OTTAWA — The World Cup of Hockey is going to have a strong Lightning presence.
Ten Tampa Bay players were named Wednesday to the preliminary 16-man rosters for the two-week, eight-team tournament in Toronto in September. That's the most of any NHL team. Coach Jon Cooper will also serve on the staff for the North America team, made up of players 23 and younger.
"It's going to be the best of the best, pretty much," said defenseman Victor Hedman, named to Sweden's team. "It's going to be a fun tournament, everyone watching us. It's a great way to start the season, I think."
Hedman, a surprise snub for Sweden's 2014 Olympic team, will be joined by Lightning Swedish defense partner Anton Stralman for the World Cup.
This will also be a big moment for captain Steven Stamkos, who has yet to compete in the Olympics; he wasn't picked in 2010 and was hurt in 2014. He, Hedman and Stralman are among the Lightning players who had been expected to be selected, including goalie Ben Bishop (United States) — who is having a Vezina Trophy-caliber season — center Valtteri Filppula (Finland), wing Nikita Kucherov and goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy (Russia), and Ondrej Palat (Czech Republic).
Center Tyler Johnson wasn't among the first 16 chosen for the United States, but he likely will be among the final 23 players. Each team's remaining seven roster spots will be filled by early June.
The pleasant surprise selections were Vladislav Namestnikov (Russia) and defenseman Andrej Sustr (Czech Republic), who probably played their way onto the rosters with their strong performances this season.
"It's a testament to those kids, because I would say in training camp this year, I'm not so sure Vladdy would be on the radar, (Sustr) maybe," Cooper said. "But those guys found their ways, not only on (their teams), but the first 16 (players) on the team. …. In our (locker) room, guys were really happy for them."
Namestnikov, arguably the Lightning's most improved player, didn't know if he'd get the opportunity. But, he said, he, Kucherov and Vasilevskiy had dinner with Team Russia representatives a few weeks ago in Pittsburgh. Defenseman Nikita Nesterov could get added to the Russian team.
"Growing up, you're always watching the tournament, the World Cups, and internationally," Namestnikov said "To be named to the roster was cool."
Though the timing of the tournament isn't ideal, during training camp from Sept. 17 to Oct. 1, it'll be well worth it for those playing.
"I don't think you can put a price tag on the competition level, the fitness level," Cooper said. "All those things will be at a peak when they start up in the fall. In situations like this, these are life events, to play for your country."
For the complete initial rosters, go to tampabay.com/lightning.