Well the leafs can't wait to compete again for the Stanley Cup. They will have to do a number of things, build a solid core of players through trades and free agency and of course the draft. That is what this blog is about, we will have to wait around 5 years to see how Brian Burke's 1st draft as the Maple Leafs GM. However the jury is starting to come in on how John Ferguson Jr's draft's have gone. In this blog I will discuss Leafs rookies who have either cracked the roster and stayed or earned a few games with the big club.
We start with:
Viktor Stalberg: He was selected in the 6th round 161st overall in the 2006 draft. Stalberg tore it up in the preseason and had Leafs Nation a buzz with the possibility of having a potential Calder Trophy candidate. However since the season started Stalberg has fallen off the map, and has since been sent down to the Marlies the Maple Leafs farm system. He has only played in 8 games and has only 1 assist and is a -5. Once the games started meaning something Stalberg completely disappeared and gone are the speedy rushes down the wing and the nice goals and big games. Since being demoted to the AHL he has played in 8 games and has 4 goals with 5 assists for 9 points and a +3. Stalberg has time to grow down int he AHL and he is only going to become a better player the longer he stays and plays in the AHL. I'm not saying were gonna see this guy pot 50 goals but the more time he has to develop the better he will be in the future.
Carl Gunnarsson: He has only seen limited action in the NHL this year. He was called up from the AHL a week ago to fill in for the injured Mike Komisarek. Gunnarsson was selected by Toronto in the 2007 entry draft in the 7th round 194th overall. It's hard to judge just how good or bad Gunnarsson is because he has only played 3 games in the NHL. However in those 3 games he has looked good, he has 1 assist and is a -1. He has especially looked good working the opposite point on the power play with Tomas Kaberle. He is only 23 and again will be sent down once Komisarek returns from an injury. Just like Stalberg the more time he spends in the AHL at this age the better for his future. Carl has played in 12 games for the Marlies and has 2 assists.
Jonas Gustavsson: I won't spend much time on Jonas as by my last blog you know how I feel about him. Jonas has shown kinks in his armour but he is a rookie and the true test will be how he handle the adversity. Gustavsson can one day perhaps be a number 1 goalie in the league, I guess the test will be this year in Toronto. He is playing on a bad team with bad defence if he continues to play as well as he has then there should be no doubt in anyone's mind that he can indeed make that leap to number 1. Jonas has made numerous big saves this year already but I think the best save he has made was back in the preseason against the Detroit Red Wings. 2 Red Wing's came in on Gustavsson all alone, and Gustavsson absolutely robbed Detroit's Ville Leino. The Air Canada Centre then showed their appreciation for the monster when the gave him a standing ovation.
Tyler Bozak: Bozak who has only played 1 game in the NHL. Bozak was a monster himself in the preseason setting up goals like no other and even scoring a beauty short handed goal against the bruins. Bozak is hard to judge also due to the fact that he has only played 1 game but he got an assist in it and was a -2. However in the AHL Bozak has compiled 2 goals and 7 assists in 14 games. Bozak has potential to be the Leafs next big play maker, he was signed as a free agent out of the NCAA. Bozak will continue to blossom in the AHL and only good things seem to be in his future. I don't think he is going to be an all star or anything like that but he can be a serious contributer to this hurting Maple Leafs squad in the future.
Christian Hanson: Christian played in 3 games at the end of last year after being signed as a free agent out of the NCAA also. He scored his 1st career goal against the best goalie the game has ever seen Martin Brodeur. Hanson has yet to crack the big squad this season but is making his case for a shot as in 16 games this season with the Marlies he has a team leading 8 goals. He has 9 assists, and leads the team with 17 points. Hanson is also leading the squad with a +5. You can't really judge Hanson's abilities just yet with only 3 games under his belt. Hanson's production will surely drop off if he does get called up this year, but never the less he is having a great season in the AHL.
Nazem Kadri: Kadri was taken in this years past draft 7th overall, and was Brian Burke's first ever draft pick as the Leafs GM. Kadri impressed a lot of people in the preseason. Kadri who just turned 19 a month and a half ago is leading his team (London Knights, OHL) in goals (11) and points (22) and is a +9. Kadri was sent back down to the Ontario Hockey League because of his age and size. Kadri who is only 185 pounds and 6 feet tall, is still a little small for the NHL. Kadri is thought to have a shot at cracking the Leafs roster as early as next year, I don't think it would hurt to give him and year or two in the AHL however. There is no point in rushing him into the NHL. A lot of Leafs critized Burke for not keeping him in the NHL or even the AHL. I am gonna have to take Burke's side on this there is no harm in sending back a good player to the OHL, especially when that player can get better and have a chance to represent the Country in the world juniors. We will have to wait until next year to see if Kadri does make the roster next year or if he is sent to the Marlies, but we will have to wait at least 5 years to see jsut how Kadri turns out.
Here is a list of Brian Burke's first draft as the Leafs GM.
7th Nazem Kadri, Forward, London (OHL)
50th Kenny Ryan, Forward, USA Under 18 (USDP)
58th Jesse Blacker, Defence, Windsor (OHL)
68th Jamie Devane, Forward, Plymouth (OHL)
128th Eric Knodel, Defence, Philadelphia Jr (US AAA)
158th Jerry D'Amigo, USA Under 18 (USDP)
188th Barron Smith, Defence, Peterborough (OHL)
Next Weeks Blog is about the Phil Kessel trade.