World Championship Leaf Content

Constatin Braun of Germany celebrates after the IIHF World Championship group D match between USA and Germany (Photo by Martin Rose/Bongarts/Getty Images)

Here's some more info/background on the Leafs players and prospects playing at the World Championships.  I will post more as the tournament progresses, so stay tuned.

Christian Hanson - USA: So far in 1 game, Hanson fired the shot that was put in by Ryan Carter for the only American goal in a 2-1 OT loss to the host Germans.  He registered an assist and a +1 rating, despite playing only 11 shifts in the entire game, and 7:59 in total ice time.  He was on a line with Chris Kreider (a standout this past season in the NCAA at Frozen Four champs Boston College), and Ryan Carter (Anaheim Ducks centre who was named player of the game).

Look for Hanson's role to increase if he continues to play well on a relatively weak US team.  The only top end NHL talent the Americans brought to the tournament would be Kyle Okposo (F), Jack Johnson (D), TJ Oshie (F), Nick Foligno (F), and Keith Yandle (D).  The second tier would include Brandon Dubinsky (F), Andy Greene (D), Matt Greene (D), Ryan Carter (F), and Scott Clemmensen (G).  Hanson should be able to make a rather serious impression if he works at it over the course of the tournament.  There is definitely room for him to become an impact player for the US.

Francois Beauchemin - CAN: Canada won their opening game against Italy 5-1 earlier today.  Expect that sort of dominance to continue.  Beauchemin's role is one of veteran leadership as he has been handed one of the two alternate captaincies for the team.  He is not playing nearly the minutes he does for the Leafs though, as he only skated in 13:44 of ice time.  The Canadians also brought 8 defensemen to the tournament, so the load shouldn't be particularly heavy on any of them, at least in the early going.

Canada will be led offensively by Steven Stamkos (F), John Tavares (F), Matt Duchene (F), Corey Perry (F), Ray Whitney (F), Ryan Smyth (F) and Rene Borque (F).  On the back end, Tyler Myers (D), Brent Burns (D), and Marc Staal (D) anchor a deep, though not stellar, defensive corps.  Chris Mason (G), and Chad Johnson (G) are anchoring the nets (Johnson was playing for the Hartford Wolf Pack in the AHL this past year). 

Expect the young Canadian team to compete, but we'll see how well they fare when the playoffs roll around.

Korbinian Holzer - GER: Germany miraculously won their opening game against the US in front of a world record crowd.  Leafs prospect Holzer was a key cog on the team, finishing with the 2nd highest number of minutes played in the OT game.  He skated for 20:42 and finished with a +1 rating on the day.

Germany started the tournament with a roster of 19 skaters and 3 goalies, leaving them with room to add two more players to their roster.  Their offense is being led by Marcel Goc (F), and Phillip Goggula (F), while their D is anchored by the likes of Holzer, Constantin Braun (D), and Alexander Sulzer (D).  They may try to add Christian Ehrhoff (D) to their team if Vancouver is eliminated by Chicago.

Mikhail Grabovski and Mikhail Stefanovich - BLR: Both of the Leafs' Belarussian players are listed on the roster for the World Championships.  The only other NHLer on the roster is Ruslan Salei (D) of the Colorado AvalancheSergei Kolosov (D) of the Grand Rapids Griffins (DET) is also on their team.  Look for Grabovski to again act as Belarus' most important offensive player.  Last year at the tournament he was by far their most obvious talent, and he will likely reprise that role this year.  The team's fortunes largely fall on his not so big shoulders, but it would help if Stefanovich could get his frame and talent into gear and produce at this level.  As of May 7th, the Belarussian team only had 15 registered skaters and 2 goalies according to the IIHF website, so obviously there is some waiting going on with respect to the NHL playoffs.  Should the Canadiens be eliminated, I expect the Kostitsyn bros. would be invited to join the team and help their chances of making it to the next round.  The teams have up until 2 hours before their first game to increase their roster up to the allowed entry maximum of 20 skaters + 3 goalies.  The final roster may contain up to 25 players, as teams may add up to 2 players between the start of the qualifying/relegation round and up to 2 hours before any subsequent games in the tournament.

