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A coming out party for Christian Hanson at the 2010 Worlds?

Every year, NHL players—particularly young ones—representingtheir country at the World Championships have the opportunity to take significant strides in their career path.

Besides Francois Beauchemin, the Leafs are not represented on Team Canada this spring. That said, I believe Beauchemin will show his value at this event and remind Leaf fans he is a capable 3-4 defenseman who can log big minutes. While he had good stretches with Toronto this past season, I sense he will be much more comfortable and deliver more next season.

But the guy I’m most interested in seeing is forward Christian Hanson, who was still on the U.S roster the last time I looked. I have no idea if he will earn a regular roster spot or get much playing time, but he showed glimpses at the end of the NHL season that he may be able to make strides as a contributor at the NHL level. So this is an opportunity to be showcased and maybe to turn heads, including that of his Team U.S.A./Maple Leaf General manager Brian Burke.

The U.S. plays against France in a pre-tournament exhibition encounter today, and I’ll be interested to see where Hanson fits under U.S. Head Coach Scott Gordon’s system.

I’ll also be anxious to see how Nikolai Kulemin performs for Russia. We all saw that he made tremendous progress through the season and if the Leafs can get him re-signed, he may well be a cornerstone going forward.

Leaf fans will also be keeping an eye of Carl Gunnarsson to see if his development arc continues with the Swedish team. While not Lidstrom just yet, we can be hopeful that he will quietly continue to show, during the World championships, that he is the real deal.

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