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Northeast Division

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    Next up, Viktor Stalberg by PPP:

    The Summary: Viktor Stalberg made a big splash in the pre-season as he led the NHL with 6 goals in 8 games. Then came game number three of the season and the player known as the A-Train. After Anton Volchenkov‘s hit Stalberg began a steep decline that led him to the AHL for 39 games. He returned in December but his impact was minimal until he found a bit of chemistry with his fellow Frat PackersTyler Bozak and Christian Hanson. It was enough to make some wonder if there was any hope to marry his exceptional speed with a more physical game.

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    Less than 36 hours to go until start of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, so here are some links to start your day:

    - The Toronto Sun explains that Burke is very tempted to trade his way into Friday’s first round party if the price is right. He’s already turned down an offer of a late first round pick for a roster player (Kulemin?) and another team has also brought up Schenn’s name in trade talks but was quickly rebuffed. The Leafs were also kicking the tires on Horton and Byfuglien before they were dealt over the last couple days. Burke did stress that his trade options are not limited to simply draft weekend, unless it involves draft picks, so it’s quite possible that nothing major goes down in Los Angeles.

    - The Toronto Star provides a quick update on the Kaberle trade talks, citing that the Leafs have received four “concrete” offers for the blueliner thus far with eight other teams expressing interest. Burke again reiterated that he could quite confidently get a first round pick back for Kaberle, but that he’s looking for different kind of assets in return because he wants to get better now.

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      We’ve partnered up with Pension Plan Puppets to bring to you a Player Review series, where we will be evaluating and grading the 2009-10 season for every Leaf who featured in a significant number of games for the Blue and White last season, with an eye towards 2010-11. Today we feature Wayne Primeau, profiled by Garrett Bauman.

      Wayne PrimeauSummary:

      Acquired via trade, Primeau was brought in to provide a veteran presence to a young locker room, add grit to the fourth line and fill the role of defensive faceoff specialist.

      Although he did not particularly stand out during his 59 games, Primeau was relativley effective in his limited (albeit important) role. An unrestricted free agent, he is unlikely to return barring a substantial paycut from the $1.4m he earned last season.

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      The draft is now just 6 days away, and here’s some more draft news to whet your appetite. According to our sources, the Toronto Maple Leafs have expressed significant interest in 2010 draft prospect Brock Nelson out of Warroad High School in Minnesota.

      The 6’3 power forward has an impressive on-ice skillset, is very coachable, possesses hockey bloodlines and could very well be the Leafs’ target if they manage to trade into the 1st round. This is a project pick that may take a couple years to pay off, but the potential here is sky high.

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      It’s not every day the Maple Leafs name a new captain. In fact, it’s not every decade. Sundin was named in 1997, 13 years prior to the Leafs appointment of Phaneuf. And with the announcement being made in front of a room of roughly 100 media personnel, the message was relayed to the world using every different angle imaginable.

      Instead of weighing the pros and cons, balancing the collective good choices of Burke and Wilson against the bad, MLHS is going to bring you into the event. Thousands of writers have provided their opinion but little time has been spent enabling the reader to form their own. So please, if you will, grab your notepad and follow us past the security and the media media check-in, and into the press conference that will see Dion Phaneuf named the 18th captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

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        We’ve partnered up with Pension Plan Puppets to bring to you a Player Review series, where we will be evaluating and grading the 2009-10 season for every Leaf who featured in a significant number of games for the Blue and White last season, with an eye towards 2010-11.Today we feature Phil Kessel, profiled by Garrett Bauman.

        Acquired via a controversial trade during the 2009 offseason in which three draft picks were sent to the Bruins, Kessel rebounded from shoulder surgery to become the Maple Leafs go-to guy in the offensive zone.

        Despite missing a month of the season, the electrifying 22-year old winger led the Maple Leafs in several offensive categories while providing the team with a legitimate scoring threat — and their first 30-goal scorer of the post-Sundin era.

        Only 22, Kessel has a bright future ahead of him and many suspect it will be only a matter of time before 40-goal seasons become the norm.

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        The NHL announced this morning the full order of selections for the 201o NHL Entry Draft.  While it is widely known that the Toronto Maple Leafs do not have a first or second round pick, they will select six times in this year’s draft.  Carolina leads the way with 11 selections, the New York Islanders and Edmonton Oilers are close behind with 10 picks.

        The San Jose Sharks and the Dallas Stars hang at the other end of the spectrum, with only four picks at this year’s draft thus far.

        Here are the order of selections for the Toronto Maple Leafs:

        Round 3: 62nd overall

        Round 4: 112

        Round 5: 122

        Round 5: 144

        Round 7: 182

        Round 7: 202

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        At an afternoon press conference at Real Sports Bar & Grill, the Toronto Maple Leafs made official the worst kept secret in the NHL by naming Dion Phaneuf the 18th captain in the club’s long and storied history (22nd if you count the St.Pats and the Arenas).

        The Maple Leafs also unveiled the team’s new jersey design.  The new jerseys return the horizontal white stripes to the bottom of the sweater, in homage to past tradition.  For more on the new designs, please see Alec’s earlier post regarding the jerseys.

        See the full list of TML captains after the jump.

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        According to Pierre LeBrun of ESPN.com, the Toronto Maple Leafs will not be pursuing soon-to-be unrestricted free agent sniper Iyla Kovalchuk. LeBrun cites a quote from Leaf GM Brian Burke stating that the club would not “be involved in that race”. Although this could theoretically be a ploy to avoid tampering charges, Burke has always been very up front about his intentions and could’ve easily either skipped the question or answered with a generic “we will explore every possibility to improve our club.” Thus, I would be willing to bet my bottom dollar that Kovalchuk does not end up in a Maple Leaf uniform next season.

