PARIS -- Colorado Avalanche forward Nathan MacKinnon began, and will end, his 2016-17 season by competing in big international tournaments. He took part in the World Cup of Hockey 2016 in September and is playing for Canada in the World Hockey Championship, which opens Friday in Paris and Cologne, Germany.
The two events will be vastly different experiences for MacKinnon. In the best-on-best World Cup, he played for Team North America, made up of players 23 and under from Canada and the United States. In Paris, he'll try to help Canada win its third consecutive world championship, a feat it hasn't accomplished in 65 years.
Canada defeated Finland in the gold medal game last year in Moscow.
"It's obviously a little different," MacKinnon told NHL.com Thursday after practice at AccorHotels Arena, one day before the United States lost its opening game of the tournament 2-1 against Germany. "The World Cup was definitely a fun tournament, but there was no pride behind that jersey. This jersey here, we're very proud to wear it and it's an honor for sure. Not everybody gets this opportunity. We all love the game and our seasons weren't great, missing the playoffs or losing in the first round. It's unfortunate what happened, but we were set to be here. We love the game, to represent our country and we're proud to be Canadians for sure."
Each team will play seven games in the preliminary round; four teams in each group advance to the quarterfinals. The United States will play in Group A in Cologne; Canada is in Group B in Paris.
MacKinnon has some familiar faces playing with him; he's one of four members of the Avalanche who will play for Canada. Colorado missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs this season and finished last in the NHL standings.
"[Center] Matt Duchene, [defenseman] Tyson Barrie and [goaltender] Calvin Pickard are here, the four of us, so it's good," MacKinnon said. "It's always good to be coming over with your teammates and winning this. You can kind of take that back to your team next season. You forget about yourself after a tough year. It's exciting."
Canada's roster also includes four members of the Philadelphia Flyers: forwards Claude Giroux, Brayden Schenn, Wayne Simmonds and Travis Konecny. Pickard and Chad Johnson of the Calgary Flames are the goaltenders.
The U.S. team includes only one player older than 27, goaltender Jimmy Howard of the Detroit Red Wings, and will be coached by Detroit's Jeff Blashill. The youngest player is defenseman Charlie McAvoy, 19, who joined the Boston Bruins after completing his second season at Boston University. Another defenseman, Connor Murphy of the Arizona Coyotes, was named captain.
"This is a different tournament, it's not best-on-best," Duchene said. "These are the best who are out of the playoffs, and some of them don't come. It's a different type of game, but either way we play Canadian hockey and try to win this tournament. Our goal is to win. That's what we're here for, and hopefully we can make it happen."
Results from Friday:
Germany 2, United States 1: Thomas Greiss (New York Islanders) made 42 saves and Tobias Rieder (Arizona Coyotes) and Patrick Hager scored to help Germany win in a Group A preliminary round game at Lanxess Arena in Cologne, Germany.
Connor Murphy (Arizona Coyotes) scored and Jimmy Howard (Detroit Red Wings) made 25 saves for the United States. Dylan Larkin (Red Wings) and Brock Nelson (Islanders) each had an assist.
Canada 4, Czech Republic 1: Calvin Pickard (Colorado Avalanche) made 28 saves and Tyson Barrie (Avalanche) and Jeff Skinner (Carolina Hurricanes) each had a goal and an assist for Canada in a Group B preliminary round game at AccorHotels Arena in Paris.
Mike Matheson (Florida Panthers) and Ryan O'Reilly (Buffalo Sabres) scored and Claude Giroux (Philadelphia Flyers) had two assists.
Russia 2, Sweden 1 (SO): Artemi Panarin (Chicago Blackhawks) scored twice in the shootout and Andrei Vasilievskiy (Tampa Bay Lightning) made 22 saves in Russia's win against Sweden in a Group A preliminary round game at Lanxess Arena in Cologne, Germany. Elias Lindholm (Carolina Hurricanes) scored a first-period goal for Sweden.
Finland 3, Belarus 2: Sebastian Aho (Carolina Hurricanes) scored a first-period goal and Joonas Korpisalo (Columbus Blue Jackets) made 22 saves in Finland's win against Belarus in a Group B preliminary round game at AccorHotels Arena in Paris.