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Six Coyotes to represent their countries at IIHF World Championship

Names within the Arizona organization will span across five countries during hockey's highest profile international tournament

by Arizona Coyotes @ArizonaCoyotes

The off-season will have to wait for six players in the Coyotes organization who are participating at the 2019 IIHF World Championship - hockey's highest profile annual international competition - which begins Friday in Slovakia, featuring 16 teams split into two groups.

Arizona's six players will represent five different countries; some seeking a shot at a gold medal repeat, others taking the international stage for the first time in their young careers. 

Those playing in the tournament to have skated for the Coyotes during the 2018-19 season are Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Mario Kempe for Team Sweden, Clayton Keller for Team USA, Richard Panik for Team Slovakia, Ilya Lyubushkin for Team Russia, and Liam Kirk for Team Great Britain.

Carrying his leadership qualities overseas, Ekman-Larsson will captain Team Sweden as he vies to earn his third consecutive title at the event. Serving as an alternate captain last year, he posted seven points in 10 games.

The Coyotes' captain, currently tabbed as a finalist for the NHL's King Clancy Memorial Trophy, shared a few thoughts with International Ice Hockey Federation writer Derek O'Brien upon entering this year's tournament as a two-time defending champion.

Dressing for Team USA for the second time is Keller, who will look to follow up a wondrous performance at his first-ever World Championship in 2017, where he scored five goals in eight tournament games played.

The 20-year-old will play with the likes of projected #1-overall draft selection Jack Hughes along with household names Patrick Kane and Johnny Gaudreau, among many other American-born superstars.

Two members from Arizona's 2018-19 roster will be making their World Championship debuts, notably Mario Kempe, who's to not only skate alongside Ekman-Larsson with Sweden, but his brother, Adrian, as well, who plays for the Los Angeles Kings.

The other international grand stage first-timer is Lyubushkin, who will utilize his defensive talents with the always dangerous Team Russia.

Panik, coming off a season in which he posted the second-highest point total of his seven-year NHL career, is presented with the opportunity to showcase his play in his home country, where he's already making noise.

Some slick stick work to precede his fourth World Championship tournament appearance caught eyes on Tuesday as he went five-hole with a quick flip of his wrists, using the toe of his blade to freeze Team Norway's goaltender in the European Hockey Challenge.

And from a grassroots level with a prime opportunity to have a firm hand in continuing to expand the game's boundaries, Kirk, the Coyotes' seventh-round selection from last year's draft, could be part of a very, very special story for Great Britain, which is playing in the top division of the tournament for the first time since 1994.

ESPN's Emily Kaplan provided a magnificent look at Kirk, his home country, and the enormity of it all:

Each team will play seven round-robin games within its group, with the top four teams from each group advancing to single elimination playoff rounds.

Group A: Canada, United States, Finland, Germany, Slovakia, Denmark, France, Great Britain

Group B: Sweden, Russia, Czech Republic, Switzerland, Norway, Latvia, Austria, Italy

The opening day of the tournament will feature one head-to-head match-up involving Coyotes teammates: Clayton Keller and Team USA versus Richard Panik and Team Slovakia.

2019 IIHF WORLD HOCKEY CHAMPIONSHIP SCHEDULE

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