Monday, May 25, 2015
Authors Posts by Alex Tran

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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Despite modest numbers in terms of offensive production, winger Nikolai Kulemin has made great strides in becoming a indispensible, two-way threat that all winning teams require. The young Russian worked up the hopes of Leafs Nation with a dazzling array of speed, skill and finishing ability in various Youtube highlight reels prior to coming over to the NHL, but it’s been his tremendous effort, work ethic and defensive play over here that has won me over thus far this season.

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    Johnny Misley is the Executive Vice President of Hockey Operations for Hockey Canada, and plays a key role in enhancing hockey in Canada across various levels: from the grassroots programmes all the way up to the National teams. It was very kind of Johnny to take a few minutes to discuss the programme’s aspirations in the upcoming World Junior Championship in Regina as well as the Men’s Olympic hockey tournament in Vancouver.

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      Just wanted to share a fantastic bit of work done by Nights, one of our many enthusiastic and intelligent readers, who evaluated how the NHL landscape would look without the first 8 games of the season during which the Maple Leafs struggled mightily. Great work!

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        – The Toronto Marlies took a thrilling 5-4 shootout decision against the Chicago Wolves, with each of the College Frat Pack making an impact. Tyler Bozak recorded a goal and an assist, Stalberg scored once, while Hanson chipped in an assist. Defenseman Juraj Mikus added an assist and tallied the shootout winner.

        – Nazem Kadri continued his chippy play so far this season, receiving an abuse of the official misconduct in addition to a pair of assists in a 5-4 victory over his former club, the Kitchener Rangers. Elsewhere around the OHL, Jesse Blacker recorded a powerplay assist. Over in the QMJHL, Philliipe Paradis and Joel Champagne were both held off the scoresheet, while Mikhail Stefanovich managed an assist. There were rumors of a possible trade involving Stefanovich going to another junior team earlier today, but it doesn’t seem to have been the case.

        – Lastly, I’ve got a pair of Greens to Saturday night’s game (tomorrow) against Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals that I’m looking to move at cost. Drop me an email if interested.

        [email protected]

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          – The Globe sheds a little insight into Gustavsson’s heart condition, noting that the procedure went well and that he should be back between the pipes next week.

          – Quick tip of the cap to Martin Brodeur for his 3-0 shutout win over the Buffalo Sabres on Monday night. The victory marked his 103rd career shutout, tying Terry Sawchuk for the all-time lead. Is he not the leading candidate for Team Canada this year or what?

          – Speaking of Team Canada, I’ve got an exciting interview lined up with Johnny Misley, the Executive VP of Hockey Operations for Hockey Canada and right hand man to Bob Nicholson. We’re going to be touching on both the Men’s Olympic team in Vancouver, as well as World Junior team in Regina. Please add any questions you’d like me to pass onto him in the comments section below!

          – Lastly, I’ve still got some tickets to the Islanders match up tomorrow night at the ACC. Be sure to drop me an email if interested.

          [email protected]

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            Nazem Kadri continues his torrid play with another 2 goals last night against the Sagniaw Spirit. The first one was an absolute beauty, really highlighting upon all of Kadri’s strengths. He’s deep in the corner boards of his own zone, makes a clearing attempt that eventually squeaks out, bursts out of his end with a great deal of speed, lifts the defender’s stick to steal the puck, pulls off a pretty toe drag move with a top corner shot through the defender’s legs. Outstanding.

            Click here to watch it.

            [email protected]

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              Friday night saw a host of impressive performances from a few Maple Leaf prospects; among them is QMJHL power forward Joel Champagne of the PEI Rockets who turned in a ridiculous 7 point performance. Nazem Kadri also chipped a pretty shorthanded goal and 2 assists for London. Meanwhile, Phillipe Paradis was held scoreless in his debut performance as a Leaf prospect.

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                Leafs prospect Nazem Kadri has successfully passed the first hurdle en route to a possible World Juniors roster spot, by earning an invite to the final selection camp earlier today. The roster currently encompasses 36 invitees in total, a number which Team Canada Head Coach Willie Desjardins will have to narrow down to 22 by the end of camp.

