After a disastrous season in Toronto, four Leafs will suit up for their respective countries beginning Friday, at the annual IIHF World Hockey Championship in Prague and Ostrava, Czech Republic.
Jake Gardiner (USA)
With 13 NHL players on its roster, seven being defencemen, the Americans’ strength lies on the blue line. Jake Gardiner leads a young back-end for Team USA that includes Justin Faulk (Carolina), Seth Jones (Nashville), Torey Krug (Boston), John Moore and Connor Murphy (Arizona), Zach Redmond (Colorado) and Mike Reilly (University of Minnesota). Last year, the 24-year-old Gardiner scored one goal and four points in eight games as the U.S. lost to the Czech Republic in the quarterfinals and finished sixth.
Leo Komarov (FIN)
The Estonian-born, Finnish-raised Leafs pest, Leo Komarov will be looking to do one win better at the Worlds this spring, after losing 5-2 to Russia in the final last year in Belarus. Komarov, who also won bronze with Finland at the Sochi Olympics, has routinely answered the call at the international level, competing at six of the last seven World Championships.
Joakim Lindstrom (SWE)
A UFA on July 1, Joakim Lindstrom returns for Sweden for his second straight World Championship, after an impressive debut last year. In his first appearance on the world stage, Lindstrom led the team and finished sixth in tournament scoring with five goals and 11 points in nine games – including the winning tally in the bronze medal contest – as Sweden finished third. A similar performance would go a long way to securing a new contract for next season.
Richard Panik (SVK)
An Olympian last year in Sochi, Richard Panik will try to help Slovakia get back to the quarterfinals, something it failed to do a year ago. This is just Panik’s second time at the Worlds, and first since the 2010 tournament in Germany.
Alan is a journalism graduate of Ryerson University in Toronto, and writes about the Maple Leafs for THW. He has covered the game for the National Post, Yahoo! Sports Canada and The Hockey News.