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Joel Champagne

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    Though the news in Leaf Nation has been relatively quiet of late, there have been a few intriguing storylines making the rounds. Joel Champagne will re-enter the draft, Nik Kulemin and the Maple Leafs have hit a contract impasse, Tomas Kaberle is reportedly gathering interest from a number of teams, and a member of the Toronto media raised a few eyebrows with a blog post regarding the relationship between Dion Phaneuf and Ron Wilson.

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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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      While the Maple Leafs struggled through a horrific 3-10-2 record to start the new year at the NHL level, many of the organization’s top young prospects enjoyed a very productive month of January on the scoresheet. Jerry D’Amigo (left) continued to build off a strong World Junior tournament, Mikhail Stefanovich seemed to finally turn the corner, while Nazem Kadri took his game up to that dominant level we all know he’s capable of.

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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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          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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            The big club’s off until a Friday night date with the struggling Hurricanes, so let’s take this opportunity to review the progress of several Maple Leafs’ prospects across various levels and highlight upon the season’s surprises and disappointments thus far. The verdict: fairly encouraging results early on across the board.

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              With very little good happening at the NHL level, it’s time to see how the kids are doing elsewhere. The Marlies dropped a 5-3 decision this afternoon against Rockford, falling to 2-1 on the young season. Jiri Tlusty scored a pair of goals, bringing his totals up to 3 goals and 4 points in 3 games played.

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                The Maple Leafs began on-ice workouts today at their new practice facility, the Mastercard Centre for Hockey Excellence.

                I’ve been given credentials and was on site for the first day and will be attending all three days of on ice practice.

                The following are a series of notes from Day 1 …

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                  Wednesday night’s tilt between the Maple Leafs and Penguins was by far the sloppiest game the Leafs have played thus far, with a 4-1 Pittsburgh victory the end result.

                  Simply put, the players looked as though they lacked energy from the outset.   Was it fatigue from the toll of three games in four days?   Or was it simply a poor outing, as is prone to happen to all teams, from time to time?   The answer to that may lie in Thursday evening’s game against the Senators.

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                    The Toronto Maple Leafs’ rookies, in a very entertaining game this afternoon, lost 6-5 in overtime to the rookies of the Boston Bruins.

                    The game was fast-paced, hard-hitting, and featured three fights on three consecutive plays (literally within seconds of the faceoff each time).    The good news?   Jamie Devane looks like a legitimate enforcer and a presence to be feared.   The bad news?   His right hand didn’t look so good after the fight (had the icebag brought to him in the penalty box) and he wound up leaving the game shortly thereafter with the hand bandaged up.    No word yet on how serious an injury it is.

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                      I won’t go into a lot of detail about the game itself, as Alec covered that quite well.

                      The news, for the most part, was good.   Many of the Leafs’ prospects were impressive in their bids to earn a spot on the big club and/or the Marlies.   The following is a quick summation of some of the things that stood out to me from my vantage point at the game.

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                        Jonas Gustavsson’s unofficial debut performance is bound to generate some buzz after the Monster stopped 35 of 36 shots in backing the Maple Leafs’ prospects to a 3-1 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins’ youngsters in the opening game of the rookie tournament inside the Kitchener Memorial Auditorium this evening.

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                          Notable Leaf participants in the tournament running from September 6th-7th at the Kitchener Memorial Auditorium will include Tyler Bozak, Viktor Stalberg, Mikhail Stefanovich, Nazem Kadri, Dale Mitchell, Jonas Gustavsson and Jesse Blacker. Of the Leafs 2009 draft class, Jamie Devane and Barron Smith are also a part of the squad to be overseen by new Marlies head coach Dallas Eakins and his staff. Having attended the last three rookie tourneys, this Leafs’ roster is by far their most exciting entry yet. Check out the roster list after the jump courtesy of MapleLeafs.com:

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                            As a reminder/lesson as to what the prospect grades indicate: the number represents a player’s traditional realistic potential ability on a scale of 1-10 with ten being “generational talent” and one being “borderline minor league player.” The letter (A-F) represents the prospect’s realistic chances of achieving their number-rated potential, with A being “all but guaranteed to reach potential” and F being “possess very little potential.” In the Leafs’ ranks, Nazem Kadri tops out the rankings (with Schenn now considered graduated) as an 8.0C, meaning he’s a “first line forward” that “may reach potential, but could drop two ratings.” Jonas Gustavsson is ranked second in the Leaf ranks as a 7.5B, meaning he’s half way between a “journeyman No. 1 goaltender” and flat out “No. 1 goaltender,” with the realistic probability of reaching his traditional potential “likely” with the possibility of dropping one rating. Ranked third is Mikhail Stefanovich at 7.5C, which essentially means he’s somewhere in between first and second line potential, with the possibility that he could drop as far as two ratings.

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                              Scouting service, McKeen’s Hockey Prospects released their 2009 Final Rankings, in conjunction with their 2009 Draft Guide which includes exclusive content and scouting reports on the top 90 draft eligible players. Patrick King, of Sportsnet familiarity talked about the draft in a Q and A session.

                              Following suit with the likes of the Redline Report and ISS, John Tavares was not listed at number one. NHL Central Scouting doesn’t release a consolidated rankings, ranks are broken down by North American and International, with Goaltenders ranked independant from Skaters.

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                                Rewind a year to Ottawa, when interim GM Cliff Fletcher was preparing to make his last great splash. Trading up to secure hard hitting blueliner Luke Schenn, a player unto which the Leafs hoped to bank their revival, set in motion a summer of upheaval paving the way for Brian Burke to step in mid-season. For many the draft of 2008 marked an era of realization, that change was required and perhaps finally the Leafs were going to commit to a full scale rebuild based on the youth model in Pittsburgh.

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                                  Hey folks, Alec’s traditionally done this in the past, but I’ll be taking over for this one as he’s been bogged down with work lately. With the way the Leafs have played over the past few years, we find ourselves looking forward to the future, hoping that there’s help on the horizon. Well let’s take a gander at what the Toronto Maple Leafs are cultivating down on the farm:

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                                    >>>DISCUSS IN THE FORUMS

                                    Original post: http://www.hockeybuzz.com/blog.php?post_id=16747&blogger_id=48
                                    The Battle of Ontario’s prospects ended in triumph for the Senators in an action-packed, end-to-end tilt featuring 12 goals split 7-5.

                                    The night started brightly for the Maple Leafs following Phil Oreskovic’s bout with Geoff Waugh three seconds after puck drop that was seemingly a spill-over of bad blood from last AHL season and/or an arrangement made in warm up. Off an early face-off in the Sens’ zone, Darryl Boyce drew the puck back to 5th overall pick Luke Schenn who fanned on his point-shot only