The Belarussian's play their opening Group A game on Sunday against Kazakhstan.  They are in a pool with Russia and Slovakia so they will be in tough to qualify for the second round.  Luckily for them though, most of the top Slovakian talent is still playing in the NHL, so the only NHL'ers currently on the Slovak roster are Peter Budaj (G), Marek Svatos (F), and Andrej Sekera (D). Ex-NHLers Ivan Ciernik (F), Richard Lintner (D), Ratislav Stana (G), Ivan Majesky (D), Miroslav Zalesak (F), and Vladimir Mihalik (F) will all be playing for Slovakia, but none of them are still in the NHL.  Either way, Belarus will likely be fighting it out with Slovakia to advance to the next round.  They play each other on Tuesday, so expect the outcome of that game to determine standings going into the next round.

Nikolai Kulemin - RUS: Finally making his debut at the men's World Championships for Russia, Kulemin will look to build on his solid improvement in the NHL this season that he followed up with some stellar play at the LG Hockey Games last week.  He was skating on a line with Sergei Fedorov (F) and Viktor Kozlov (F) so obviously the Russian coaching staff think relatively highly of his game at this stage of proceedings.

With the return of Alex Semin (F), Alex Ovechkin (F), and Ilya Kovalchuk (F) to the Russian team though, Fedorov will move up to centre his former Washington Capitals teammates, while Kovalchuk will likely bump Kulemin down the depth chart a tad.

The Russians don't really have a true top 6 - bottom 6 style of line up, so don't expect Kulemin to suddenly become just a checker.  Considering they also boast talent like Alex Frolov (F), Maxim Afinogenov (F), Sergei Mozyakin (F), and Artem Anisimov (F), they'll probably be one of the most offensively skilled clubs at the tournament.  Simeon Varlamov (G) will be in net and the Defense will be anchored by Denis Grebeshkov (D), Dmitri Kalinin (D), Alexei Emelin (D), and Dmitri Kulikov (D), so they should easily win Group A and move on to the second round.

Carl Gunnarsson, Jonas Gustavsson, and Rickard Wallin - SWE:  The Tre Kronor will only feature 5 players who suited up in the NHL this past season, three of whom were playing for the Leafs.  The other two are young defenders Erik Karlsson (D), and Victor Hedman (D) of the Ottawa Senators and Tampa Bay Lightning respectively.  The Swedes are fielding quite a young line up at this year's Worlds so expect the likes of Wallin to play an important veteran role.

It should be noted that Detroit is on the verge of elimination, and Sweden has only submitted a roster of 15 skaters and 3 goaltenders - specifically only 9 forwards are on their team - so their line up could get a lot better very quickly through the addition of the likes of Henrik Zetterberg (F), Johan Franzen (F), Tomas Holmstrom (F), Niklas Kronwall (D), or Niklas Lidstrom (D).  It is obviously quite possible they will turn down the invitation to play as a result of their efforts at the Olympics, but Franzen didn't participate due to injury, so he may welcome the chance to get some more work in before settling down for the off season.

Gunnarsson and Gustavsson will be important cogs on the defensive end for the Swedes, who lack a lot of experience with respect to their rear guard.  Magnus Johansson and Christian Backman are the elder statesmen amongst the D, and the other 4 are all either just finished their NHL rookie season or recent draftees (Oliver Ekman Larsson (D)).  Sweden did not perform particularly well at the LG Hockey Games, so unless they add some serious firepower up front, don't expect them to perform at too high of a level offensively.

Looking forward to seeing how it all plays out.  Toronto again boasts a solid group of participants and it will be nice to see how the younger Leafs like Grabovski, Stefanovich, Kulemin, Hanson, Holzer, Gunnarsson ,and Gustavsson hold up under the pressure of an international tournament they value.

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