Leafs at the World Juniors: Leo Komarov, 2006 & 2007

Leafs forward and fan favourite Leo Komarov got his feet wet on the international stage for Finland at the 2006 and 2007 World Junior Championships. Born in Estonia to Russian parents, Komarov moved to Finland at age five, which would set in action a career which has seen him compete on the international stage eight seperate times, including a gold medal at the 2011 World Championships, a silver in 2012, and a Bronze at the 2014 Olympics.

The Stats:

2006: Komarov posted three assists in seven games, along with 32 penalty minutes, which ranked fifth in the tournament. Komarov took nine minor penalties along with a ten-minute misconduct, and with Finland’s 7th ranked penalty kill (out of 10 teams), he probably wasn’t doing any favours to his coach. However, his controlled rage appears right in line with his NHL mindset of “hit everything”.

2007: Leo cut his penalty time in half, managing just 16 penalty minutes this go-around in 7 games. He also scored twice while adding an assist, running his career total to 6 points in 14 WJC games. Not overly impressive, but still a solid contribution from the youngster.

The Results:

2006: Finland finished 3rd in the tournament held in Vancouver, losing in the semi finals to Canada but topping the Americans in the bronze medal game, who held tournament leading scorer Phil Kessel pointless on the day. It marked the country’s fourth bronze medal in five years. However, the country would not reach the podium again until a surprise gold medal victory in 2014.

2007: Finland finished 2-2 in the round robin, but fell to sixth after losing 6-3 in the quarterfinals to the United States. Patrick Kane as well as Erik and Jack Johnson all scored for the Americans, who also featured a young James van Riemsdyk on their roster.

While there’s not much info about the young Leo besides the basic stats, here’s a video of Komarov being interviewed as a teenager after a game-winning goal while playing in the Finnish league. If anyone speaks Finnish, I’d love a translation.

Key Teammates:

2006: Tuukka Rask, Lauri Korpikoski, Jesse Joensuu, Lauri Tukkonen, Karri Ramo

Toronto Maple Leafs draft pick Tuukka Rask, who never played a game for the team, was the team’s starting goalie, posting a .939 save percentage along with a 4-2 record. Lauri Tukkonen led the team in scoring with 10 points and was named a tournament all-star.

2007: Rask, Joensuu.

Besides Rask, this team didn’t really have any big names. Perttuu Lindgren and Mikko Lehtonen tied for the team scoring lead with 10 points each.

The scouts’ take:

Komarov was taken in sixth round of the 2006 draft by the Leafs, in his second year of draft eligibility. As the 2006 tournament was held in Vancouver, it’s more likely scouts were watching him play here than with Ässät Pori of Finland’s top league. Evidenced by his high penalty totals, Komarov’s physicality was as evident a part of his game then as it is now, attracting Toronto to take a chance on the player. As he’s still in the organization eight years later and one of just four players from the sixth round to reamin in the NHL, it’s safe to say the pick has been a success.