SAN JOSE -– No matter how far the Sharks advance in the upcoming Stanley Cup playoffs, the offseason just got a little bit shorter for five of them.
Joe Pavelski, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Tomas Hertl, Roman Polak and Joonas Donskoi were all chosen as participants for the eight-team World Cup of Hockey, set to take place in Toronto from Sep. 17 – Oct. 1. Pavelski will play for Team USA; Vlasic for Canada; Hertl and Polak for the Czech Republic, and Donskoi for Finland.
Other Sharks could be named before June 1, the deadline for final rosters. Brent Burns, Logan Couture, Joe Thornton and Justin Braun are the most notable Sharks players that will have to wait a bit longer to see if they make the cut.
Pavelski, 31, was a lock to make Team USA, after playing for his country at the last two Olympic games and sitting on a team-leading 29 goals and 61 points so far this season.
At the Sochi Olympics in 2014, the United States failed to medal despite getting off to a strong start in the preliminary round. This tournament provides a chance for redemption.
“Sochi we were rolling, didn’t happen,” Pavelski said. “Definitely a letdown at the end.”
The previous World Cup of Hockey was in 1996.
“It’s a cool event that’s coming back, and I think a lot of players are excited for it,” Pavelski said. “[There was] a little bit of a buzz today seeing the guys that got named to it already. When you have a chance you play for your country, it’s one of those special occurrences, and it’s a big honor.”
Vlasic, also at the most recent Olympics for the gold-medal winning Canadian team, faced tough competition to make the squad this year despite having another strong season in San Jose. Canada is loaded with blue line options.
What helped is that he’s a left-handed shot, while most of Canada’s best blueliners are righties. Further, he teamed with Drew Doughty at Sochi to form a dominant pair, and Doughty was also one of the four defenseman named on Wednesday.
“We played together in 2009 at the World Championships, worked really well. They put us together five years later and it worked well,” Vlasic said. “It just clicked right away. … Doughty is a professional and he’s one of the best in the league. I know how he plays and I guess he knew how I played, as well.”
While his name may have been a bit of a surprise to some, considering he got an early nod over more offensively dangerous players like Burns and P.K. Subban, the 28-year-old Vlasic has never lacked for confidence in himself or his game. It’s a good bet that he expected to make the team either now or later.
“I’ve worked hard and played well the last couple of years – this year as well – to put myself in that category with the best defensemen,” he said.
With international competition comes facing off against fellow teammates, of course. Vlasic was asked how difficult it would be to shut down a player like Pavelski.
“At the Olympics we shut him down. Hopefully Canada can to the same,” he quipped.
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Hertl, 22, and Donskoi, 23, don’t have Olympic experience, although each represented his country in the World Juniors as a teenager. Hertl was being considered for Sochi before his devastating knee injury in December, 2013.
“I was a little bit sad,” he recalled. “Now, the World Cup is so exciting. … I think it will be a lot of fun. I can’t wait.”
Donskoi believes his decision to sign with an NHL team helped him to be named to the Finnish roster.
“Absolutely. They want guys [that] play in the NHL to play on the team too, so we’re playing in small rinks. That’s a big thing for the tournament.”
“It’s a big honor for me personally. It’s always great to put the Finland jersey on. I look forward to it."
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Coach Pete DeBoer was set to be an assistant coach for Team North America, comprised of the best players 23 years of age or younger, but recently bowed out to spend more time with his family which remains in New Jersey.
“It was tough," DeBoer said of the decision.
Florida coach Gerard Gallant replaced DeBoer on Todd McLellan's staff.