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This article was published 5/5/2016 (2037 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Matt Duchene sees the world hockey championship as an audition.
The 25-year-old was not among the first 16 players named to Canada's entry at September's World Cup in Toronto. He hopes to add his name to the group with a strong performance for Canada at the IIHF World Championship in Russia, which begins Friday in St. Petersburg, Russia, with a preliminary game against the U.S.
The tournament is in some ways a last minute proving ground for Duchene as well as wingers Corey Perry, Taylor Hall and Brad Marchand, the likeliest Canadian candidates to draw real consideration for the final World Cup roster, which must be announced before June 1. None of the initial 16 players chosen are participating in the worlds.
"I think I would've come no matter what, but I think it's even a bigger incentive to come over and play," Duchene said in an interview this week. "Our first and foremost goal is to win this tournament and that's the only thing that's on our minds. But what helps the team win the tournament is going to help us also."
Duchene and team captain Perry were both members of Canada's gold medal winning squad at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, but neither landed one of the coveted first 16 spots on the World Cup team.
There's an opportunity in Russia to influence management and coaches of that squad, who are involved to some degree at the worlds. Bill Peters, an assistant coach on Mike Babcock's World Cup staff, is Canada's head coach in Russia.
He was also Duchene's coach at the 2008 Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournament and an assistant at last year's world championship in the Czech Republic, where Canada won its first gold since 2007.
World Cup GM Doug Armstrong is serving as a senior adviser for the world championship team.
Duchene thinks he can demonstrate to Peters his reliability and versatility in the coming weeks. A natural centre, he's starting the tournament at right wing alongside Connor McDavid in what he hopes is a display of his ability to shuffle around the lineup where needed.
Duchene demonstrated such versatility at the Olympics, starting at wing before sliding to centre when John Tavares suffered a knee injury.
"I think that's a good thing to be versatile and show what you can do at a different position," said Duchene, who had four goals and 12 points at last year's worlds.
From Haliburton, Ont., Duchene has a long history with Hockey Canada. This will be his fifth appearance at the world championships. He hopes to add the World Cup to his resume.
"The way I look at my career is I want to try and make every team I possibly can so I get as many experiences as possible," said Duchene, among the older players for Canada in Russia. "I think it's a huge honour to be named to Team Canada, especially when they have every single player, Canadian-born, at their fingertips to choose from.
"It's an extremely elite group and I think it's one you want to be in as a player. You strive to be there. I know it's not just me who feels that way."
This Canadian squad will also feature players from the North American entry at the World Cup, McDavid most notably, as well as defencemen Morgan Rielly of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Ryan Murray of the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Top teenage draft prospects Auston Matthews of the U.S. and Finland's Patrik Laine will also be in the tournament, taking some of the spotlight away from McDavid.
"For once, everyone's a little bit more worried about Matthews and Laine," McDavid said. "I'm just here trying to enjoy my time and have a good tournament with the team and we're here to win a gold medal."
Canada's entry is young all the way around, but especially on defence.
Vancouver Canucks defenceman Chris Tanev is the senior member of the group at only 26. He's joined by 22-year-olds Cody Ceci, Michael Matheson, Murray and Rielly, as well as 23-year-old Vancouver Canuck Ben Hutton and 21-year-old Matt Dumba.
Up front, there's plenty of speed and skill with Arizona Coyotes young star Max Domi joining the likes of Duchene, Perry, McDavid and Hall.
Canada's goaltending will be steered by Edmonton Oilers No. 1 Cam Talbot.
George McPhee, a co-general manager of the team, says he's excited by the youthful potential of the group.
"There's not very often you get to put a team like this together, this age, this kind of talent, this kind of speed," McPhee said, expressing his intrigue in combining all those ingredients. "Yes, we're looking forward to that because there are times when you have a team like this, it's magical watching it."
McPhee understands though that those like Duchene will have the World Cup in back of mind as they play in Russia. He said it's been made clear to players that the focus is on winning only this tournament.
Duchene says that won't be a problem.
"It doesn't really change anything," said Duchene. "When I was trying to make the Olympic team I kept the mentality and kept telling people that were asking me, 'Whatever helped the Colorado Avalanche was going to help me make that team' and it's no different here."
— With files from The Associated Press