For Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin, representing Russia in world hockey tournaments has become second nature. For Evgeny Kuznetsov and Dmitry Orlov it could become a common occurrence.
All three were named to Team Russia for the 2016 World Cup of Hockey tournament, which will take place from Sept. 17 to Oct. 1 in Toronto.
For Ovechkin, 30, this will mark his second time representing Russia in a World Cup. He’s also played in two Winter Olympics and 11 IIHF World Championships.
“It’s a huge honor, obviously, representing your country,” Ovechkin said. “It doesn’t matter which tournament. It’s a huge honor. It’s nice to be on the list and I’m proud to represent my country.”
Kuznetsov, 23, and Orlov, 24, each have played for Russia in international tournaments, but not on a stage as big as the one next summer.
“I think it’s kind of like Olympic Games because all the best players are going to be there,” Ovechkin said.
“It’s going to be huge for us players to be in that atmosphere. When you play in Canada, it’s something that you always dream and you always want. Just the atmosphere, the fans, the media. Like, everything is on the top, so it’s great for us to have that kind of time, especially before the year.”
Ovechkin played in the most recent World Cup of Hockey in 2004, two months after being selected by the Capitals with the first pick of the NHL draft. He played two games on that Russian team, which included Ilya Kovalchuk, Pavel Datsyuk and Sergei Gonchar.
“I was a teenager then (19) and I played in a couple games and it was an unbelievable experience for me just to see players from the NHL," Ovechkin said. “You're just watching TV and reading the newspaper as a little guy and you play against them.”
Kuznetsov and Orlov will have a similar experience as one of the 16 players selected to be on Russia’s preliminary roster. Kuznetsov has had a breakout year with the Caps, ranking fifth in the NHL in points (65), third in assists (45) and first in plus-minus (plus-30).
“Everybody knew he had the talent to be one of the best players in the league,” Ovechkin said. “He’s still young, obviously. In the future, he’s going to be more mature, have more experience, and I’m pretty sure 20 goals is just the beginning for him. He can score 40 easily in this league if he’s going to continue what he’s doing. He’s going to be a top player.”
If things go as expected for the Capitals, Ovechkin, Kuznetsov and Orlov might be playing in the World Cup on short rest. The last possible day for the Stanley Cup Final is June 18.
“Yeah, we’re going to have a month, month and a half,” Ovechkin said with a grin.