WINNIPEG — While the season is over for the majority of the Winnipeg Jets, there is more hockey to play for centres Olli Jokinen and Mark Scheifele as well as defenceman Jacob Trouba.
Next month all three will be taking part in the World Hockey Championships in Minsk, Belarus.
This is 20-year-old Trouba’s second tour of duty for the U.S.A. He was part of the American team that won bronze last year.
Scheifele has played in two world junior tournaments for Canada, but this is his first experience with the senior team for the 21-year-old Kitchener, Ont., native.
Jokinen has them all beat. This will be his 10th world championship, coming just months after being part of Finland’s bronze-medal-winning team at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
While many in Jokinen’s position would have politely declined the invitation, the NHL veteran of 17 years couldn’t pass up the opportunity.
“It was such a good experience to be a part of Team Finland at the Olympics,” Jokinen said. “We had a good group of guys over there, good coaching staff and 70 to 80 per cent of the players there are going to go to this tournament.”
While Jokinen, 35, relishes these chances to play for his country, he would prefer to experience the Stanley Cup playoffs at this time of year.
“You’d rather be playing here in the (NHL) playoffs, but hopefully this is the last one. Every hockey player wants to be playing in May and June and this is one way to do that,” he said.
Because of a knee injury, Mark Scheifele missed the last 19 games of the season. When Canada opens play at the worlds on May 9 against France, it will be over two months between games for the rookie centre, who is pleased that Jets head coach Paul Maurice is part of the Canadian staff behind the bench.
“Definitely pretty cool to have your own coach as an assistant coach of the team,” Scheifele enthusiastically remarked. “You have a familiar face with the coaching staff if something you want clarification on it’s easier to go to. Definitely good to have him.”
While Canada has back-to-back Olympic golds, the team hasn’t won the World Championship for seven years. The team has also not placed in the top three since 2009.
“There’s always pressure on Canada to succeed,” said Scheifele. “Hopefully we can be the team to get us out of that.”