The Toronto Maple Leafs will have at least four players participating in 2014 IIHF World Championships with the possibility of that number growing. That is the highest number of Leafs in the World Championship that I can at least remember.
Nazem Kadri, Morgan Rielly and James Reimer will represent Team Canada while Jake Gardiner will don the Stars & Stripes for the United States. The number could have been larger already as Phil Kessel, James van Riemsdyk, Dion Phaneuf and Jonathan Bernier all reportedly declined invites to join their respective countries.
The question is, which player will have the biggest impact at the Worlds?
Kadri is amongst a young group of forwards that Canada is bringing to Belarus that includes Jonathan Huberdeau of the Florida Panthers, Mark Schiefele of the Winnipeg Jets and Sean Monahan of the Calgary Flames. Can he shine amongst all of the young talent?
The blue line also has some youth to it. Other than Rielly, Ryan Ellis of the Nashville Predators, Erik Gudbranson of the Florida Panthers and Tyler Myers of the Buffalo Sabres are also going. Looking at the list of defensemen, it looks like Rielly is one of the more offensive blue-liners on the team so he could have a great chance to shine.
Reimer, barring a third goaltender being added, has a good chance of being the starter. Plus, his backup is someone he knows and has chemistry with: Ben Scrivens, the former Leaf, now of the Edmonton Oilers. After a season in which he struggled, Reimer should be motivated to play well for Canada.
The United States decided to go really young with their defense core. How young? Jake Gardiner is the third-oldest player. Jeff Petry of the Oilers is the oldest at 26. Matt Donovan of the New York Islanders is next, but he is less than a month older than Gardiner as they are both 23. Gardiner, like Rielly, looks to be another offensive spark plug on the blue line.
We’re two weeks away from the start of the World Championships. There could be more Leafs added to teams, but of the four mentioned here, which will be the biggest impact?