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                  Tonight’s  loss against the Northeast rival Buffalo Sabres seemed to play out like the typical Maple Leaf ’09-’10 regular season game thus far. A fairly decent effort for about 75-80% of the game, a few brain cramps here and there, a ton of unconverted offensive opportunities, an unlucky bounce or two, along with the end result of an “L” in the record books.

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                    Via TSN: “Mikhail Grabovski and Francois Beauchemin were involved in a scuffle and had to be separated, reports AM640 in Toronto. The radio station is reporting the pair was involved in an argument and Grabovski tried to punch Beauchemin. Jason Blake and assistant coach Tim Hunter got between them.”

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                      Ho hum, a Saturday night without hockey in Toronto. Here are some interesting/random thoughts to consider:

                      – Now with 8 goals on the season, Phil Kessel has more goals in his 12 games than the Bruins’ highest leading scorer Patrice Bergeron (7 in 25 games played). Wow.

                      – With Kessel in the lineup, the Leafs are 5-4-3, earning 13 out of a possible 24 points. Without him, they’re 1-7-4. Yikes.

                      – More on Kessel; For some reason, he seems to love the weekend adrenaline rush. 20 goals and 35 points in 33 Friday, Saturday or Sunday games for Phil last season. This year, he’s got 5 goals and 8 points in 6 weekend affairs.

                      – The Leafs are dead last in the NHL with a 5.4% shooting percentage, compared to the ridiculous 12.8% of the Colorado Avalanche. Jason Blake’s  sniping ’em at a 2.6% success rate. In other words, he’s going to score every 38.4 shots… Fantastic. Meanwhile, Hagman’s putting them in at an godly 18.6% clip.

                      – Francois Beauchemin is playing very well of late with 5 points in his last 10 games with a -2 rating, and averaging just a tad under 26 minutes/night during that stretch. Compare that to the 4 points and -7 rating he had after the first 14 games.

                      [email protected]

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                        – The Toronto Sun explains that Burke came very close to acquiring Brent Sopel in two potential deals that both were believed to have fallen apart on Sunday. Apparently, he is looking to re-acquire 1st and 2nd round picks to compensate for the loss of draft picks from the Kessel trade.

                        – ESPN’s John Buccigross presents a great human interest story that about Brian Burke’s gay son provides insight into the close father-son relationship.

                        – Nazem Kadri’s been on an absolute tear of late. Click here for highlights of his 3 point night against Kitchener and here for highlights of his beautiful shorthanded marker against Russia in the Subway Series.

                        [email protected]

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                          – The Globe and Mail explains that thanks to an impressive win over the Capitals, the Leafs’ veterans have bought themselves some more time, and no immediate restructuring with Marlies players will be made. Yeesh.

                          – The Toronto Sun reviews a possible Brent Sopel to Toronto swap, stating that the $500K cleared in the waiving of Andrew Ebbett likely stalled trade talks over the weekend as Chicago seemed to gain a bit more leverage.

                          – The Marlies came away with a 3-2 shootout win over the Monsters yesterday afternoon, and it was in big part due to the play of first star James Reimer, who turned away 30 shots, including an overtime breakaway and four shootout attempts. Don’t look now but Reimer is quickly doing his best to help us forget Justin Pogge, as the 21 year old boasts a 5-1-1 record with a 2.10 GAA and .928 SV%.

                          – Lastly, I’ve still got a pair of last minute purples to tonight’s game against the Islanders that I’m looking to move at cost. Drop me an email if you’re interested. Update: Tickets have been sold, thanks for your interest.

                          [email protected]

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                            Update: Damien Cox is reporting that Burke is currently working on at least two possible trades.

                            – The Toronto Sun‘s got a very interesting quote from Ron Wilson. When broached about the possibility of call-ups from the Marlies, the head coach replied: “It would give us a boost, but because we are kind of limited, we can’t send anybody down”. You’re kidding right? What happened to all that preseason talk about burying underperforming veterans in the minors? Where’s the accountability?

                            Darren Dreger offers up some speculation as to what could be a very busy offseason next summer with as many as 17 free agents, 11 of whom will be unrestricted. He mentions that Stajan is a very likely candidate to be traded, and Ponikarovsky seems to be the only one who will be offered an extension.

