MOSCOW (AP) — With a broken foot, Alex Ovechkin once got on a plane the day after the Washington Capitals were eliminated from the playoffs to represent Russia at the world hockey championship.
It's something the three-time NHL MVP will gladly do again at the World Cup of Hockey after headlining Russia's 16-man roster for the tournament on Wednesday.
"Doesn't matter which tournament, it's huge honor," Ovechkin said. "It's nice to be in the list, and I'm proud to represent my country."
Ovechkin was joined on the roster by Capitals teammate Evgeny Kuznetsov, Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin and Detroit Red Wings forward Pavel Datsyuk. Ovechkin, Malkin and Datsyuk are part of Russia's old guard from the past two Olympics, while Kuznetsov could provide a major spark after being left off the Olympic team in Sochi in 2014.
Finland also announced a roster full of NHL players, with forwards Mikko Koivu of the Minnesota Wild and Jussi Jokinen of the Florida Panthers joining Boston Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask.
"They are a great mixture of experience, talent, and open-mindness," Finland coach Lauri Marjamaki said. "For the players the World Cup is a huge thing. Their motivation is high and they all want to be part of the team."
The rest of the teams will announce their rosters later Wednesday.
Kuznetsov hasn't played for Russia in a men's best-on-best tournament yet in his career.
"He was playing for the national team in world championship, but I think it's kind of different level of the tournament," Ovechkin said of the World Cup. "I think it's kind of (like) Olympic Games because all the best players are going to be there and it's — it's kind of something close to Olympic Games."
With 20 goals and 45 assists, Kuznetsov is fifth in the NHL in scoring. He'll only be 24 when he suits up for Russia during the World Cup, which begins Sept. 17 in Toronto.
Ovechkin expects Kuznetsov to get better in time.
"Everybody knew he had like, talent to be one of the best players in the league," Ovechkin said. "He's still young, obviously. In the future, he's going to be more mature, have more experience, and I'm pretty sure 20 goals is just the beginning for him. He can score 40, you know, easily in this league if he's going to continue what he's doing, and he's going to be a top player."
Speaking after the Capitals' 3-2 victory against Malkin and the Penguins on Tuesday night, Ovechkin deferred to Russia coach Dmitry Kurbatov about how much representation the KHL might have at the World Cup. The first 16 players are all playing in the NHL, but there's room for more when the final seven are named by June 1.
Ovechkin will be playing in his second World Cup after dressing for two games the last time the event was held in 2004. He was the youngest player in the tournament back then, but it gave him a taste of what this one might be like.
"I was a teenager then and I played in a couple games and it was an unbelievable experience for me just to see players from NHL," Ovechkin said. "You're just watching TV and reading the newspaper as a little guy and you play against them. It's a huge experience for young guys and a great time for experienced guys who represent their country. It's a big stage, so it's a big tournament."