I'm a hockey writer for InsideHockey.com, and I wrote an article about the World Championship. It hasn't been published yet so I'd thought I'd publish it myself as early as possible right here. I know it's a day late, but I can clarify that I finished it a day before the start of the tournament. World Championship of Hockey 2004 Preview For some players, the annual IIHF World Championship of Hockey is a consolation for not making the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The thrill of international competition mixed with the thought of national pride after the gold medal is won in mid-May. For other players, they see it as an opportunity to make a name for themselves to leverage a possible jump to North America. Last yearâ€™s World Championship saw ex-Ranger Anson Carter net the winning goal in a thrilling gold medal win for Team Canada. Could Canada defend its title in the Czech Republic, or will any of the other 15 countries competing take the gold away from Canada? Here are some predictions on this yearâ€™s World Championship. GROUP A All four countries in this group are from Europe, they Germany, Latvia, Kazakhstan, and the Czech Republic. The Czech Republic is the clear-cut favorite in the group and they could make a showing in the medal round. Czech Republic The Czechs have the honor of hosting this yearâ€™s tournament, and the hometown crowd may see a gold medal team. An encouraging factor to this is the appearance of Jaromir Jagr, who said that he would only compete if the team had a chance of winning the gold. Nashville goalie Tomas Vokoun will tend the cage for the Czechs, and the late additions of Martin Rucinsky and Roman Hamrlik further improve an already strong roster. Key Forwards: Jagr, Rucinsky, and Martin Straka. Key Defensemen: Hamrlik, Martin Skoula, and Jaroslav Spacek. Germany For a team with just two NHLers, the Germans are the toughest opponents for the Czechs in Group A. Olaf Kolzig will lead the way along with Sabres winger Jochen Hecht. The absence of Marco Sturm (broken leg/playoffs) will be felt, as he is undoubtedly the best German hockey player since the Berlin Wall came down. Theyâ€™re a rather physical team for a European country, so they could be a longshot for relegation. Key Forwards: Hecht and Stefan Ustorf. Key Defensemen: Christoph Schubert and Jan Benda. Latvia The team that had a shocking upset over Russia in last yearâ€™s World Championship is coming back with mostly the same players from last yearâ€™s roster. Arturs Irbe, who spent most of this season in the ECHL, has had a history of strong play on the international stage. Sandis Ozolinsh was part of the Ducks team during last yearâ€™s playoff run and his addition to this yearâ€™s roster makes the team much better, along with Sergei Zholtok, who played with Minnesota last season. Key Forwards: Zholtok, Herbert Vasiljevs and Grigorijs Pantelejevs. Key Defenseman: Ozolinsh. Kazakhstan The country known for its poor economy sends a national team to the top division of the World Championships for the first time since 1998. With no NHL players on the roster (Nik Antropov would have play if the Leafs were eliminated from the playoffs), they seem very likely to be in the relegation round. However, itâ€™s shallow thinking like that enabled Denmark to have a strong performance in last yearâ€™s event. Former Rangers goalie Vitali Yeremeyev will start, and a cast of veterans from the Ust-Kamenogorsk team will fill most of the roster. Key Forwards: Evgeny and Alexander Koreshov. Key Defenseman: Alexei Troschinsky.