7 Canucks players making their mark at the World Championships

ST. PETERSBURG, RUSSIA – After a disappointing early end to their 2015-16 NHL season, seven members of the Vancouver Canucks got the call from their respective national teams to play for their countries at this year’s World Championship.

As the tournament’s preliminary round approaches its midpoint, here’s a rundown of how the three Canucks players in St. Petersburg and four Vancouver players in Moscow have fared.

TEAM CANADA (3-0-0-0): Chris Tanev, Ben Hutton

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Playing for Team Canada for the first time in his hockey career, Chris Tanev has been assumed a leadership role on a young defense corps.

At age 26, Tanev is the only Canadian blueliner who didn’t come into the NHL out of the 2012 draft class. Tanev was undrafted, of course, and joined the Canucks organization as a free agent in 2010-11.

Playing in St. Petersburg on Canada’s top pairing with Morgan Rielly, Tanev has collected one assist in the team’s first three games, and is a plus-two.

Coach Bill Peters has quickly learned what we know about Tanev’s cucumber-cool disposition. “He has been very stable and steady in all regards, very intelligent,” Peters said after Tanev was named Canada’s player of the game in the team’s 7-1 win over Hungary. “You can see the young guys leaning on him.

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“I think he’s been a stabilizing force for us and someone that we might be able to use in even more situations than we have up to this point in the tournament. So just his overall well-rounded game and his ability to slow things down and have a calm presence about him. That’s very important, obviously, for a young team, as you go through the tournament there’s going to be some trials and tribulations.”

Ben Hutton is also wearing the maple leaf for the first time at the national level. His only previous international experience was with Team Canada East in the 2011 World Junior A Challenge.

Like five of his fellow blueliners on Team Canada, Hutton came into the NHL through the 2012 draft, but the others were all first-rounders—Ryan Murray (second), Morgan Rielly (fifth), Matt Dumba (seventh), Cody Ceci (15th) and Michael Matheson (23rd). Hutton was selected in the fifth round, 147th overall, and joined the Canucks after three seasons at the University of Maine.

“It’s been great,” said Hutton of his World Championship experience so far. “It’s been a lot of fun and obviously we’ve been having some good performances, so that also helps.

“It’s a little different. The ice is a lot bigger and I haven’t played with any of these guys other than Tanev back home, but I mean we’ve had great chemistry out there. The guys have been gelling on and off the ice, which only helps us in the long run.”

Hutton has one assist in three games so far, and is a plus-three. He’s being used as a seventh defenseman, averaging 7:18 per game.

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TEAM USA (1-0-0-2): Thatcher Demko

On April 21, goaltending prospect Thatcher Demko signed his entry-level contract with the Vancouver Canucks. One week earlier, he was named as Team USA’s third goaltender for the World Championship, behind Keith Kinkaid of the New Jersey Devils and Mike Condon of the Montreal Canadiens.

It’s not expected that Demko will dress for any games. This experience is all about immersing himself the Team USA experience.

Demko is also still in the midst of wrapping up his junior year at Boston College.

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Watch this space for more on Demko in the coming days.

TEAM SWEDEN (2-1-0-1): Jacob Markstrom

The Swedes currently sit in second place in Moscow’s Group A after posting regulation wins against Denmark and Kazakhstan, an overtime win over Latvia and a loss to the Czech Republic.

Jacob Markstrom has been splitting duties in net with Viktor Fasth, and both netminders boast similar stats so far. Markstrom was outstanding in the tournament-opener against Latvia, stopping 20 of 21 shots and being named Sweden’s player of the game, but he also took the 4-2 loss to the Czechs.

TEAM SWITZERLAND (1-1-2-0): Yannick Weber

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After starting the tournament with overtime losses to Kazakhstan and Norway, the Swiss have turned the tide of their tournament thanks to an overtime win over Denmark and a regulation victory over Latvia.

Yannick Weber took the overtime penalty that led to Norway’s winning goal on Sunday, but is plus-two on the team. He has contributed a goal against Denmark and also has an assist, averaging 17:51 of ice time per game.

TEAM DENMARK (1-0-1-1): Jannik Hansen

Currently in sixth place in Group A with four points, the Danes are going to have a tough time advancing to the medal round. Denmark scored a 3-0 shutout win over Norway, but lost 5-2 to the Czechs and 3-2 in overtime to the Swiss.

Jannik Hansen has been playing on Denmark’s top line with Nikolaj Ehlers of the Winnipeg Jets and Lars Eller of the Montreal Canadiens. Ehlers has scored twice and Eller has three assists, but Hansen has just one assist so far.

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Denmark’s next game comes against the host Russians on Thursday.

TEAM LATVIA (0-0-2-2): Ronalds Kenins

The feisty winger, who spent most of his season in Utica and was called up for just eight games with the Canucks this year, is leading the World Championship in a statistical category—penalty minutes.

Kenins was given a match penalty and ejected from Latvia’s second game, against the Czech Republic, then was suspended for the team’s 4-0 loss to Russia after laying this late hit on Tomas Kundratek.

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Upon his return to the lineup, Kenins slotted back onto Latvia’s top line, playing with Zemgus Girgensons of the Buffalo Sabres and former Ottawa Senator Kaspars Daugavins. Kenins has scored one goal but is also a team-worst minus-five for Latvia.