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Is the season really over for all the Maple Leafs?

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There are several players who may go to Europe for the World Championships.

Finland v USA White - 2014 USA Hockey Junior Evaluation Camp
Awww. Those were the days. Auston as a wee lad at Team USA’s junior evaluation camp.

The 2017 IIHF World Championship begins in just a few days, and when your team gets beat in the first round of the playoffs, you have to immediately consider who might have a chance to play some more hockey this spring. There is already a report that the Toronto Maple LeafsNikita Zaitsev is slated to join the Russian team that has since been denied by the federation.

The opening games of Worlds are May 5. This year’s event is unusual in that there are two host cities in two different countries. One group of teams plays in Cologne, Germany, the other in Paris, France. The final two days that decide the medals are in Cologne.

The pre-tournament games are already underway in Europe. There are usually friendlies played in various locations as tuneups. The last round of the Euro Hockey Tour, the Czech Hockey Games, is part of the pre-Worlds tuneup, and it is mostly in the Czech Republic beginning on April 27. The Sweden - Russia game on the first day is in Stockholm, while Finland and the Czechs play that same day.

National teams are also making decisions about rosters. The teams have to present a list of 15 - 22 skaters and two to three goalies at the first official meeting of the IIHF Championship Directorate, which is usually in the two days before the tournament starts. This leaves everyone wiggle room to add some players from second round NHL exits as well.

Aside from Zaitsev, who would be a lock for the Russian team as long as he’s healthy, there are a few other members of the Leafs who might be going this year.

The Americans

Auston Matthews

His agent’s phone is likely already ringing. Team USA has announced a preliminary roster, but they would trip over themselves to get Auston Matthews on the team. He would join Jack Eichel for what should be the first of many chances for these two to play together. But with the NHL opting out of the Olympics, they might never get to go for the big prize together.

Matthews played for Team USA last year at only 18, and led the team in goals and finished tied in points with Dylan Larkin. At 19, who knows what he might do. Score a lot of goals, seems to be the safe bet.

Jake Gardiner

USA Hockey just doesn’t seem to get Jake Gardiner. He played at Worlds in 2014 and 2015, but they didn’t think they needed him last year. After his stellar performance at the end of the season, and into the playoffs, putting in big minutes and taking on tough assignments, maybe his country will find a spot for him.

James van Riemsdyk

I’ll just say it. I’m still angry about the way Team USA treated JvR at the World Cup. Hell, I’m mad about Max Pacioretty too, and he’s a Hab! I want van Riemsdyk to be on a good, well run and well coached Team USA, and I want him to have success. He’s a great offensive player, and as Mike Babcock has proven, when used correctly he’s a goal machine.

Whether they want him or not is another story. And whether he wants to cap off his career year with a run at a medal is also another story. I hope he goes.

Others

Connor Carrick seems unlikely to be chosen, and Brian Boyle would be an asset, but maybe with a young family, he’s not up for a European sojourn right now.

The Canadians

Nazem Kadri

Once upon a time, Nazem Kadri was always a long shot to make Team Canada. He has been to Worlds once, in 2014, where he had three assists in eight games. Since then, no one was interested.

But now? Maybe he’s seen differently by Hockey Canada. Maybe they might want an agitating shutdown centre who can score. It would be recognition of his change in status if he’s added to the team.

Morgan Rielly

To be honest, I just want him to go put his foot up and relax. Team Canada would likely want him, but sometimes you should just go heal up after playing on injured for months.

Mitch Marner

I suspect that Hockey Canada is going to think that Marner isn’t quite ready for the national team. They may be right in a way. They have a lot of depth, and Marner is a unique player that isn’t exactly a Lego block, slot him in anywhere sort of guy. He could contribute, but he’d need to be used in the right way.

Others

Team Canada is too deep for any of the secondary Leafs to get a look. Tyler Bozak wouldn’t be considered, Zach Hyman definitely wouldn’t be, and Connor Brown is not going to supplant the high-scoring wingers they already have on the team.

The Europeans

William Nylander

This is a tough one. Will William Nylander get the call? The Swedish roster has some spots free still, and they’ve got some top SHL players filling them for now. They don’t like to get too young, and they already added some of the younger players from Carolina. I’d add him in an instant if I were the boss at Swedish Hockey, but they just won’t put me in charge! The coach is quoted today in the Swedish press as saying Nylander is an interesting player, but they haven’t talked to him yet.

I hope he plays. I’d love to see him on the right wing with, oh, say, Gabriel Landeskog on the left. Just for fun.

Kasperi Kapanen

I think Kasperi Kapanen is heading for the Marlies so he won’t be available unless they get beat out. I also think the Finns would take him. They are playing Jesse Puljujärvi, who was made available by the Oilers, and they don’t have an endless list of players to choose from like Canada does.

Leo Komarov

Unfortunately, even if he wanted to, Leo Komarov can’t play at Worlds. He has a sponsorship with NordicBet and that, according to Finnish media reports, conflicts with the IIHF sponsors. He would not be allowed to join the team. He has said he was considering retiring from national team play anyway.

Martin Marincin

I was surprised he didn’t make the Slovak WCH team. I would expect him to be asked to play.

Frederik Andersen

If Frederik Andersen joins team Denmark, their chances of winning games goes up exponentially. The decider might be his health status. Next year’s tournament is in Denmark, and he would have the chance to play in Herning, his home town, but unfortunately we know that won’t happen. So if he’s getting another chance to wear the Danish lion, it will be this year.

Alexey Marchenko

Alexey Marchenko played for Russia last year at Worlds, and in the WCH, but after a season of only playing half the games in the NHL, it may be they’ve moved on from him. There are a few good KHL defencemen who he’d have trouble knocking off the lineup.

Others

Roman Polak would be on the Czech team if he were healthy, but there isn’t anyone else who’d be considered. Nikita Soshnikov will be joining the Marlies soon, if he’s healthy now.

We’ll update you as news comes in on who is going to Worlds and who is heading for the golf course!

The Forgotten Man!

Miro Aaltonen

You forget he’d signed with the Leafs for next year too, hadn’t you? Well Jeffgm didn’t and he asked in comments, and Aaltonen is on the roster for Finland for the EHT coming up. He may well make the cut for Worlds as well. We’ll have to get used to remembering him.