Sunday, June 28, 2009

Turning over some new Leafs

Here are some players to get excited about for Leafs fans. For the first time in years, the cupboard is not bare. There is a lot of potential in the system added by Fletcher and Burkey in the last year, and some of the guys JFJ picked. Here are my highlighted favourite Leaf prospects, and young players (Forwards only):

1. Jiri Tlusty, LW, 21 - Has got a bit of time in the NHL, the slowly developping Tlusty could be poised to make that big move. He was player of the month in the AHL in January and posted some big stats with the Marlies, posting 66 points in 66 games, a lot of them coming in the latter half of the season where Tlusty really heated up.

2. Nik Kulemin, RW, 22 - Pretty good shooter scored 15 goals in his rookie season with the Leafs. 31 pts is not a bad rookie campaign, and that was with a few dry spells and a brief stint in the minors. Kulemin could build on his rookie year and develop into a solid top 6 forward.

3. Nazem Kadri, C, 18 - Lots of skill, good hands, plays tough even though he doesn't have tremendous size (6 ft. 170). Kadri was not a pick I was thrilled about at the draft 7th overall, but the more I read about him and watch the highlights, the more my mind is at ease. 78 pts in 56 games in the OHL is pretty damn good. He could definitely develop into a top 6 forward and most importantly he plays a strong two-way game.

4. Mikhail Stefanovich, C, 20 - 4th round pick by the great Cliff Fletcher at last years draft, could be a huge steal. Stefanovich posted a wopping 49 goals in 56 games and 76 points. He's a big body and a sniper. Signed to an entry level deal he could see playing time with the Leafs as soon as next season.

5. Kenny Ryan, RW, 18 - 2nd round pick 5oth overall by Burkey. American kid is 6'0 and 205 lbs. Plays with an edge. His favourite player as a kid was Darren McCarty. When asked who he'd rather have dinner with between Obama, Maria Sharapova or Sean Avery, he said Avery. When asked what he would choose if he could be anything for a day, he said "soldier at war". Ryan is known for playing mean and playing a strong two-way game. Any wonder he was drafted by Brian Burke?

6. Victor Stalberg, LW, 23 - Nominated for the Hobey Baker Award this past season in NCAA for University of Vermont, Stalberg was considered a top 10 player in college hockey. Drafted a few years ago, he's considered to be one of only a few good picks by JFJ. At 6'3" 210 lbs, Stalberg combines size and strength posting 24 goals and 22 assists in 39 games. Burke likes his two way game and awarded Stalberg with an entry level deal and is likely to see at least some time with the big club next season.

7. Tyler Bozak, C, 23 - The highly sought after, undrafted, UFA was like getting a free 2nd round pick when Burke signed him a few month's ago. He would have already been up with the Leafs if not for an injury. 6' 170 lbs, not overwealming in size, but posted 23 pts in 19 games with the University of Denver and impressed every GM in the NHL with his two-way abilities.

8. Robert Slaney, LW, 21 - Another undrafted UFA signed by Burke recently, this guy was kind of under the radar. I have high hopes for him. Slaney is a late bloomer, in his first season in the QMJHL he posted just 7 pts in 57 games, then in his draft year he posted 25 pts, then in '08 he posted 55 pts and last year as an overager he scored a wopping 81 pts in 63 games. This is a guy who just keeps improving and at 6'2" 205 lbs, and averaging well over a penalty minute per game he seems like a real Brian Burke type of player.

9. Johnny Mitchell, C, 24 - John was a late developer, coming off his rookie season he can't really be considered too young anymore. I don't see him as a guy who can be a star but definitely a solid 3rd line centre. He needs to work on the defensive side of his game but has all the tools to remain a regular in the NHL. Size, speed, hands, Johnny's got it. I'd like to see him learn under Ron Wilson and become a good two-way player, maybe be like a John Madden for us.

10. Christian Hanson, C, 23 - At 6'3" 210 lbs, Hanson is a big body and he uses his size. No wonder he's the 3rd undrafted UFA on this list, 2nd out of NCAA. Hanson had 16 goals and 15 assists in 37 games with Notre Dame and played in the Leafs last 5 games, where he didn't look out of place. His size was used well and he didn't look nervous although skating was a problem. Still he scored 1 goal and 1 assist and had 1 minor penalty in his 5 games. Barring a bad training camp I would expect Hanson to keep his roster spot for next season.

11. Chris DiDomenico, C, 20 - Chris is a small player which could hold him back (6ft. 170 lbs) Height not an issue but he'll need to fill out a bit. Still he posted 59 pts in 51 games in the QMJHL last year, and before injuries had an incredible 35 pts in 15 playoff games! In fact in his last two seasons his playoff totals combine for 54 pts in 29 games. And this is a guy who is basically point per game regular season. Talk about stepping it up! He also played on a line with Esposito and Tavares at the WJC's. He looks really skilled, if he bulks up he could be a top line forward potentially.

12. Greg Scott, RW, 21 - Greg was an undrafted free agent signed last summer by Cliff Fletcher. Greg is 6' 180 lbs, and has posted 75 and 76 pts in each of his last two seasons in the WHL, averaging over a point per game in each season. Greg needs to play with men and a move to the AHL Marlies next year will be a big test. If he can continue to excel at that level he could earn a callup with the big club.

13. Dale Mitchell, RW, 20 - 68 pts in 66 games with Windsor of the OHL, and 29 pts in 20 playoff games including a hat trick in the finals. Mitchell had an awesome playoff for the Spitfires. He looks like he could be a star if not for his 5'9" height. Still he's beefy at 205 lbs. Could be a wild card to make the big club in the next couple of seasons.

14. Jamie Devane, LW, 18 - Mississauga native is a huge fighter. He's 6'4, 215 lbs, and he loves to fight. When I went to one site right after he was picked by Burke in the 3rd round to look up info on him, there was no bio just video's of him fighting. He scored at a point every 4 games rate, and supposedly plays a strong positional game. I see him as an enforcer with this team in the future, but maybe he could develop into an enforcer who plays solid positional hockey and can be a regular in the line up and contribute like what Domi once was for Toronto.

15. Jimmy Hayes, RW, 19 - Huge Jimmy Hayes is 6'5, 210 lbs. Once considered a great two-way prospect, he dropped from a projected top 10 pick in his draft year (2008) and slipped late into the 2nd round where Fletcher took him for Toronto. Jimmy is a big physical defensive forward who managed just 8 goals and 5 assists in 36 games with Boston College (11th on his team in scoring). Jimmy seems to be a prospect on the decline and may amount to nothing but don't be fooled - He is skilled and he is big! If he can harness his talent and size he could still develop into an NHL'er although I see him more as a big 3rd line type of shut down forward. But if you look at Brian Burke's mold for a team (top 6 - bottom 6) he could be a perfect fit in the system.

1 comment:

Chris said...

I didn't know about quite a few of these, nice article! I hope Burke can clear some space to make sure as many of these guys as possible see ice time this year.