CALGARY — Canada's men's squad will have at least five returning players from last year's gold-medal team when they hit the ice at the 2017 IIHF world championship.
Hockey Canada named its first 18 players on Wednesday, with a handful that were on the 2016 championship team.
Forwards Mark Scheifele, Matt Duchene and Ryan O'Reilly, defenceman Michael Matheson and goaltender Calvin Pickard return to defend gold, while Duchene and O'Reilly are in position to three-peat as world champions after also winning in 2015.
"It's always special when you get to represent your country, and you can see it from the quality of our initial list of players who will join us at worlds," said general manager Ron Hextall.
The 18 players selected consist of 11 forwards, five defencemen and two goalies.
The Philadelphia Flyers and Colorado Avalanche have the most players on the Canadian squad with four apiece.
Flyers forwards Travis Konecny, Sean Couturier, Wayne Simmonds and Claude Giroux made the roster. Avalanche forwards Nathan MacKinnon and Duchene, defenceman Tyson Barrie and Pickard will join them.
Rounding out the forwards are Alex Killorn, Brayden Point and Jeff Skinner.
The rest of the blue line consists of Calvin De Haan, Jason Demers and Josh Morrissey while Eric Comrie fills out the goaltending duties.
"Between them, these players have made 17 appearances at this very event, including nine players who've come away as gold medallists for Canada, and they can play a big role in helping set the tone for this team," added Hextall.
Head coach Jon Cooper will be joined on the bench by Gerard Gallant, Dave Hakstol and Dave King when Canada opens the world championship against the Czech Republic on May 5 in Paris.
The tournament has two host cities, including Colgne, Germany.