                            – Prospect Notes: Nazem Kadri had a pair of very impressive games this past week, first in the OHL vs. Russia Subway Series, displaying a ton of poise and skill running the powerplay and then notching 3 assists against Erie last night. Jimmy Hayes, the Leafs’ 2008 2nd round selection, is showing signs of breaking out in the NCAA, with a 4 assist game last week and another goal last night.

                            – Once again, a pair of purples avaiable at cost for the Monday night’s game against John Tavares and the New York Islanders. First come first serve basis via email please.

                            [email protected]

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                              Although the positives have been few and far between for the struggling Leafs so far this season, the continued progression of blueliner Ian White bodes well for the team both in the short and long term. With the likes of stay at home defenders such as Beachemin, Schenn, and Komisarek locked into the club’s core for the foreseeable future, the complementary puckmoving and point producing skills of White make him that much more valuable to Burke’s plan of building from the net out.

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                                – The Toronto Sun has details about a bargain opportunity on November 22nd: the chance to watch both the Leafs and Marlies practice at Ricoh that Sunday, and then attend the Marlies vs. Lake Erie Monsters at 4pm all for as little as $10. I suggest those of you interested in catching a glimpse at the likes of Mikus, Bozak, Stalberg, Hanson and Tlusty make use of this pretty decent deal.

                                Jeff Blair explains that coach Ron Wilson is prepared to bench Schenn if he is unwilling to play a more agressive, physical style of game. Wilson added that he will not hesitate to insert Gunnarsson quickly into the lineup if someone begins to scuffle.

                                TSN begins to stir up the early season rumors a little bit by hinting at the possibility that Scott Niedermayer and Fabian Brunnstrom could be on the trading block. While Burke surely loves Scott, there’s already a logjam on defense at it is and the required pricetag would likely be out of Toronto’s range anyways without a 1st round pick to dangle in return. Brunnstrom on the other hand may be an intriguing fit as a skilled young forward, but he has struggled out of the gate thus far and did after all turn down the chance to play for the Leafs last summer.

                                [email protected]

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                                  – The Edmonton Sun reports that Forbes has ranked the Maple Leafs as the NHL’s most valuable team for the fourth straight season. The team is worth an astounding $470 million, jumping 5% from last year despite a slow economy.

                                  – According to the Windsor Star, Leaf prospect Dale Mitchell will head back to play one more season as an overager for the Spitfires, adding ridiculous depth to an already loaded team. Mitchell will make his debut tonight against Plymouth.

                                  Damien Cox has a very interesting story about this summer’s pursuit of Gustavsson and how the focus shifted from NCAA star Brad Thiessen over to the Farjestads phenom thanks to some great work from scouts Thommie Bergmann and Mike Palmateer.

                                  – The Toronto Star explains that the Leafs refuse to comment about Komisarek’s injury at the present time. He missed yesterday’s practice with a recurring leg injury that forced him out of Tuesday’s game and there is no word on when he will return.

                                  [email protected]

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                                    – The Toronto Star has an interesting article that mentions the Leafs would be at least open to talk of a second NHL team in the Greater Toronto Area.

                                    – As Mike talked about in his blog, it appears that Ron Wilson will be riding the hot hand with goaltender Jonas Gustavsson until a change needs to be made.

                                    – There are a few preliminary whispers of a possible deal involving a swap of netminders between the Leafs and the Ducks, with Vesa Toskala’s expiring contract heading down south and J.S. Giguere reunited with GM Brian Burke and goaltending coach Francois Allaire.

                                    – Last, but not least, I’ve got a pair of last minute purples available to tomorrow’s night contest against the Wild. A friend of mine was unable to attend and asked me to post it up on MLHS that he’s willing to let them go for cost. Just like last time, this offer is on a first come first serve basis for those reaching me at my email below.

                                    [email protected]

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                                      With Kessel and Gustavsson integrating themselves into the lineup, the team seems poised to break off a big-time run to put themselves back into the Eastern Conference’s playoff picture. The team is playing very well of late and continued to build on that with an impressive 5-1 victory at home against the Detroit Red Wings on Hall of Fame night.

                                      Update: During post-game media scrum, Wilson says Komisarek’s injury not serious.

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                                        Couple of intriguing tidbits from HB/ESPN’s Andy Strickland: Defenseman Jeff Finger WANTS to be sent down to the AHL to save a few bucks? Are the Leafs planning to place forward Jamal Mayers on waivers soon?