It's your country. I've played for Canada before and it's always a lot of fun, so it's going to be a pretty awesome experience. I'm looking forward to it. - Sean Monahan
CALGARY, AB -- Minsk could feel a lot like Calgary come May.
Three members of the Calgary Flames will represent their respective countries at the 2014 IIHF World Championship in Minsk, Belarus from May 9th to 25th.
Among them include Sean Monahan for Canada, Mikael Backlund for Sweden and Jiri Hudler for the Czech Republic.
“It's an honour, obviously,” said Monahan, who last represented Canada on the international stage at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial in 2011. “It's your country. I've played for Canada before and it's always a lot of fun, so it's going to be a pretty awesome experience. I'm looking forward to it.
“I think I'll learn a lot. I'm going to be playing with different players and it's a bigger ice surface and stuff like that. I think it's going to help me grow my game. It's going to be awesome. I'm really looking forward to it.
“It's pretty special to be named to that team. To get that opportunity, it's a great honour.”
In his rookie season in the NHL, the 19-year-old Monahan had 22 goals and 34 points in 75 games.
He’ll be joined by another Flames center in Belarus.
Though he missed the final three games of the season with an upper body injury, Backlund expects to build on his international resume next month.
“I’ve been asked and I’m going to say yes,” he said. “I’m going to go unless the hand [injury] takes longer to heel but it’s supposed to get better every day and we don’t play [our first exhibition] game until May 1st in Stockholm (Sweden). It should be fine and I’m really excited to go.”
Backlund has represented Sweden at the World Championship in both 2010 and 2011. Prior to that, the 24-year-old played in back-to-back World Junior Championships in 2008 and 2009. He recorded career bests in goals (18), assists (21) and points (39) in 76 games this season.
Hudler will represent his country at the event for a second consecutive year. He also participated in three straight World Juniors from 2002-2004.
Finnish goaltender Karri Ramo and American prospect Johnny Gaudreau could push that total to five for the Flames.
"I haven’t talked with them yet, but I’m sure I’m going to talk to the in the next couple days,” said Ramo, who posted a 16-15-4 record with a 2.65 goals against average and .911 save percentage in his first season back in North America. "I know the coach really well, so it’s going to be easy to talk to him about the situation and what they would need from me. We’ll see how it goes. It’s a possibility.”
Gaudreau signed a three-year, entry-level deal with the Flames on Friday, opting to forgo his senior year at Boston College after winning the Hobey Baker Memorial Award as the top NCAA men’s ice hockey player. The 20-year-old led the Nation with 36 goals and 80 points before scoring in his first and only game of the season with the Flames on Sunday against the Vancouver Canucks.
He also represented the United States at the 2013 World Junior Championship, recording seven goals and nine points in seven games en route to earning an all-star nomination.
Chris Butler, who has represented Team USA in both 2012 and 2013, will not suit up for a third consecutive year citing personal reasons.
Mark Giordano will miss the tournament, too.
“I was asked and I had to decline,” the Flames captain said. “I have a hand injury that I've sort of been playing through a little but, but our docs told me it's better to rest. That's always great when you get asked for national team stuff, but you have to make sure that you're ready for September, as well.”
TJ Brodie was also forced to pass due to injury.