As speculated this summer, reported by many this morning, and now confirmed by the NHL, the Minnesota Wild’s Mikko Koivu has been named captain of the Finnish team in next month’s World Cup of Hockey.
Koivu, who has also captained the Wild since 2009, is no stranger to a leadership role. He has captained Finland’s national team multiple times, including three IIHF World Championships. However, the stakes will be a bit higher as Koivu leads a young Finland team into the World Cup. Among his teammates up front are up-and-coming NHL stars like Aleksander Barkov, Teuvo Teravainen, Sebastian Aho, and 2016 second overall pick Patrick Laine. Although Koivu will be comforted by some veteran assistance in net between Tuukka Rask and Pekka Rinne, the majority of the weight falls on his shoulders to lead a team that is somewhat inexperienced in major international play to the podium.
The World Cup will help to prepare Koivu for the upcoming season, where again the Wild will face a tough path to playoff success. Koivu has 556 points in 763 NHL games, all with Minnesota. His best season was back when he was first named captain for the 2009-10 season, and he responded with 71 points. However, his numbers have begun to dip down into the 40’s and 50’s since he turned 30 in 2013. The Wild hope that he can return to form and help to lead their equally young squad deep into the postseason. As Finland’s captain, he may just get the boost he needs from the World Cup to start the NHL season off strong.