ST. PETERSBURG, Russia -- Players in the 2016 IIHF World Championship are focused on helping their countries win gold, and some are hoping to use their performance as a stepping stone to next major international tournament.
With the roster deadline for the 2016 World Cup of Hockey set for May 27, a number of players are using their opportunity in Russia as an audition for the remaining roster spots on all eight teams. The World Cup of Hockey will be held Sept. 17 to Oct. 1 in Toronto.
One team looking for young talent is Team North America, which features the best players from the United States and Canada 23 years old or younger as of Oct. 1.
Canada defensemen Cody Ceci (Ottawa Senators) and Michael Matheson (Florida Panthers) are two 22-year-olds looking to grab a spot on that roster. At the World Championship they are part of a defense corps that has allowed four goals in Canada's 6-0-0-0 start.
Ceci has five points, a plus-7 rating and is second on Canada with an average ice time of 19:46 per game. He had career highs in goals (10) and points (26) in 75 games this season with Ottawa.
Matheson has two goals, five points and a plus-11 rating that is tied for the tournament lead. He spent most of the season with Portland of the American Hockey League, but had one assist in five Stanley Cup Playoff games. He also played in three regular-season NHL games.
Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid, who is on the initial 16-player roster for Team North America with Canada teammates Ryan Murray (Columbus Blue Jackets) and Morgan Rielly (Toronto Maple Leafs), is hoping more players from the World Championship team will head to Toronto.
"There's a lot of good young players on this Team Canada," McDavid said. "It would be great to see some of those guys be named to that [World Cup] team."
"It's a big honor," said Leon Draisaitl (Oilers), playing at the World Championship for Germany but also for Team Europe. "It's great to be part of this. There's a lot of world-class players going at it.
"It'll be a little different [at the World Cup] for sure. It's a little bit different of a setup. We'll still try and win every game and try to win the tournament. I think every team does that, so it's going to be a great event."
Players from Russia, Finland, Sweden and Czech Republic will compete for their national teams at the World Cup. That leaves a lot of players from a lot of different places hoping to use the World Championship as a springboard to a spot with Team Europe.
Among them is Slovakia center Marko Dano. He had five goals and 10 points in 34 games with the Chicago Blackhawks and Winnipeg Jets but has been slowed at the World Championship because of a leg injury. He has one assist in five games.
"It's hard to say because there are so many good players on the different teams," Dano said of his World Cup hopes. "I don't know. I'm just going to try, do my best and see how it goes."