Projected Roles for Each Toronto Maple Leafs Player at 2014 World Championships

James OnuskoContributor IIIApril 21, 2014

Projected Roles for Each Toronto Maple Leafs Player at 2014 World Championships

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    Graig Abel/Getty Images

    While Toronto Maple Leafs fans have no team to cheer for in the NHL playoffs, some of the club's top players will be heading to Belarus for the 2014 World Championships.

    Not all rosters are set, but a handful of Leafs have already agreed to travel to Europe to compete for their respective countries.

    Three players, including Nazem Kadri, Morgan Rielly and James Reimer will play for Canada. Defenceman Jake Gardiner will suit up for Team USA.

    Let's take a look at each player's projected role at the upcoming IIHF competition.

Nazem Kadri, Center, Team Canada

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Kadri has all kinds of offensive talent. He's got great vision and soft hands which will serve him well on the big ice in Belarus.

    The London, Ontario, native will be one of the better offensive players on the squad and is likely to play a prominent offensive role. Kadri may see some time on the wing and should be on one of Canada's two power-play units.

    Expect Kadri to play a key role in Belarus, as long as he commits to playing a two-way game on a regular basis for Canada.

Morgan Rielly, Defenseman, Team Canada

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    Claus Andersen/Getty Images

    Rielly defied the odds this season by coming straight out of the WHL and not only surviving at the NHL level but also thriving by the end of the season.

    Rielly's confidence grew over the course of the season, and his puck-moving abilities, smarts under pressure and his ability to join the rush were key in games where the Leafs enjoyed success.

    Rielly will be the youngest rearguard for Team Canada next month in Belarus, yet it will not be surprising to see him get some important minutes as he gains the coaching staff's trust.

    If he's paired with Kevin Bieksa or Tyler Myers, Rielly will be able to play to his strengths and flourish on the international ice.

    Expect Rielly to see limited minutes as the tournament begins, but as his comfort level grows, it would be unsurprising to see him in Team Canada's top four. Power-play time is also likely given his creative abilities.

James Reimer, Goaltender, Team Canada

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    Petr David Josek

    The World Championships will be very important to Reimer. He's at a crossroads in his career given his restricted free-agent status with the Leafs as the season closes.

    It seems unlikely that he'll return to Toronto with the emergence of Jonathan Bernier, so Reimer will be auditioning for 29 other teams in Belarus.

    Coincidentally, he'll be paired with former Leafs teammate Ben Scrivens in goal. With neither goalie being an established NHL No. 1, they are likely going to split duties at the tournament's outset, with the starter emerging based on individual play.

    Reimer will be given every opportunity to be Canada's top goaltender. His NHL future could be much brighter if he provides top goaltending for the team.

Jake Gardiner, Defenseman, Team USA

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    Carlos Osorio

    As unbelievable as it may seem, Jake Gardiner, at just 23 years of age, will be playing alongside four Team USA defenders who are considerably younger than him at the World Championships.

    The American squad will feature a lot of young talent, but it will be relatively inexperienced heading to Belarus.

    Gardiner played a prominent role with the Leafs as the season ended, as his all-around game improved a great deal. He'll be counted on to play well in all three zones for the United States.

    The Minnesota native had 10 goals and 21 assists with the Leafs in 2013-14. He'll be expected to play an offensive role with Team USA, and given the squad's youth on the point, expect Gardiner to play well over 20 minutes per game.

    He's likely to see even strength, power-play and penalty-killing time.

    Gardiner is on the cusp of becoming a top-pairing NHL defender. He may accelerate that process with strong play in Belarus.

     

    All stats can be found on NHL.com unless otherwise noted.