The Maple Leafs announced on Wednesday afternoon that they had come to terms on a two year entry-level contract with 22 year old free agent forward Marcel Mueller. Mueller is a 6’4 212 lb power forward who has spent the past 4 seasons playing against men in the top German league. He had a terrific ’09-’10 breakout campaign that saw him record 56 points in 53 games played, good for 13th overall in league scoring.
Although it has Mueller has been rumored to be a target of NHL teams for a couple of seasons now, the recent transfer agreement reached by the DEL and NHL in late June has allowed Marcel to be officially pursued by NHL clubs.
I’m about as optimistic a person as they come, but tonight’s loss against a struggling Penguins team just hammers home the message that there simply isn’t enough skill on this roster. It was a pretty bland effort overall as they couldn’t capitalize on key scoring chances and made a few mental mistakes that resulted in the back of their net.
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.
I must confess, I bought in.Â I bought into the mantra of improved team toughness, improved goaltending, improved and revamped defense, and an improved top6 forward unit possessing speed and skill who would be protected and insulated by a tough as nails complimentary group of players.Â I watched the pre-season and was salivating at the skill, speed, and determination exhibited by the up and coming Leafs prospects.Â But, then something very strange happened, something I cannot comprehend nor understand.Â Every single player (with the exception of Stalberg), which had led to such optimism and belief of brighter days ahead – were demoted to the OHL or the AHL.Â I sat there shaking my head, and privately and publicly went on and on about how this team could not succeed without the youth.Â Ironically enough, I had absolutely no idea how right I was and how bad this could and would get.
Alright, here we go! As the scouting world shifts its gaze to the NHL Combine, which kicks off today in Toronto, this will signal the beginning of the home stretch for this year’s crop of draft hopefuls. The draft itself may be just two days long, but the process and preparation for it will include hundreds upon hundreds of viewing hours for the scouts, and months of training for the players.
Canada did all the right things in tonightâ€™s game. They played a great cycling game in the offensive zone and have gotten more creative in their passing plays. They continued their crash-the-net tactics and even moved the puck out for some big point shots. On the defensive side, they played the 1-2-2 trap system the Fins used Sunday night, and applied an aggressive attack in the defensive end to completely shut down Richard Panik and the Slovaks.