For professional athletes, a chance to represent your home country is a true honour. Eight Oilers players will have that opportunity May 6-22 in Russia, at the 2016 IIHF World Championship.
Goaltender Cam Talbot, along with forwards Connor McDavid and Taylor Hall, will represent Team Canada in Group B, playing the preliminary round in St. Petersburg. Joining Canada in Group B is Team USA, which will have two Oilers representatives in forwards Patrick Maroon and Matt Hendricks.
On the European side of things, defenceman Andrej Sekera will play for Slovakia in Group B. Leon Draisaitl will represent Germany in Group B as well, and Nail Yakupov will skate for the Russians in Group A.
“I’m looking forward to going over to the Worlds and experiencing Team Canada and all that has to offer. I’m excited for that,” said Hall.
Hall is one of a few Oilers with Worlds experience. Hall and Team Canada won Gold in 2015 when Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan was behind the bench, and the winger is hoping to repeat those successes.
“That’s the plan,” Hall said, per the IIHF website. “It’s huge. It’s been a tough year winning-wise, so to go over there and experience that winning feeling again is the reason why I want to go.”
Hendricks captained the United States to a Bronze finish in 2015. Sekera is a World Championship veteran, representing Slovakia at numerous events.
Draisaitl also played for his home country in the 2014 World Championship.
Others are headed to Worlds for the first time. McDavid has put on the Canada sweater at the junior level, but this is his first experience at this event. Like McDavid, Yakupov has worn the Russian jersey at the junior level but now joins the men’s team for the first time in international play.
Talbot has yet to represent Canada and is eager for his first opportunity.
Had you told him prior to the 2015-16 season he’d be putting on his nation’s colours he wouldn’t have believed you.
“I probably would have told you that you were crazy back then, but I’m really looking forward to the opportunity,” said Talbot. “It’s a great opportunity for myself. I’ve never been able to represent my country before so it’s an honour to be able to wear the Canada crest.”
Maroon is another Oiler who is looking forward to his first taste of international ice hockey play.
“This is a great opportunity for me to go out there and just play my game and play with really good players and I get to play with Hendy there so that’s exciting,” Maroon said. “I get to go over there and know someone that I’m comfortable talking with. That’s exciting news. I get the opportunity to rep my country and hopefully come back with a gold medal.”
We will have daily updates on the World Championship with stats, standings and breakdowns of how the Oilers players and their teams fared, beginning Friday.