It was an offer he couldn’t refuse. Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin has joined Team Russia for the 2019 IIHF World Championships which begin in Slovakia in next week. He will be joined by Team Russia stalwart and vocal Vladimir Putin supporter Alex Ovechkin, and Tampa Bay Lightning Hart Trophy finalist Nikita Kucherov.
Malkin was extended an invitation days ago and no official confirmation has been issued but it appears the invitation has been accepted as various reports indicate he is with the team.
Malkin has frequently played for Russia. His last opportunity in international play was the 2015 World Championships in which Malkin scored 10 points (5g, 5a) in nine games. Malkin also played for Russia in the 2014 World Championships and in the 2006, 2010 and 2014 Olympics.
Recent uncertainty about his Penguins future has dogged Malkin, who had a disappointing NHL season. Malkin scored 72 points (21g, 51a) in 68 games but was frustrated with his play.
Washington Capitals All-Star Ovechkin and Kucherov give Russia the most talented team in the tournament. Russia won the 2018 Olympic gold medal without NHL players. Washington, Tampa, and the Penguins all unexpectedly lost in Round One.
Penguins defenseman Marcus Pettersson has also reportedly joined Team Sweden. Pettersson, 22, had 19 points (2g, 17a) with the Penguins in 57 games.