Video: Florida Panthers' Dmitry Kulikov joins Team Russia
When the NHL’s World Cup of Hockey kicks off in Toronto in September, the Florida Panthers will be well represented.
Four players — not counting Jaromir Jagr, who hasn’t committed to playing for the Czech Republic — were named to some of the eight teams who will battle it out in September.
The various teams announced their first round of roster players Wednesday, with more to come before the tournament begins.
Six countries — as well as a “young star” team made up of the best under-23 players from Canada and the United States and a European team — will participate in a tournament the NHL has committed to putting on every four years.
Florida players who were initially named to teams are: Aaron Ekblad (North America under-23), Jussi Jokinen (Finland), Dmitry Kulikov (Russia) and Sasha Barkov (Finland).
Coach Gerard Gallant will also serve as an assistant coach on the North American under-23 squad.
“It’s a big thing for me, I always want to represent my country and it’s a big deal,” said Barkov, who got injured at the 2014 Olympics as a rookie with the Panthers.
“I’m going to try and win the cup. It’s a pretty big tournament, a pretty big honor.”
Aside from Jagr and goalie Roberto Luongo, Jokinen is Florida’s most experienced international player, winning two Olympic medals (silver in 2006 and bronze in 2014) as well as participating in numerous World Championships.
“It’s really exciting, playing for a national team is always big,” Jokinen said after Florida’s practice in Denver before Thursday’s game against the Avalanche.
“All of the best players in the world will be in Toronto. It’s going to be a great tournament.”
Kulikov has represented Russia a number of times, including in world juniors and three times at the World Championships. The World Cup will be Kulikov’s biggest international stage.
“I couldn’t have dreamed as a little kid of playing in the World Cup or any sort of big tournament,” Kulikov said. “Now it’s reality and I’m very happy, very pleased.”
In addition to Jagr, a few Florida players who were in contention for a spot in the tournament weren’t named Wednesday but could be later on.
Vincent Trocheck, 22, has a career-high 19 goals and could find himself on the North American team eventually.
“I would love to play for them, it would be an extreme honor,” Trocheck said. “Being mentioned at all would be pretty special.”
Luongo was also left off Team Canada’s initial roster after being part of Canada’s Olympic team the past three times. Canada went with Braden Holtby, Corey Crawford and Carey Price.
“I called him [Tuesday] and told him the direction we’re going and he wished us well,” St. Louis and Team Canada general manager Doug Armstrong said.
“He’s been very important to Team Canada. I said ‘The way you’re playing, we would like to keep you on the reserve list.’ ”
Luongo wrote in a tweet: “Is there a team Canada over 35 I can sign up for anywhere?”
As for Jagr, the Czech team is holding his spot. Jagr didn’t speak to the media Wednesday but is said to be mulling over whether he will play in the tournament.
Jagr said he was retiring from international play after last summer’s World Championships in Prague in which he was named tournament MVP.
Jagr has played in five Olympics — winning gold in 1998 — and participated in the previous World Cup of Hockey in 2004.
Kulikov, for one, figures Jagr will make it to Toronto even if it’s really late.
“Just bring him up for the championship game,” Kulikov said. “Against Russia.’’
▪ Jagr was awarded a secondary assist on Trocheck’s second-period goal in Columbus on Saturday, pulling him within one point of tying Gordie Howe for third all-time.
Jagr could tie, and obviously surpass, Howe on Thursday against the Avs.
“Seriously, every game they seem to announce another milestone for him,” Trocheck said. “It’s awesome, hopefully he gets it [Thursday].”
Said Barkov: “It’s a big thing for me to be on his team and play on the same line. It’s like living a dream.”
▪ Newly acquired forwards Jiri Hudler and Teddy Purcell didn’t travel with the team to Colorado from Winnipeg after Tuesday’s game, and they are questionable to play Thursday.
Both need to get U.S. visas to come into the country as employees of an American team.
Gallant said he didn’t have an update on either player but both would play against the Avs if everything gets worked out and they can make it to Denver in time for the game.
▪ Al Montoya took part in Wednesday’s practice after being knocked out of Sunday’s game in Minnesota after being hit in the head by Marco Scandella.
Thursday: Panthers at Avalanche
When, where: 9 p.m., Pepsi Center, Denver.
TV, radio: FSFL; WQAM (560), WMEN (640).
Series: Colorado leads 20-11-3.
Scouting report: This is the 20th anniversary season of the Panthers advancing to the Stanley Cup Finals and being swept by the Avs. Florida won the first meeting 4-1 in October as Roberto Luongo made 31 saves and was in line for a shutout before the Avs scored in the final minute.