The Top NHL Stars to Watch in the 2014 Hockey World Championships

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The Top NHL Stars to Watch in the 2014 Hockey World Championships
Michael Martin/Getty Images

The 2014 IIHF World Championships kicked off on Friday in Minsk, Belarus and will run through May 25. Overshadowed in North America by the Stanley Cup playoffs and even by the World Junior Championship, they're the most important annual event on the international hockey calendar, where the best players from the European leagues line up with a collection of junior, college, minor league and NHL players whose seasons have already come to a close.

In 2013, Sweden became the first host country to take home the gold medal since the Soviet Union accomplished the feat back in 1986. 

In terms of countries represented, the World Championships are a larger competition than the Olympics. All Olympic nations except Austria are featured in this year's competition, as well as France, Denmark, Italy, Belarus and Kazakhstan.

Between the Sochi Games and the ongoing playoffs, many of the NHL's biggest stars won't be participating this year, but there are still plenty of interesting storylines to watch.

Here are nine NHLers to watch in Minsk over the next two weeks.

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