Forwards Mikko Koivu and Mikael Granlund were both named to Finland's preliminary roster for the 2016 World Cup of Hockey on Wednesday.
Koivu has previously played in 13 international tournaments for Finland. He captained his country in both the 2011 and 2012 IIHF World Championships. Koivu led the team in scoring in 2012, and Finland captured gold in 2011, defeating Sweden 6-1 in the tournament's championship game.
Selected to the 2014 Finnish Olympic team, Koivu was forced to miss the tournament due to injury.
"It’s always as important," Koivu said. "You realize when you do miss it the opportunities to play for your country are not as often. I don’t think that makes a difference. It’s always the biggest honor an athlete can get when you get a chance to play for your country."
A participant in the last World Cup of Hockey, Koivu won a silver medal with Finland in 2004, and also earned silver medals at the 2006 Olympics, and the 2007 World Championships.
"I had a chance to do it in 2004, so obviously it’s a little bit different the way they do it this year," Koivu said. "But for sure, it’s always an honor to play for your country."
Granlund has been a member of eight Finnish teams in international competitions, most recently at the 2014 Olympics, winning a bronze medal. Granlund was third on the team with seven points, and was subsequently named to the 2014 Olympic All-Star Team.
Like Koivu, Granlund was also a member of the 2011 gold medal World Championship team, and also has participated in the IIHF tournament in 2012 and 2013 tournaments.
Granlund captained Finland at the 2012 World Junior Championship, and was tied for second in the tournament with 11 points. He also participated in 2009 and 2010's World Junior events.
"It means a lot," Granlund said. "It’s always an honor to play for Team Finland, and for your country, especially in a tournament like that where the best players in the world are going to be there."Europe Takes One From Wild
Forwards Thomas Vanek was selected by Team Europe for its preliminary World Cup roster.
The 2016 tournament features eight teams, and with Sweden, Finland, Russia, and the Czech Republic all represented, the other countries of Europe will make up one of the teams, combining the top remaining players.
Vanek has represented Austria in six international tournaments. He participated in the 2014 Olympics, picking up one assist in four games. Vanek also was a member of three World Championship teams, in 2004, 2008, and 2013. Prior to that, Vanek participated in two World Junior tournaments, in both 2002 and 2004.
Parise, Suter Again Get Call From United States Hockey
Two mainstays in the United States Hockey program since their teenage years, Zach Parise and Ryan Suter were named to its 2016 World Cup roster.
Each player has participated in the past two Olympics (2014, 2010), and were members of the 2010 team that won a silver medal. Parise captained the 2014 team, and scored the game-tying goal with 24.4 seconds left against Canada in the 2010 gold-medal game before the United States lost in overtime. Suter led all skaters that game, playing 31:31.
Having come so close to winning gold, Parise said he hope this United States World Cup team can go all the way.
"Of course," he said. "It’s no secret that you run out of opportunities as your career goes on. So who knows how many more times you get to be in that situation? For some of us, you want to take advantage right now."
Both players have also been frequent members of World Championship teams. Each represented the United States in 2005 and 2007, while Suter also was on its World Championship roster in 2006 and 2009. Parise was also a member of the United States' 2008 World Championship team.
Suter and Parise helped lead the United States to its first-ever World Junior Championship gold medal in 2004. Parise led the tournament in scoring while serving as an alternate captain. Suter served as a captain for the United States at the World Junior tournament in 2005, and led all defensemen in scoring, later being named to the All-Tournament Team.
"It’s always fun, and I’m looking forward to it," Parise said. "I know it’s a long ways away, and we have a lot of hockey, and summer until, but now that they’ve announced the teams, you start to get a little bit of the excitement and the buildup for it. It’s going to be a pretty cool event."
The World Cup was last played in 2004, and the 2016 tournament will mark the third time it is played. Games will be held from Sept. 17 to Oct. 1 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto.
For more information on the tournament, and the Wild players selected, click here.