A strong group of players has answered the call for Canada.
Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, John Tavares, Jay Bouwmeester, Dion Phaneuf and Cam Ward highlight the first wave who have accepted an invitation to next month's IIHF World Hockey Championship.
“That's a pretty good list,” Phaneuf said Monday.
The event represents Canada's last chance to improve its world ranking from fourth ahead of the Sochi Olympics. Once the world championships wrap up, the groupings for the 2014 Games will be set — and Hockey Canada desperately wants to improve its current placing.
The country slipped down the world list after crashing out of the tournament in the quarter-finals the last two years.
General manager Kevin Lowe has assembled an experienced, talent-laden lineup that includes four 30-goal scorers this year: Perry, Tavares, Jordan Eberle and Evander Kane.
There is also hope that the NHL's leading goal-scorer Steven Stamkos will make the trip. The Tampa Bay Lightning star hit the 60-goal mark despite playing with a sore left shoulder late in the season and had a precautionary MRI on Monday.
“It's nothing major, we just want to make sure that nothing is wrong and we don't want it to happen again,” Stamkos told reporters in Tampa.
He's expected to inform Hockey Canada about his availability in the coming days.
Canada opens the tournament in Helsinki on May 4 with a game against Slovakia. It will play an exhibition game in Zurich prior to that.
Among the other players who have accepted invitations are forwards Jeff Skinner and Andrew Ladd, who both played a year ago. Jamie Benn and Ryan O'Reilly are also expected to join the team as well.
The blue-line features Bouwmeester, Phaneuf, P.K. Subban and Marc Methot.
“I'm really looking forward to having the opportunity to bring gold back because we fell short last year,” said Phaneuf. “We had a real good team and we got beat in the quarters (by Russia). It's a new year, it's a new opportunity and we're definitely going over there to get gold.”
Ward was in goal when Canada last won gold at the 2007 world championship in Moscow. He also took home a silver medal in 2008.
Additional players will be added before the team departs for Europe at the end of the month. The coaching staff has yet to be finalized, but Lindy Ruff of the Buffalo Sabres is considered the front-runner to serve as head coach at his second world championship.