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It’s time to care about the World Championships again

Chris Tanev and Ben Hutton are joining Team Canada
Chris Tanev and Ben Hutton are joining Team Canada

It’s never fun to be on the outside looking in when the Stanley Cup Playoffs start. Fans of playoff teams get all the thrills of the postseason—the soaring highs of victory, the agonizing groin-kicks of defeat—while fans of non-playoff teams get next to nothing.

Fortunately, right next to nothing is where you can find the 2016 Hockey World Championships, taking place in Moscow and St. Petersburg, Russia.

At least six Canucks are expected to play for their respective national teams when the tournament kicks off in early May. Let’s break down which Canucks are going. It’s not much, but it’s also not nothing.

Team Canada: Chris Tanev and Ben Hutton

It must have been thrilling for both Tanev and Hutton to get the call for Team Canada and especially surprising for Hutton, coming off his rookie year. Neither has represented their country before, making this an extra special moment for both players.

Weirdly enough, the 26-year-old Tanev will be the veteran of the defence corps, at least as they’re currently composed. The rest of the defencemen named to the roster—Cody Ceci, Morgan Rielly, and Ryan Murray—are all, like Hutton, 22.

Team Canada will likely look to add a veteran defenceman or two to the roster as teams are knocked out of the playofffs, but as it stands, Tanev will likely be asked to play a significant role on the blue line and Hutton may very well end up as his defence partner. Heck, they're already roommates, you may as well take advantage of that existing chemistry.

Canada won the tournament last year, their first gold medal since 2007 and first medal of any colour since 2009. Dan Hamhuis was the lone Canucks representative on that team, so Hutton and Tanev will have to withstand his withering disappointed Dad face if they fail to medal this year.

Team Sweden: Jacob Markstrom

I don’t think anyone is too choked up about Markstrom being the only Canuck to make Team Sweden. Alex Edler needs time to finish recovering from his late season injury and as much as the Sedins claim to be healthy, I don’t believe them at all, and they should rest their old, broken bodies as much as possible right now.

For Markstrom, this is a return to where he belongs. He was a mainstay of Team Sweden through his teen years, representing his country multiple times in international competition, including two World Junior Championships. In 2009, he was named the World Junior Championship’s best goaltender.

He has also played for Sweden in two previous World Championships, winning bronze in 2010 and gold in 2013, though he ended up as a backup in both tournaments. Depending on who the other goaltender is, that could happen again, but it’s just as likely that this will be Markstrom’s chance to be the starter for Team Sweden.

Team Denmark: Jannik Hansen

This isn’t the least bit surprising. Denmark is thin on NHL talent as it is and were probably desperate to get the new and improved 22-goalscorer back in a Danish jersey.

This will be Hansen’s sixth trip to the World Championships for Team Denmark, his most recent coming in 2014, when he was clearly one of the best players on the team, putting up 4 points in 7 games for the overmatched Danes.

They’ll be in tough again this year, though they drew the slightly easier Group A, avoiding Group B’s Canada, Finland, and USA, but still having to face Russia, Sweden, and the Czech Republic. They’ll have to outbattle the likes of Switzerland and Latvia for the final spot in the top four, unless Czech Republic gets upset a couple times in the round robin stage. It’s more likely, however, that Denmark will be playing to avoid relegation.

Team Finland: Markus Granlund

I tried my darnedest to figure out who Markus Granlund is as a player—what tangible skills and abilities he brings to the table that make him a valuable addition to the Canucks roster—but I came up empty. Everything he does on the ice seems designed to escape my notice.

So I’m grateful for the opportunity to see him in a few more games in a different setting. It will be interesting to see if his playmaking skills show up with different linemates or if the larger ice surface will showcase some element of his skating or intelligent positioning that just didn’t show up in his 16 games with the Canucks.

This will be Granlund’s first World Championships, though he represented Finland at two World Junior Championships (scoring 5 goals and 12 points in 6 games in 2013) as well as multiple other international tournaments as a teenager.

Team Switzerland: Yannick Weber

Yes, Weber is technically still a Canuck. While I know he played poorly this last season, I still feel like he got a raw deal. Of all the negative things you can say about Weber, you can’t say that he’s worse than Matt Bartkowski, unless you just really enjoy being wrong about things.

Weber has represented Switzerland at three World Junior Championships, two Olympics, and two World Championships. He’ll likely get an opportunity to man the point on the Swiss power play: he scored three goals during the 2014 World Championships.

Switzerland shouldn’t be underrated. They won silver in 2013 and have a strong chance to make it into the top four of Group A and move on to the single-elimination portion of the tournament, where anything can happen.

There’s a chance Luca Sbisa will also play, but it likely depends on his recovery from injury.

Team USA: Auston Matthews

Okay, so Matthews isn’t a Canuck just yet and it’s unlikely that the Canucks will get the top pick in the draft lottery, but we can dream, right? And “unlikely” doesn’t mean impossible.

We’ll know before the tournament starts where the Canucks will be picking in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft and, if the Canucks are picking in the top three, the World Championships could give us a preview of a member of the 2016-17 Canuck roster.

Matthews has been named to Team USA and it’s entirely possible that Patrik Laine and Jesse Puljujarvi, expected to go second and third overall, will be named to Team Finland. You can bet that if the Canucks wind up with a top-three pick, there will be a lot more interest in the World Championships.