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Alex Tran

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    Since the turn of the new millenium, Leaf fans have grown accustomed to seeing a late twenties’ Bryan McCabe take charge of what was predominantly a veteran laden defense core. We’d often see him bellowing out orders from the bench, sticking up for his teammates even when it probably wasn’t in his best interest to do so (getting ragdolled by Chara comes to mind), or displaying a sense of passion and heart unmatched by any other Leaf blueliner. On the scoresheet, he was Toronto’s lone all-star defenseman not named Kaberle in recent memory, a 25 minute a night workhorse, and the all-time leader in PP goals among Leaf defensemen. Since the lockout, the Leafs have gone a dismal 11-22-4 without Bryan.

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      #9 – RW Jimmy Hayes, 18, Boston College (NCAA)

      Drafted: 2nd round, 60th overall in 2008

      Strengths: Superb size and strength (6’5 210 lbs). Good skater for a player his size. High end offensive talent with quick hands around the net. Can be a very intimidating presence along the boards and in front of the net. Tons and tons and tons of potential.

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        #5 – C Jiri Tlusty, 20, Toronto Maple Leafs (NHL)

        Drafted: 1st round, 13th overall in 2006

        Strengths: Strong skater with good acceleration. Quick hands, a great shot and excellent offensive instincts. Complete player who can bang a bit, and provides a developing two-way game. Possesses some gamebreaking ability.

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          After dealing away high picks for so many years, it finally looks like one of the NHL’s worst farm systems is beginning to turn the corner these last couple of years.

          For the most part, the Leafs’ prospect talent level is very top heavy with a few bluechippers heading this list, followed by an intriguing combination of high potential boom or bust prospects in the lower ranks. The orgainzation’s biggest strengths are its depth at the centre position and generally high skill level among its forwards. The farm system’s weakness occurs on the blueline where there is little to look forward to beyond Schenn and Stralman, particularly if Vorobiev decides not to come over. The general lack of speed in the organization is also a cause a for concern.

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            Lot of mystery and speculation regarding the status of one Dmitri Vorobiev of Lada. Leafs 5th round pick back in ’04 has really come into his own as one of the top young D-men in Europe. Leading your team in scoring at age 21 in the RSL, as a supposed “physical, defensive defenseman” is not an easy thing to do. Add in some very nice size at 6’2 216 (almost a Schenn clone), along with a devastating and somewhat crazy mean streak reminiscent of Danny Markov, and you’ve got yourself a pretty intriguing prospect.

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              Dale Mitchell was picked in the 3rd round of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, 74th overall. At the time of the selection, Mitchell garnered plenty of interest and pressure from the fans and media as the Leafs’ first pick that year. They had traded away their 1st and 2nd round picks to San Jose as part of the Vesa Toskala trade earlier that day. A little over a year later, Mitchell has quickly been forgotten, partly from a disappointing OHL season, and partly from the emergence of his fellow draftmate Chris Didomenico, selected in the 6th round.

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                There’s a little bit of the irony in the title because in fact, Christopher Didomenico has rarely been in the spotlight at all during his hockey career. He is the definition of an underdog, and a testament to what hard work and perserverance can lead to.

                As a young Toronto native, he was passed over by the OHL draft, after playing just 4 games in 2 seasons with the North York Rangers of the OPJHL. So, he managed to hook onto a tryout with the Saint John’s Sea Dogs of the QMJHL, made the team, and has blossomed into a great young player since.

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                  On Draft Day ’08, the Toronto Maple Leafs made the bold move of trading up from the 7th selection to grab Kelowna Rockets defenseman Luke Schenn 5th overall.

                  Leaf fans have been waiting a long, long time for a young franchise calibre to fall into their lap, and they may finally have found one in Luke. Heading into the draft weekend, Schenn had the presitigious honor of being lumped together into the group of elite four defensemen, who along with Stamkos, highlighted the top of this year’s draft class. Luke was proclaimed the most NHL ready and defensively sound blueliner among the group, but his supposed lack of an offensive game has caused some fans to label him as nothing more than a defensive stay-at-home defenseman.

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                    With the imposition of the salary cap taking some clout away from the financial Super Powers (or so they say), the “new” NHL focuses upon the importance of successful drafting and a constant flow of young players on cheap, entry-level contracts. With scouts now being dispatched to all corners of the globe, it’s getting to be quite a small world. The boundaries of the Hockey Community are ever-growing, and we’re starting to find ourselves with a neat little global village forming in the NHL.

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                      Hey guys, I’d like to start off by thanking Alec Brownscombe for this fantastic opportunity and share my enthusiasm and excitement regarding this great new venture. I hope this is just the beginning of something very special, and for myself, the start of a long love affair with hockey writing.

                      For those who don’t know, my name is Alex Tran, but I’m better known to my fellow “hockeybuzzards” (love that term Alec!) as Acekicker123. I’m a 2nd year university student, and only 19 years of age, but the magic of writing is that your age doesn’t matter, only the words you choose.

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                        *Sunday Morning Update: Nothing ground-breaking here, but Fletcher told me via e-mail this morning that there were no new developments in Friday’s meeting between himself, Mats Sundin and agent J.P Barry. “Mats is going to take his time.” It’s expected that Fletcher clarified his position by reaffirming that Sundin was welcome back, with a reported $7 million, 1 year deal still on the table. Alex Tran will be checking in with his first blog sometime today.