Toronto Maple Leafs: Grabovski and Four Others Heading to the Worlds
This year's World Hockey Championships will take place primarily in Cologne Germany from May 7 to 23 although there are also venues in Mannheim and Gelsenkirchen.
This 2000-year-old city is home to some of the world's most popular events including the Cologne Carnival.
Cologne boasts a population of over one million residents, but annually hosts in the neighborhood of around 110 million day guests.
This year's tournament will not likely draw close to that number but still holds promise for Leafs fans everywhere as there will be no less than five Toronto Maple Leafs players participating in this year's tournament.
There have been plenty of Leafs representing their countries on the world stage over the team's long history, most notably of course is former captain Mats Sundin who played in a total of six World Championships and one Winter Olympics, helping Sweden to a total of four Gold, two Bronze and one Silver medal over the course of his career.
While these five players have a long way to go before they can think of eclipsing those numbers, this year will be a good start.
Mikhail Grabovski - Belarus
Possibly my favorite Leaf player, Grabovski will suit up once again for team Belarus.
While Mikhail has certainly underachieved in the Blue n' White, his gritty, "no holds barred" style of play coupled with his almost innate ability to take an almost inhuman amount of punishment make him in the very least entertaining to watch.
He has represented his country before. In the 2005 Men's World Ice Hockey Championships, Grabovski scored four goals in one game against host Austria and was named the game's first star.
Grabo was also selected by Belarus to play in the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver but did not play due to injury.
While in Vancouver though, he still managed to make us all take notice by getting involved in a bar fight, and although Brian Burke publicly admonished him for his behavior, I'm sure that he, like the rest of us, was smiling on the inside.
Christain Hanson - USA
24-year-old Christian Hanson has been named to team USA and, I have to admit, I find it curious that fellow Leaf Phil Kessel hasn't been.
Hanson didn't exactly impress in this his first NHL season, but I suppose that all depends upon what your expectations of the "Son of a Chief" were.
The only player on the Leafs' roster to have not recorded a goal on the entire season, Hanson finally scored not once but twice en route to a 4-3 overtime win against Montreal to finish the season.
One of several restricted free agents on the Leafs' roster this year, if Hanson is to develop into a much better player, it may be wise of the Leafs to enlist the aid of a seasoned veteran in the off season, Todd Bertuzzi perhaps?
Francois Beauchemin - Canada
It came as somewhat of a surprise when Francois Beauchemin was left off of Team Canada's roster for the Olympic team this year, but this Stanley Cup-winning defenseman didn't let it bother him.
Beauchemin was one of only three Maple Leafs to play in all 82 regular season games and was seventh in team scoring with 27 points.
He will be joined at the tournament by the likes of Corey Perry, Chris Mason and Renee Bourke among several others and looks to be bring home more hardware to add to the Olympic Silvers won by Brian Burke, Ron Wilson and Phil Kessel.
Jonas Gustavsson - Sweden
Jonas Gustavsson, "The Monster" will be representing his home country of Sweden for the second time in a little more than three months when the World Championships start May 7th.
Gustavsson helped Sweden to a Bronze medal in last year's competition, beating the USA 4-2
He also played one game for the Swedes in this past Winter Olympics winning in his only appearance, also by a 4-2 score.
Gustavsson's experience on the larger international ice surface will also give him an advantage over some of the other young goalies suiting up this year who have never played on it.
Nikolai Kulemin - Russia
Nikolai Kulemin is another young player in the Leafs' organization who looks to have a bright future in the NHL.
Kulemin this season scored 36 points in a Leafs jersey and provided there in not a repeat performance next season in regard the team's horrific start, he is one of the players who you can expect to see have a breakout-type year.
While no stranger to international play, Kulemin has enjoyed moderate success on the World stage, scoring a total of 15 points in 26 games.
Kulemin played for the Russian team during the World Junior Championship and in his home country won a Bronze Medal.
The team from Russia has not won gold since 1993 in this tournament and will be hard pressed to do it this year against teams from Sweden, Canada and the USA.
Every year the World Hockey Championship comes along and it's usually a pretty good tournament. The tournament doesn't get the best of the NHL though, it gets the "best of the rest," as a lot of the best NHL players are in the Playoffs.
I have often wondered why the don't have it in July?
This year so far there are five players representing their countries who wear the Blue and White, and a couple more will likely follow.
Players like Tomas Kaberle, Dion Phanuef and Phil Kessel will likely be added to their country's roster before the tournament starts, although Kessel may decide to not participate as rumors suggest.