Steven Stamkos finally gets to represent Canada in a best-on-best tournament. USATSI

If the pre-tournament games have been any indication, the players most definitely care about the World Cup of Hockey, which begins Saturday in Toronto. The intensity and pace of those so-called exhibition games has been high already, which is a good sign that the tournament is going to be extremely competitive.

On top of the national pride (or continental pride, if such a thing exists, for the two mixed teams) and the natural competitiveness pro athletes possess, some players are going to have a little more motivation than others. On top of that, this may be the last best-on-best tournament we see for a while as the NHL remains uncommitted at this point to sending its players to the 2018 Olympics.

Here is a look at 10 (technically 11) players that are going to have a little something extra to prove as they enter the World Cup of Hockey.

1. Alex Ovechkin, Russia: The sting of Sochi is still felt by the Russian players that were part of that disappointing early exit. Now Ovechkin will wear the captain's "C" and lead a Russian forward group that is loaded with skill. He has three gold medals at the World Championship, but has been skunked in best-on-best tournaments going back to his debut as a teenager at the 2004 World Cup of Hockey. The Washington Capitals captain knows there's not much time for him to end that drought and try to put his home country back on top. This World Cup may afford him his last best shot.

2. Steven Stamkos, Canada: Named to the roster for the Sochi Olympic team, Stamkos missed out on a gold medal thanks to a fractured leg. He has represented Canada at various tournaments, but hasn't been on a winner since the 2008 World Junior team. On top of that, Stamkos is coming off of missing all but the final game of the Lightning's postseason after developing a blood clot. Back to health and ready to play, Stamkos will have a starring role for Canada. Having missed out on Sochi, the recently re-signed Lightning captain finally gets to prove himself in a best-on-best tournament. He will be one of the players to watch most closely on a Canadian roster loaded with talent.

3. Auston Matthews, North America: As the most recent No. 1 overall pick, Matthews will debut in the building he'll call home as an NHLer before ever slipping on a Toronto Maple Leafs uniform. There is no question he will be North America's most closely watched and covered player with the tournament in Toronto. If what he's shown through the two pre-tournament games so far is any indication, he's not out of place and might even exceed expectations. The 18-year-old Arizona native is the subject of a lot of hype for not only the tournament, but the season ahead. He'll surely want to give the home crowd a taste of what's to come.

4. Zach Parise, USA: After a disappointing exit from the Sochi Olympics, with Team USA going scoreless through the semifinal and an abysmal bronze-medal game, Parise took a lot of criticism as that team's captain. As one of Team USA's heroes in the 2010 Olympics, so much more was expected of him in 2014. He managed just one goal for the tournament. What wasn't known at the time is that Parise was going through the very personal difficulty of his father, J.P., being diagnosed with terminal cancer shortly before the Olympics. Last season, Parise was dogged by injuries which cost him a chance to play in the playoffs. Now back to health, Parise has a clean slate and a top-six role for Team USA. Even though he won't wear a letter this time, he remains one of the foundational players in the American system and this may be his last shot at helping the U.S. break a lengthy best-on-best title drought.

Connor McDavid (right) also has a shot at the Edmonton Oilers' captaincy after leading North America. USATSI

5. Connor McDavid, North America: The talent is unquestioned, but at 19 years old, McDavid is now being asked to lead. He was named captain of Team North America by Todd McLellan, who may also be looking to fill the Edmonton Oilers' vacant captaincy this season. This could end up being a good trial run for the NHL's face of the future with the "C" on his jersey. If it goes well enough, he might be wearing one for Edmonton as soon as next season. In addition to leading in the dressing room, he is going to be expected to produce a lot. The Ontario native will also get a taste of playing at "home" with the tournament in Toronto.

6. Patrik Laine, Finland: The No. 2 overall pick in last year's draft, Laine is part of a youth movement on Finland's roster. He is expected to play on the top line with Aleksander Barkov and Jussi Jokinen, which was a dominant trio at last year's World Championship. Finland is in tough to get out of the preliminary round, mainly because their depth of scoring is troublesome. That puts a lot of pressure on Laine's 18-year-old shoulders to carry the offense as the high-end scorer he is. If he can produce in a tournament like this, can you imagine what he'll do for the Winnipeg Jets next season?

7. Carey Price, Canada: It's all about health and readiness for Price. His first exhibition game -- the first live hockey action he saw in 10 months -- was a little shaky, but that's unlikely to deter Mike Babcock from going to Price as his No. 1. The Montreal Canadiens netminder doesn't have much time to get up to game speed and these World Cup games are going to be pretty fast. If he can make the adjustment quickly, it should ease the minds of Team Canada and Montreal fans as he begins his march back to reclaiming his crown as the best goalie in the game today.

8. Filip Forsberg, Sweden: Some of Sweden's older forwards like Henrik Zetterberg and Alexander Steen have been forced out of the tournament with injury. While others like the Sedin twins and Loui Eriksson remain, Forsberg has an opportunity to stake his claim as an offensive leader of the present and future. After starring the last two seasons for the Nashville Predators, Forsberg is getting his first crack at a best-on-best and he should be leaned on heavily for a team that is expected to do very well in this tournament.

9. Jonathan Quick, USA: It appears that Quick has the "inside track" on being the No. 1 goalie for Team USA. If he manages to keep the job, he has an opportunity to remind people of his "big-game goalie" abilities. He struggled mightily in a first-round exit to the San Jose Sharks in the playoffs last year and even saw a steep drop in his numbers during the Kings' 2014 Cup run. Meanwhile, the last two years he has put up save percentages just over the league average. Even though he was a Vezina finalist last year, we haven't seen Quick go off like he did in 2011-12 and the 2013 playoffs. He was also pretty great at the Olympics until the bronze-medal game. USA needs their goalie to be excellent to have a chance in this tournament because they're going to give up a lot of shots. Quick has a chance to follow in the footsteps of his idol, Mike Richter, who backstopped the U.S. to their 1996 World Cup of Hockey win and was named MVP of that tournament.

10. Jaroslav Halak and Thomas Greiss, Europe: The battle for the New York Islanders starting goalie duties gets an early start as these two will be vying for playing time with Team Europe, too. Greiss was mostly excellent during the playoffs last year when Halak was injured. The German netminder also had a career year during the regular season. That said, it looks like Halak has the inside track to start for Europe, with Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen forced out due to injury. It should be interesting to see how this see-saw battle plays out during the tournament and into training camp.