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Alex Tran

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Alex has been a part of the original MLHS team since way back in 2008. He has contributed to the 2009-12 Maple Leafs Annuals with a special interest in junior hockey and player development.

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The NHL Draft is less than 18 days away…can you feel the excitement? The Leafs won’t be landing Taylor Hall, but it doesn’t mean they can’t grab another talented young forward from the Windsor Spitfires, today’s feature player: Justin Shugg. Justin’s a local kid from Niagara Falls who has been a key cog in for the most powerful offense in Canadian Major Junior, enjoying a 39 goal, 79 point breakout season in the Ontario Hockey League. Word around the scouting circles is that the Leafs are deeply interested in his services, as are the Atlanta Thrashers.

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In case you missed it, here’s a brief summary courtesy of Naz:

- Burke has let it be known to the 29 other NHL teams that Tomas Kaberle is available; he’s received “two interesting package offers” so far for Kaberle and is expecting more in the days leading up to the draft

- Burke’s priority this offseason will be to acquire top six forward with some size; Acquiring a higher draft pick would be a luxury but is not a priority

- Wayne Primeau will not receive a contract offer prior to July 1st and his situation will be re-evaluated afterwards

- Nazem Kadri has a shot at making the Leafs next season but needs to continue to get “stronger” and play a “60 minute game”

- If Kaberle is moved, Burke explains that one of the Marlies “Big Four” of Juraj Mikus, Simon Gysbys, Korbinian Holzer or Keith Aulie could find themselves with a full-time job in the NHL

[email protected]

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It seems the “Kaberle to Columbus for the 4th overall pick” speculation is picking up some steam. Aaron Portzline, the Blue Jackets beat writer for the Columbus Dispatch  had this to say in his hockey blog this afternoon:

“The rumor percolating in Canada that Toronto will offer defenseman Tomas Kaberle to the Blue Jackets for the No. 4 pick appears to be just that — a rumor. But don’t be surprised, we’re told, if Toronto GM Brian Burke makes that offer in the days or hours leading up to the NHL entry draft, set for June 25-26 in Los Angeles. It’s an enticing trade, to be sure, as Kaberle is a very polished and skilled defenseman. But would Howson make that trade? Hard to say. On the surface, it’s a very fair offer, as it immediately fills one of the Blue Jackets’ glaring needs. But look further, and it’s the kind of trade that Howson — and lots of other GMs — would be reluctant to make. Kaberle is signed at $4.25 million — a fair wage — but only for one more season. He’s an unrestricted free agent after the 2010-11 season. It seems unlikely that Howson would give up the No. 4 overall pick for one season of Kaberle.”

Now this is interesting on a number of levels. The first being that this is the first source, and a Columbus one at that, other than Steve Simmons’ speculative article that connects Kaberle to trade talks for the 4th overall pick. However, there is always the possibility that the writer is simply basing these assumptions on the same article we already know about. The second point is that the writer, and I’m assuming he’s a Jackets fan, believes the trade offer to be “very fair” as it “fills one of their glaring needs”. Lastly, Portzline suggests that it’s unlikely Howson would give up such a high draft pick for “one year of Kaberle”, possibly hinting at the fact that Columbus would give it some serious thought if Tomas came with a multi-year contract extension. Food for thought.

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Took a couple days off, but now let’s get back to the draft profiles. Today’s 2010 draft primer will focus on Andrew Yogan, an American-born power forward who plays for the Erie Otters of the OHL. Yogan might’ve garnered first or second round consideration at the beginning of the season but has been all over draft boards of late because of his inconsistent play.  However, the invaluable package of size, character and high end skill he brings to the table is undeniable.

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From the Toronto Sun:

“What he is asking for is not what we are prepared to pay,” the Leafs general manager said Thursday, when asked why he and Kulemin’s agent, Gary Greenstin, keep giving identical terse quotes on the subject. “I think his agent is a good guy. But we will grind on and see what happens.”

There are rumours Kulemin is seeking $3 million US or higher after 36 points in 78 games, though the 23-year-old was one of the team’s most improved players.”

Kulemin’s agent is likely using Grabovski’s $2.9 million x 3 year deal as a base for comparison, which isn’t completely out in left field. Nikolai finished the season very strong down the stretch, putting up 15 points in 16 March games alongside Bozak and Kessel. After the line was split up and Bozak was taken off it, Kulemin would go on to finish scoreless in 5 April games. So…. buyer beware. Kulemin is a great two-way grinder with a bit of offensive flair, but if you’re going to pay him like a top six forward, you better be ready to give him such a role because he’s not going to be creating 20+ goals by himself.

