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IIHF Preview: The Worlds are a breeding ground for prospects

Shane McNeil, TSN.ca

5/2/2013 6:15:11 PM

As Team Canada readies itself for the 2013 IIHF World Championship in Helsinki and Stockholm, TSN.ca Producer Shane McNeil offers up three reasons why hockey fans should pay close attention to this year's tournament. Coverage of the Worlds begins Saturday on TSN and continues all the way to the Gold Medal game on May 19.

Every World Championship tournament offers a chance to see how some of the World's best prospects fare against the World's top men's players.

Columbus Blue Jackets defenceman Ryan Murray made history at the 2012 Worlds, becoming just the second undrafted player to represent Canada at the tournament.

While Murray's situation was rare by Canadian standards, NHL prospects suit up regularly for European nations at the Worlds, in many cases offering NHL fans a glimpse at how future talent will stack up against the pros.

In 2011, an NHL prospect that stole the show. Minnesota Wild forward Mikael Granlund helped stun the Russian team in the semifinal with a full-speed lacrosse-style goal to open the scoring.

Granlund, who was playing for the Finnish Elite League's HIFK Helsinki at the time, saw the performance vault his status from being a top NHL propsect to being considered by many to be one of the best players in the world not playing in the NHL.

At that same tournament, Swedish goalie Viktor Fasth won the MVP Award. That accomplishment helped catch the eye of the Anaheim Ducks, who signed Fasth a year later and he was a standout in the 2012-13 NHL season.

In 2010, the Swedish team would win bronze over the surprising host Germans thanks to another prospect who had yet to make his NHL debut. On a Swedish team that featured young NHL talent such as Erik Karlsson and Victor Hedman, it was Edmonton Oilers' prospect Magnus Paajarvi that led the team in scoring with nine goals in nine games.

Canadian clubs in particular have benefitted from the Worlds as many teams have gotten an early look at some future regular contributors.

Montreal Canadiens defender Alexei Emelin showcased his hard-nosed style in three tournaments before making his Habs debut in 2011. The Toronto Maple Leafs saw both Carl Gunnarsson and Leo Komarov at the Worlds before either came to play in North America.

Ottawa Senators rookie standout Jakob Silfverberg played in a pair of tournaments, including a gold medal game, prior to his NHL debut.

Back in 2000, 19-year-olds Henrik and Daniel Sedin teamed up to create five goals in seven games, giving the Vancouver Canucks a preview of what they'd be getting with their top two picks from the previous NHL Entry Draft.

So, who will it be in 2013?

Maybe Winnipeg Jets first-rounder Jacob Trouba will earn some valuable ice time with the American squad and build upon his standout performance at the World Juniors.

San Jose Sharks' first-rounder Tomas Hertl will join a Czech line-up bolstered by the likes of Carolina Hurricanes top goal-scorer Jiri Tlusty and Calgary's Jiri Hudler.

Or maybe this is the year a player comes out of nowhere to steal the show. All good reasons to watch with interest.