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Caps Well Represented in 2016 World Cup

Nine Washington players - plus coach Barry Trotz - are participating in the 2016 World Cup of Hockey

by Mike Vogel @VogsCaps / Monumental Sports Network

When goaltender Philipp Grubauer was added to the roster of Team Europe on Tuesday, the number of Capitals players participating in the World Cup of Hockey tournament stretched to nine. In addition to Grubauer, Washington boasts a trio of Americans (defensemen John Carlson and Matt Niskanen and right wing T.J. Oshie), a trio of Russians (defenseman Dmitry Orlov, left wing Alex Ovechkin and center Evgeny Kuznetsov) a member of Team Sweden (center Nicklas Backstrom) and a member of Team Canada (goaltender Braden Holtby). Caps coach Barry Trotz is serving as an assistant coach for Team Canada.

Only Tampa Bay (12 players) and Chicago (10) have more players participating in the 2016 World Cup of Hockey.

Nine is a lot. It's a significant portion of Washington's regular season roster. Initially, I figured the nine Caps at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey must be a team record. No way the 1996 or the 2004 tournaments had as many as nine Caps participating, right?

Wrong.

When goaltender Philipp Grubauer was added to the roster of Team Europe on Tuesday, the number of Capitals players participating in the World Cup of Hockey tournament stretched to nine. In addition to Grubauer, Washington boasts a trio of Americans (defensemen John Carlson and Matt Niskanen and right wing T.J. Oshie), a trio of Russians (defenseman Dmitry Orlov, left wing Alex Ovechkin and center Evgeny Kuznetsov) a member of Team Sweden (center Nicklas Backstrom) and a member of Team Canada (goaltender Braden Holtby). Caps coach Barry Trotz is serving as an assistant coach for Team Canada.

Only Tampa Bay (12 players) and Chicago (10) have more players participating in the 2016 World Cup of Hockey.

Nine is a lot. It's a significant portion of Washington's regular season roster. Initially, I figured the nine Caps at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey must be a team record. No way the 1996 or the 2004 tournaments had as many as nine Caps participating, right?

Wrong.

Twenty years ago this summer, the inaugural World Cup of Hockey also featured nine members of the Capitals. So it took Tuesday's late addition of Grubauer as an injury replacement for Toronto netminder Frederik Andersen to match the impressive total of nine Capitals who earned World Cup roster berths back in the late summer of 1996.

The 2004 group of Capitals was much thinner - just four players - thanks largely to the fire sale Washington conducted over the course of the 2003-04 regular season. But four more players who started the 2003-04 season with Washington (but were traded away during that campaign) played in the 2004 World Cup of Hockey, and two Caps draft choices (Ovechkin and the late German goaltender Robert Mueller, a 2001 Washington draft choice) also represented their respective countries. Ovechkin didn't sign with Washington until after the lockout that wiped out the 2004-05 NHL season; Mueller never signed with the Caps and never played professionally in North America.

Both the 1996 and 2004 tournaments featured teams from Germany and Slovakia. But both of those teams were 0-3 while scoring just four goals in pool play in the 2004 tourney, so those two teams are not a part of the 2016 tournament configuration. Team North America (a group of Canadian and U.S. players aged 23 and younger) and Team Europe (a team comprised of European players aside from the Czech Republic, Finland, Russia and Sweden) are the new teams for 2016, replacing Germany and Slovakia.

Team USA won the 1996 World Cup, losing the opener of the best-of-three final set to Canada by a 4-3 count (in overtime) before winning the next two games and the tournament. Caps goaltender Jim Carey and left wing Steve Konowalchuk were both members of that championship Team USA squad in 1996. Keith Allain - a Caps assistant coach at the time - served as an assistant for that championship team in 1996 as well.

Caps defenseman Sylvain Cote played for Team Canada in 1996. Washington netminder Olie Kolzig and center Stefan Ustorf both represented Team Germany while wingers Peter Bondra and Richard Zednik were both members of the Team Slovakia entry. Defenseman Sergei Gonchar played for Team Russia and fellow Caps blueliner Calle Johansson skated for Team Sweden in 1996.

When the tournament was restarted in 2004, Washington again had Kolzig representing Team Germany. It also had center Jeff Halpern wearing the red, white and blue for Team USA and forward Dainius Zubrus skating for Team Russia. Caps goaltender Rastislav Stana (remember him?) was a goaltender for Team Slovakia in 2004.

A quartet of recently exiled Caps also played in that 2004 tournament. Konowalchuk started the 2003-04 season as Washington's captain before being dealt to Colorado in October, 2003. Czech Republic winger Jaromir Jagr was dealt to the New York Rangers in January, 2004. Bondra was dealt to Ottawa and Gonchar to Boston in February, 2004.

One other interesting note on the two prior World Cup tournaments: both were finished before the 2016 tourney even starts, calendar-wise. Both the 1996 and 2004 World Cup of Hockey tournaments started in late August and both ended on the same date, Sept. 14. That's three days before this year's tournament even gets underway.

In preparation for what should prove to be a terrific tournament and a great jumpstart to the 2016-17 NHL regular season, six of the eight teams in the tourney played in exhibition games on Thursday, and the other two (Team USA and Team Canada) will face off tonight in Columbus. Verizon Center will host a pair of World Cup exhibitions next week; Team USA faces Team Finland on Tuesday, Sept. 13 and Team Sweden takes on Team Europe the following night.

If Thursday's exhibition games are any indication, the quality of these World Cup prep games is well beyond what we're generally accustomed to seeing in the month of September.

Starting on Sept. 17, the tournament starts for real in Toronto. Nine Capitals players will begin pursuit of the 2016 World Cup of Hockey championship, hoping to join Carey and Konowalchuk on the short list of Caps who've won the tournament.

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