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According to our own Clayton Hansler, the Maple Leafs have signed defensive prospect Korbinian Holzer to a 2 year, entry level contract worth $595,000 a season. For those wondering why it wasn’t a standard 3  year ELC, Holzer turned 22 in February, thus making him only eligible to receive a 2 year ELC. It’s been speculated for days that this would happen shortly after the World Hockey Championships, and now it’s official.

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    According to LA Kings beat writer Rich Hammond, it appears as if Kings winger Alexander Frolov is set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1st. Citing an interview with Kings’ GM Dean Lombardi, Hammond explains that the team is “not optimistic” about their chances of retaining their young sniper. Should the Leafs be interested in his services?

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    It’s time for another draft profile, and Brock Beukeboom has the honour of being the first defenseman featured in our MLHS draft preview series. Ironically enough, Beukeboom is a physical blueliner with a “booming” point shot from Uxbridge, Ontario. Brock plays for the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds of the OHL and is the son of former Edmonton Oiler and 3-time Stanley Cup winning defenseman Jeff Beukeboom. Great bloodlines, offensive potential and the complete physical package should certainly pique the interest of Leafs’ scouts come draft day.

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    There has been much speculation that GM Brian Burke is working to acquire a 1st round pick in the upcoming NHL Entry Draft and now it’s time to add some more fuel to the fire. According to the Vancouver Sun, projected mid 1st round draft prospect Mark Pysyk of the Edmonton Oil Kings has held discussions with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Chicago Blackhawks, Anaheim Ducks, and Florida Panthers prior to the NHL’s scouting combine next month.

    Pysyk currently plays the role of a minute-munching machine for the Oil Kings: killing penalties, shutting down opposing teams’ top lines, and even earns time on the team’s powerplay. Mark is currently projected 16th overall by ISS and 7th among North American Skaters by Central Scouting, which means he could expect his name to be called anywhere between picks 10-20 on draft day. The mere fact that the Leafs scouting team is putting this much effort into evaluating players that would seemingly be out of the team’s picking range seems to indicate that there is at least a reasonable chance that Burke will be able to lay his hands on a fairly high draft pick come next June.

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    In continuing with our preparation for the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, which takes place June 25th – 26th at the Staples Centre in Los Angeles, today’s draft primer will profile right winger Brett Bulmer from the Kelowna Rockets of the WHL. Bulmer is quickly climbing up draftboards across the NHL after coming out of nowhere to have a very productive season out west. The intriguing combination of skating ability, size and offensive upside could see him go pretty high on draft day.

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    After stockpiling up on picks during the past couple drafts as well as cornering the European and college free agent markets, the Maple Leafs’ farm system is beginning to reap the rewards of unprecedented depth and talent. In the first installment of our MLHS “Prospect Season in Review” series, I’ll be taking a look at three of the team’s top prospects: Kenny Ryan, James Reimer, and Joel Champagne.

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    According to TSN’s Darren Dreger, Leafs vice president of hockey operations Dave Nonis is on the verge of agreeing to terms with the organization on a contract extension that will see him stay in Toronto at least through the 2011-2012 season.

    For the last several weeks, it’s been rumored that Nonis was among the top candidates on the shortlist for Tampa Bay’s vacant GM position, but he has now apparently pulled out of the running. Looks like Brian Burke gets to keep his right hand man for the foreseeable future. Nice signing.

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      Note: With the playoffs being the focus of the hockey world right now, there isn’t a whole lot of big stories breaking in Leafland these days. As such, I’ll be helping out Alec with his “Bits & Pieces” articles, touching briefly on various topics, and providing the occasional draft primer for the Entry Draft this coming June.

      This session’s topics include the Phoenix Coyotes, Mike Komisarek and 2010 draft prospect Joey Hishon.

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      During his first full year at the helm in Toronto, you could make the case that Brian Burke was the league’s most active general manager. There was the Kessel summer blockbuster with Boston and then the mega-deals on January 31st that brought in Phaneuf and Giguere. It’s quite obvious that he’s willing to expend assets to target any top notch premium young talent when it’s made available. Both of those trades were opportunities: Kessel was a restricted free agent on a team with cap issues. Burke often spoke of inquiring on Phaneuf several times throughout the year until the “pressure points” of the cap and the struggles of the Flames pushed Sutter into making a bold move. This summer should be no different. Let’s take a look at some of the young RFA’s that might potentially attract Burke’s interest.

