Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Leafs Training Camp

Brian Burke's final 23 man roster typically consists of 13 forwards, 8 defensmen, and 2 goalies. Keeping that in mind, I'm going to look at 20 forwards who will be competing for 13 spots to play for the Maple Leafs on opening night vs Montreal on October 7.


Nazem Kadri, age 20, 6'0" 188 lbs - This guy turns 20 the day before the regular season starts, he is of course the biggest name prospect coming to the Leafs camp, and he has a legitimate shot to make this team. He was the most prolific scorer in the OHL's playoffs with 27 pts in 12 games, and dominated the regular season. He has really proven himself in Junior and could be NHL ready. He still needs to have a solid camp to really prove that he belongs, but if his hands and ability to play physically can even closely translate from Junior into NHL pre-season then he will make the team. To get top 6 minutes he might have to make the team as a winger, even though he is a natural centre.

Jerry D'Amigo, age 19, 5'11" 196 lbs - D'Amigo would not have been expected to be in this position a year ago but he really broke out in NCAA this past season as an 18 year old. He was a point per game player, plays a two-way game and earned some attention from Burke and Wilson. He is a bit of a longshot but has had a ton of buzz around him this summer and could take a spot with a seriously strong camp.

Tyler Bozak, age 24, 6'1" 195 lbs - Bozak is a pretty much a lock to make this team after being called up late last year and really proving that he can play and produce at an NHL level. His 27 points in 37 games shows a lot of promise. The biggest question around Bozak is whether he'll be playing first or second line.

Luca Caputi, age 22, 6'3" 200 lbs - Another early October birthday, Luca was playing 2nd line at the end of last season, but he will have to prove his worth at camp. He managed 2 goals and 7 assists in 23 NHL games last year and despite being a below average skater, he can make an impact on a game. He's got some size and a good set of hands and could use his strength's to find a role on the team as a guy who drives to the net and finds rebounds, or stands in front on the PP. He will have to good because his spot is one that could be lost to a guy like Kadri, D'Amigo or Mueller, etc.

Mikhail Grabovski, age 26, 5'11" 184 lbs - Mikhail is a guy who will be gunning for the first line centre spot. He put up 35 pts in 59 games last year (47 point pace) and had 48 points the year before. If he can stay healthy and be as productive again this year then he will be a solid 2nd line centre, which is where I think he'll end up.

Kris Versteeg, age 24, 5'10" 182 lbs - Versteeg is a lock. The biggest offseason acquisition by Burke could play top line, and will play at least 2nd line. He's flashy, can score, plays a defensive game, kills penalties, is gritty. This guy should be fun to watch.

Mike Brown, age 25, 5'11" 205 lbs - Brown's 306 career penalty minutes in 142 career games tells you all you need to know. This guy is a scrapper, and should take some of the responsibility off of Orr to be the enforcer. Colton Orr was a very effective defensive forward under Tom Renney but was strictly an enforcer for Toronto last year and Brown should give the Leafs another heavyweight option. Brown, an NHL regular last year, was traded for by Burke in the offseason and he will make this team and play 4th line, or be the 13th forward.

Colton Orr, age 28, 6'3" 222 lbs - Colton Orr is a beast and Brian Burke really praised the way Orr played in his first season with Toronto. Colton scored a few gritty goals, and I actually agree with Don Cherry's assesment, that if Orr were to play more minutes he could be a solid defensive forward who could also chip in up around 10 goals. I don't think he will get those minutes and we should only expect another 4 or 5 goals from Orr, but he will bring the energy, forecheck, backcheck, and he will also continue to be the 2nd best ranked fighter in the NHL behind only Boogaard.

Colby Armstrong, age 27, 6'2" 195 lbs - Armstrong was the big free agent acquisition of the summer for Toronto. He is a lock to make this team, should be a third line energy player who will hit and fight and chip in with some offense. With a strong camp he could force his way onto the 2nd line.

Freddy Sjostrom, age 27, 6'1" 218 lbs - Freddy is a pure checking forward, just a solid defensive guy who should also be a lock for the 3rd or 4th line. However, a shakey camp by Sjostrom, coupled with a terrific camp from one of the younger guys could make things interesting. So Freddy needs to be sharp and the job will remain his to lose.