        In the same article, LeBrun provides a brief update on the Kaberle trade talks, explaining that the number of inquiring teams has reached the double digits, though no serious offer has been made of yet. The only other high end puckmoving defenseman available is unrestricted free agent Sergei Gonchar, though rumors of his demand for a 3 year contract at age 36 could scare off potential suitors.

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        According to the Daily Herald, the Toronto Maple Leafs and Columbus Blue Jackets are believed to have expressed serious interest in Chicago winger Patrick Sharp. The author explains that Sharp would likely bring the highest return of any of the Hawks’ players rumored to be on the trading block, in the form of a high draft pick of top prospect. One rival executive deemed Sharp to be “one of those players every team loves to have” and who has “no flaws in his game”.

        The Toronto-Sharp connection has been red hot for over a year now, as the Daily Herald reported last summer that the Hawks and Leafs had already been discussing a potential swap. At the time, ESPN had speculated a return of an affordable defenseman along with a high end prospect. The 28 year old Sharp scored 25 goals and 66 points during the regular season, and stepped it up to the tune of 11 goals and 22 points during the Hawk’s Stanley Cup run.

        [email protected]

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          We’ve partnered up with Pension Plan Puppets to bring to you a Player Review series, where we will be evaluating and grading the 2009-10 season for every Leaf who featured in a significant number of games for the Blue and White last season, with an eye towards 2010-11. Today we feature Jean-Sebastien Giguere, profiled by PPP Guest Justin Goldman.

          “The Summary: Jean-Sebastien Giguere’s arrival in Toronto represented a lot of things. First and foremost, it represented the moment when, after 100+ days of atrocious goaltending, Brian Burke was finally able to change the Leafs’ fortunes. It represented the first time since the lockout that the Leafs’ defencemen and forwards could be confident that on any given night they were playing in front of an NHL calibre goalie. And it also showed the extent to which Brian Burke was working to put the support network in place to maximize Jonas Gustavsson’s potential. So how do you evaluate a goalie? Well, you ask an expert to offer his thoughts.

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            We’ve partnered up with Pension Plan Puppets to bring to you a Player Review series, where we will be evaluating and grading the 2009-10 season for every Leaf who featured in a significant number of games for the Blue and White last season, with an eye towards 2010-11. Today we feature Jeff Finger, profiled by Alec Brownscombe.

            The Summary:

            A former 1999 eighth round pick, Jeff Finger came to the Leafs via unrestricted free agency as a 29-year-old who was skating in the ECHL the last time Toronto made the playoffs. After his first steady NHL season with Colorado in ’07-08, Cliff Fletcher rolled the dice on a $3 million-per-year raise for the journeyman that will cost the Leafs 3.5 million against the cap annually until 2012. Fletcher obviously thought there was a lot more to come from Finger in his late development as a two-way defenceman, but let’s just say on that fateful day in July, 2008, the optics weren’t good.

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            According to TSN, it’s looking like the 2010 free agent class could get a boost this summer when Hurricanes’ winger Ray Whitney hits the market on July 1st. Carolina GM Jim Rutherford is less than optimistic about his chances at re-signing the talented playmaker:

            “I think it will be difficult with where he will be at, contract-wise. I expect him to go into July. It appears that’s the way it’s going to go.”

            Could Whitney provide an interesting fit for the Maple Leafs?

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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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            Just announced earlier this week, it looks like the Leafs will return to my neck of the woods.  Tickets for the event go on sale this Friday at 10pm, although there is a few pre-sales available as well.

            You will recall last season that the Leafs also came to London, Ontario, a game in which they beat the Flyers 4-0, including a goal by Nazem Kadri, scoring in a Leafs uniform while playing in his junior arena.

            The Flyers, for their part, are owned by the company who also owns the arena in London, Ontario, a partnership which allows the Flyers to make an annual excursion to the venue each year for a pre-season game.

            In six previous years, it is believed that the Leafs game last season was the only one that sold out, and did so rather quickly.

            For more information, click HERE

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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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              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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              National Hockey League

              NHL ShieldThings may be relatively quiet in Leafs Nation these days, but that doesn’t mean there has been a lack of excitement elsewhere in the NHL.

              As such, here are a few quick takes on some of the headlines dominating the NHL landscape these days (including the Phoenix Coyotes situation, the Patrice Cormier charges, and Willie Mitchell’s controversial comments),  as well as a quick glance at the nearly-completed 2nd round of the NHL playoffs.

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              Ron Wilson, an alumnus from Providence College, was playing for Davos in the Swiss National League A in 1985 when pivotal Minnesota North Stars defenseman Craig Hartsburg was injured. Embroiled in a battle for a playoff spot, Minnesota were in tough to find a stabilizing replacement to hold down the North Stars backend whilst Hartsburg recovered. Ron Wilson, a standout collegiate defender who never rose above major league stopgap, became the go-to-guy having already played 13 games for the North Stars the season previous. A span that bullet pointed five seasons in Switzerland.

              A grizzled journeyman by age 30; Wilson would provide stellar coverage in Hartsburg’s absence securing an presence on the North Stars blueline in the 1986-’87 season before completing his NHL playing career with Minnesota a year later.

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                While the news is slow I thought I would pass along the link to a little pet project of mine.

                I’ve launched my own website that features a bio and contact page, as well as articles written about things other than the Toronto Maple Leafs.

                Due to the lack of Leafs news at the moment, I have also started a podcast recapping the Stanley Cup playoffs, and episodes 1.1 and 1.2 are available here

                Please listen, and read the website, and let me know what you think about the podcast and the website, both positive and constructive criticism.  I can take it.