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      Boy the playoffs have been pretty good this year huh? News is slow in Leafland nowadays so let’s talk some hockey.

      On Tuesday night, I witnessed Sidney Crosby light up the Senators to the tune of a 4 point night, bringing his series totals up to 11 points in 4 games played. And that Malkin kid who also scored, ain’t too shabby either. Last night, I was privy to a a pair of lasers launched by Ovechkin which basically choked the life out of the Bell Centre. To cap off the evening, I was wowed by a 20 year old Drew Doughty, who has 6 points through his first 4 career playoff games, and thought to myself that this kid might already be the best defenseman in the NHL. So then I started thinking: If you could pluck a single player off any roster to build a franchise around who would it be?

      Do you go with the second year co-winner of the Rocket Richard trophy in Steven Stamkos? Do you go with the Golden boy Sidney Crosby? Maybe one of the Russian snipers in Malkin or Ovechkin? Honestly, I’d have a helluva time turning down Doughty… the kid is a fricking monster… and defense wins championships. So there you go.

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      Brian Burke has picked up yet another wallet. According to a Finnish report, the Toronto Maple Leafs have agreed to terms on a two year deal with Finnish free agent goaltender Jussi Rynnäs. Jussi is still just 22 years of age, and is coming off a stellar year in the Finnish SM-Liiga in which he posted a 2.50 GAA and a 0.929 SV%. Rynnäs is still at least a couple years away from being NHL-ready, and will start next season splitting time with James Reimer for the Toronto Marlies. Jussi was arguably this year’s most coveted free agent goaltender, along with NCAA netminder Ben Scrivens, whom the Leafs had also been linked to over the past couple weeks.

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      Some reading material for your weekend enjoyment:

      - The boys over at PPP provide us with a nice piece about European free agent goaltender Jussi Rynnas. The 6’5 22 year old is coming off an impressive season in the Finnish Elite League, posting a 2.50 GAA to go along with a league-best 0.929 SV%. For comparison’s sake: Mikka Kiprusoff posted a 1.86 GAA and 0.936 SV% during his age 22-23 season in the SM-Liiga. Jussi is in the midst of a five city North American tour, with Toronto not being one of the destinations. However, Burke and Nonis have both made the trip out to Helsinki and later brought Francois Allaire along to speak with Rynnas during his stopover in Montreal. Rynnas is not as highly regarded as Gustavsson was last offseason, and will likely be playing for an AHL team next season. The scouting report on him is that he’s a big guy who can struggle at times with rebound control and positioning, much like our own Gustavsson, and his style of play has been compared to that of Nashville’s Pekka Rinne.

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      David Shoalts of the Globe and Mail speculates that Burke’s first move this coming offseason will be to find a taker for forward Mikhail Grabovski. Shoalts explains that with Bozak and Kadri likely penciled into the team’s top two centre roles, it is unlikely that Burke will opt for three undersized centres on his roster. Add in a $2.9M pricetag for a primarily offensive-minded  player who scored only 35 points in 59 games, and the writing seems to be on the wall. Shoalts warns fans not to expect a hefty return: likely less than the 2nd round pick Fletcher gave up to acquire him.

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      With the NHL season now officially over, the Leafs’ players and coaching  staff spent Monday afternoon cleaning out their lockers and addressed the media for the final time. Below is a recap of important comments made. It’s generally just the usual lines about how they plan to work hard during the offseason in preparation for a big  year but there are a few interesting tidbits as well. The full audio/video can be accessed in the LeafsTV archive on the Maple Leafs’ official website. On to golf season!

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        - As already discussed earlier this week on MLHS, Mike Van Ryn is hoping to make a comeback to the NHL next season. Tim Wharnsby offers an interesting read: how Mike has been training diligently for a long-shot comeback attempt for one of the last two games this season. A shame it didn’t work out.

        - Continuing on with an already over-publicized story, the Toronto Star provides more “insight” into the inner workings of the NCAA Frat Pack of Bozak, Stalberg and Hanson. Basically, they’re friends on and off the ice. Groundbreaking.

        - Kevin McGran talks about Jonas Gustavsson’s Masterton Trophy nomination.

        - Some more love for Jerry D’Amigo, this time from Inside College Hockey, who named him to their Freshman All-American team as one of the top three freshman forwards in the entire nation.