While their season certainly ended on a rough note, it’s not all bad news for a few Maple Leafs players, who today were named to their respective nation’s World Championships rosters. Morgan Rielly, Jake Gardiner, and Tyler Bozak were just three of the five Leafs receiving spots on their national teams, while a few special names like Phil Kessel and James van Riemsdyk will likely miss out on the tournament to nurse existing injuries.
So far, three Leafs have been named to the still-building Team Canada roster. As mentioned before, Tyler Bozak and Morgan Rielly will both take spots at their first ever World Championships. Rielly was an NHL rookie this year, scoring 2 goals and tallying 25 assists for 27 points in his first 73 NHL games. Rielly has been praised for his offensive skill this year, and has shown up big as one of the Leafs’ top possession players of the 2013-14 season. Bozak had a career year with the team, helped by an inflated shooting percentage: his 19 goals and 30 assists good for a career-high 49 points in only 58 games, for .85 points per game. Also finding a spot on Team Canada is Maple Leafs “backup” James Reimer, who disappointed towards the end of the season but is/was likely nursing a head injury after taking a leg to the head from Kings forward Jarret Stoll. Likely entering the free agent market this season, Reimer, an RFA, will be showing off to potential suitors including the Calgary Flames, Winnipeg Jets, and New York Islanders at this years World Championship tournament.
On the American team, only one Leaf has cracked the squad. Unlike at the Olympics, where top forwards Phil Kessel and James van Riemsdyk were featured, it is Jake Gardiner who has stolen the thunder for the upcoming tourney. Gardiner, along with young defensemen like Seth Jones of Nashville, Jacob Trouba on Winnipeg, and Jake McCabe of Buffalo, will be featured on the Americans defense. Similar to teammates Bozak and Rielly, this year will be Gardiner’s first appearance on the Men’s World Championships stage. However, he did play at the 2010 World Juniors for Team USA, where he tallied 3 assists in 7 games. His +5.2% Corsi relative during the 13/14 season ranked in the top 10 of NHL defensemen, and he could find himself on Team USA’s top four, surrounded by young stars looking to make an impact.
Finally, another Leafs free agent is suiting up. Nikolai Kulemin, a Russian winger who recently completed 6th season in Toronto with a disappointing 20 points in 70 games, will join the Russian squad in Minsk when the tournament begins on May 9th, 2014. No word as to if former teammate and Belarusian center Mikhail Grabovski will compete against his former linemate this tournament.
The 2014 IIHF World Championship begins May 9th, and concludes May 25th.