If Leo Komarov has his way, he'll be wearing a Toronto Maple Leafs sweater in the fall.
The 25-year-old Finnish forward finally feels ready to make the jump to the NHL and hopes a deal can be worked out to make it happen once he finishes playing for the host country at the IIHF World Hockey Championship.
“I hope so — as fast as possible,” said Komarov. “If they need me and they give me a good contract then I will go over there.”
It's an intriguing scenario for the Leafs. Drafted in the sixth round in 2006 by former GM John Ferguson Jr., Komarov has taken major strides over the last few years and was a key member of the Dynamo Moscow team that recently won the KHL championship.
His Russian contract has one year remaining and reportedly includes an out clause that can be enacted after the world championship wraps up later this month. He won't be able to sign with Toronto until that happens.
“I've got a year in Dynamo left so I don't know if they will let me go,” said Komarov. “It's my agent's work.”
Naturally, the Leafs are taking a wait-and-see approach to the situation.
They own Komarov's North American rights and will only have to give him an entry-level contract, which allows them to move him freely between the NHL and American Hockey League. Leafs GM Brian Burke believes Komarov can play in the NHL and scouts have the five-foot-10 winger projected as a checking-line player in the mould of Jarkko Ruutu.
“You've seen him, he's not big,” said Burke, who is part of USA Hockey's management team for the world championship. “But he's dynamic, explosive, obnoxious and skilled. He's a really hard guy to play against.
“He makes things happen out there and we're hopeful at some point that he joins the organization.”
Komarov already has seven professional seasons under his belt in Europe — four in Finland and the last three with Dynamo Moscow. Once considered nothing more than a pest, he's developed into a responsible two-way player who shows occasional flashes of a scoring touch.
The idea of playing in the NHL has been in the back of his mind since getting drafted by the Leafs.
“Every morning when I wake up I look at all the scores,” said Komarov. “They've got a good league.”
Komarov speaks four languages fluently — Swedish, Finnish, Russian and English — and would become the first NHL player ever to be born in Estonia. He was largely raised in a small Finnish village by Russian parents and seems to be on the verge of writing another chapter to his interesting story with a move to North America.
He certainly isn't masking his desire to join the Maple Leafs.
“Something is going on,” said Komarov. “I need to play this tournament and I need a little bit of a break and then we'll see.”
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