Florida Panthers center Aleksander Barkov is playing for Team Finland at the World Cup of Hockey 2016. The 21-year-old has agreed to keep a diary throughout the tournament, which begins in Toronto on Sept. 17 and runs through Oct. 1.
In his first installment, Barkov talks about the first day of practice at Hartwall Arena on Monday and what his expectations are for the team.
HELSINKI -- It was great to get together with the guys and start getting some practices going in preparation for the upcoming World Cup of Hockey.
Things got started for us [Sunday] night at the hotel. We had so many tests and a little meeting. Then we had dinner with the team and we got to know each other even better. It was a lot of fun.
I really like our team. We have a pretty good team and I know everyone on the team personally. I've played with everyone on the roster, either at the Olympics or World Championships, so there is nobody random for me. I have a pretty good feeling about this team.
I think I'm on a pretty good line, with Patrik Laine and Jussi Jokinen. I like to play with those guys and I like being around them. We had a lot of success as a line at the World Championship this past spring and we have some pretty good chemistry. I played with Jussi for two years in Florida and we spent a lot of time together there, and Patrik is from Tampere, the same hometown as me. We spent some time together during the summer there and he is almost the same age as me, so we have a lot in common.
Summer was a bit shorter because of this tournament, but I don't mind. I spent a lot of time with my friends and my family, and got a bit of rest before starting practice up again. I went on vacation to France for 10 days after the World Championship. I relaxed and spent a lot of time swimming and sunbathing.
As far as this tournament goes, like I said, I like our team. I think we have a chance to beat anyone in the tournament with this group of guys. We have the best goaltenders in the world, good defensemen, good offense. We can score in every game and we can defend well, so I think we can win any game. We have our first [preliminary-round] game against Team North America (Sept. 17), and we are looking toward that game and we want to win that game.
I think one of the advantages we have is that this team is made up of many of the players that played at the World Championship last year. We all know each other. You know, Finland is a very small country and every player has a good chemistry with all the other players. We did pretty well at the World Championship last year, so hopefully it carries over.
We can't wait to get started with the [pretournament] game against Team Sweden on Thursday (Noon ET; ESPN3, Sportsnet, TVA Sports). Talk to you again in a few days.