to play him just as hard as I play anybody else,” Jones said. “I don’t think we’re friends on the ice.

“If you’re competing against another country, another guy, after the game obviously you say, ‘Hey, what’s going on?’ But on the ice I’ve always had that mindset of we’re not really friends out here right now. We’re competing.”

Philipp Kurashev, forward, Switzerland

Kurashev has an extensive history with the Swiss national team, including three World Championships (2019, ’21 and ’22).

“I played against Jonesy the last time I was there, and that was a little weird,” he said. “But it’s fun. And we’re going to be in the same city as well, so hopefully we’ll spend some time together.

“And I’ll say what Connor said about Mrázek: We’re both trying to score on him. It should be fun.”

Kevin Korchinski, defenseman, Canada

Korchinski won gold at the 2023 world juniors along with Bedard, Nolan Allan, Colton Dach and Ethan Del Mastro — all fellow Hawks rookies or prospects.

Earlier this month, Korchinski told the Tribune he wasn’t sure he’d be invited to play in this year’s worlds, but he welcomed the chance.

“Last year at the world juniors representing Canada was special,” he said. “It’s your dream as a kid to represent Canada, whether it’s the world juniors, World Championship or the Olympics.”

Lukas Reichel, forward, Germany

The Hawks liked how Reichel responded after a call-up from Rockford in mid-March — he had two goals and four assists in his final 15 games — and management and coaches wanted him to return for the AHL playoffs.

The IceHogs opened a best-of-five Central Division semifinal series against the Grand Rapids Griffins on Saturday night.

“We want him to go down and we want him to dominate, want him to help carry that team,” Hawks general manager Kyle Davidson said.

That doesn’t mean the World Championship is completely out of the picture.

“It depends,” Reichel said after the Hawks’ season finale. “I’m focused now on the (Calder Cup) playoffs and they say I (will) go to (the) AHL. And for me, I think it’s good to play playoff games and play hard, and we’ll see how it goes.

“Let’s say — I hope not — but (if) we lose in the first two rounds, I can still go to the World Championship. But I don’t want to think about that. I think we’ve got a really good team to win the Calder.”