Christian Hanson, age 24, 6'3" 202 lbs - The last Leaf forward to sign this summer, Hanson inked a two-way deal which could make him an easy candidate to be sent down to start the season. If he doesn't play well enough to really seperate himself from guys like Mitchell, Sjostrom, and Brown, and then guys like Kadri or D'Amigo come out and shine, then it could be the AHL to start the year off for Hanson, again. This camp will be a big test for this guy, who if he uses his size could earn a spot.

Marcel Mueller, age 22, 6'4" 230 lbs - This beast was a star for Germany at the Olympics and posted amazing numbers in the DEL. He had 24 goals and 32 assists for 56 points in 53 games (keeping in mind that you only record 1 assist per goal in that league!). Mueller has the build of a power forward and could be the darkhorse at this camp. For all the fringe players, this could be the guy to watch out for, and he could very well end up on the roster come opening day. As of right now he'll have to be listed as a bit of a long shot.

Phil Kessel, age 23, 5'11" 180 lbs - Kessel is another early October baby, he'll be 23 just before the season starts. He is a lock for the top line, and is the star of this offense. I don't think I need to go on here.

John Mitchell, age 25, 6'1" 205 lbs - Johnny has earned himself a 1 year contract with Toronto but he'll have to work at camp to hold onto his spot. He is one of the fringe players with Sjostrom, Hanson, Brown, and Caputi who has a roster spot to lose. Mitch is a big boy and typically a favourite of Ron Wilson, so he might have an inside edge to be the 3rd or 4th line centre. He will need to have a really good camp to prove he deserves the minutes.

Clarke MacArthur, age 25, 5'11" 191 lbs - Clarke has scored 16 and 17 goals in each of the last two NHL seasons, and has proven to be a decent two-way player. If he can keep playing with that consistancy he should make as a third liner and could fight for 2nd line minutes, where he could give himself an oppurtunity to be even more productive. This camp will be big for MacArthur to try to gel with guys like Kessel, Versteeg, Kulemin, Grabovski, and Bozak and earn a spot as the 6th forward.

Mike Zigomanis, age 29, 6'0" 200 lbs - Veteran NHL journeyman Zigomanis has played for the Hurricanes, Blues, Coyotes, and Penguins and he could have a shot to make the team with a really great camp, although he'll probably be a key player for the Marlies. He's a faceoff specialist and penalty kill guy. A real grinder, and at 29 he's the oldest Leaf forward with a legit shot to make it out of camp. If there are injuries or both Hanson and Mitchell struggle at camp, that could be Zigomanis' chance to make it as a depth centre.

Jay Rosehill, age 25, 6'3" 215 lbs - Rosehill would not have been on anyone's list to make the team out of camp last year and he did. Could he surprise again this year after losing his place on the team? Its possible but not too likely. He takes on the same type of role occupied by Brown and Orr, but if he can have a really great camp he could be on the team to start the season. Count him as a long shot.

Brayden Irwin, age 23, 6'5" 215 lbs - This guy is a tower, another one of Burke's NCAA signings, Irwin came in and played 2 games with the Leafs after his college season ended last year, registering 3 shots on goal and 2 penalty minutes. He has been described by Burke as a potential top 6 forward, but he will have to adjust to the speed of the NHL game as he has a head for the game and tremendous reach and size. In his limited NHL action last year he found himself in good scoring positions a few times but couldn't find the handle. Irwin has a decent chance to make the team but he will have to have a great training camp.

Nikolai Kulemin, age 24, 6'1" 224 lbs - He started last year off in the minors after a shakey camp. I don't think he'll make the same mistake again as he just got better and better as his sophomore year progressed. Expect this guy to be driven and try to prove himself as a sniper. Kulemin has the shot and speed to be a first line player, and is a great defensive forward and probably the Leafs best hitting forward (2nd best now with Armstrong on board). I expect him to play first line, if not 2nd line depending on chemistry in camp.

Mikhail Stefanovich, age 20, 6'2" 202 lbs - Stefanovich is a real long shot here, but he was an absolute scoring machine with 49 goals in 56 games in Junior in '09, followed by dip to 25 goals but massively improved 43 assists last season. His QMJHL numbers are good, and the lanky Belarussian is known for his slick hands and knack around the net. He has the talent and could be a shocker to steal a spot if he comes to camp well conditioned.

So that's it, there's 20 guys, filter out 7 of them and you've got your Leafs, other guys coming to camp include Kenny Ryan, the recently drafted Brad Ross and Greg McKegg, undrafted free agent prospect Robert Slaney, and quality Marlies like Tim Brent and Darryl Boyce.

No comments: