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Swedish Elite League

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It’s that time of year again. The Canadian World Junior Development Camp for the 2011 tournament in Buffalo is under way, as the Canadians try to bounce back from a heartbreaking loss against D’Amigo and the Americans. Here are some thoughts on the Leafs’ prospects’ chances of making their respective world junior teams:

- Bradley Ross is the lone Maple Leaf prospect invited to Canada’s Development Camp, but is sitting out the on-ice scrimmages due to a pulled groin. Barring a terrible season, he should have a good chance making the team in order to assume the agitator/pest role vacated by Cormier and Della Rovere. However, he could be facing stiff competition from Cody Eakin, a top scorer in the WHL, who is tearing up the scoresheet at camp so far.

- Jesse Blacker and Greg McKegg were not invited to camp. Unless he makes significant strides forward defensively, Blacker will likely not have a realistic chance at making the squad after finishing with a team worst -22 rating for Owen Sound last season. As is the case every year, the Canadians will be absolutely loaded with premium offensive talents so McKegg will also have to step his game up to another level and improve his two-way play if he hopes to crack the team’s top six. The odds are certainly stacked against these two because no player not invited to last year’s Development Camp made the eventual final roster.

- Jerry D’Amigo should have a top six spot all but locked up for the American squad after being one of the program’s best forwards for both gold medal winning U-18 and U-20 teams over the past couple seasons.

- Swedish stay-at-home defenseman Petter Granberg could have a shot on Sweden’s blueline. He played on last year’s silver medal U-18 team and will be playing full-time in the Swedish Elite League in the fall.

- Power forward Sondre Olden will be one of the youngest players at the tournament this year, but that was already the case last season.  At 17 years old, he helped the U-20 Norwegian team capture gold in the Division-1 tournament, thus earning a berth in Canada’s group for the 2011 tournament. He has been a huge centerpiece of their national junior teams, having also singlehandedly led the U-18 team to a Division-1 gold medal with 22 points in 5 games last season. Seriously, who wins two gold medals in one year?

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Great to see such an active group of readers. Here are a couple of FanPosts for your Friday afternoon reading enjoyment with today’s theme being youth, youth and more youth. Paul LeMay (B. Leaf) takes an in-depth look at the team’s organizational prospect depth while Chuck Johnson compares Nazem Kadri’s chances of making the NHL as a 2nd year player with those of previous high draft picks.

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It was a quiet Day One at the 2010 NHL Draft for the Maple Leafs, but the team stepped up its game in a big way on Saturday afternoon. The club wheeled and dealed its way into the 2nd round of the draft and through some crafty maneuvering in the later rounds, managed to add seven new players into the organization.

The Leafs were able to significantly upgrade their depth up front, by grabbing six forwards to go with one defenseman. Surprisingly, Leafs’ Swedish scout Thommie Bergman had a big day, selecting three players from the Swedish leagues.

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    The year was 2005.  George W. Bush was still in office (yes, somehow Americans voted for him, twice), Hurricane Katrina was doing catastrophic damage to New Orleans, and the vatican was naming a new pope after the passing of John Paul II.

    In the sports world, the New England Patrios would win yet another Super Bowl, this time against the Eagles, the Washington Nationals would begin operation as Major League Baseball’s newest team, Danica Patrick became the first woman to lead a lap at the Indy 500, and the Chicago White Sox ended a lengthy championship drought, winning the world series in four straight over the Houston Astros.

    Oh, and there was this one other thing too.  NO HOCKEY.

    Embattled in a bitter labour dispute, the NHL shut down operations for an entire year in search of cost certainty, something they would eventually get, although the opinion on whether the design is flawed or not is still out to be deliberated.

    For fans of the NHL, the June 2005 entry draft was more than just a weekend in June in which young players would be drafted, making their way into the beginning of their National Hockey League careers.  It was a new beginning for the world of the NHL.  A new season was about to kick off in earnest.

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      After tonight’s snoozer, let’s move on to a bigger and better subject.

      Some of you may have watched a surprising Norway side battle Switzerland to the bitter end for a quarterfinal birth in their final preliminary game at the Olympics; if so, try to recall a 5’7, 160-pound speedster working a stick as tall as the man himself.

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        Earlier today on a certain Toronto radio show, a grim portrait of Jonas Gustavsson’s future was painted, citing the 32 games he has appeared in so far in his career – most of those starts behind a lacklustre team – as evidence that he may never develop into the sort of goaltender the Leafs envisioned when signing him out of the Swedish Elite League.

        The crux of the argument was that 32 games should be enough for Gustavsson to have shown some ability to adapt to goaltending coach Francois Allaire’s techniques, and that at 25 years of age it may be too late for him to make the necessary adjustments for NHL success.

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          Finally some movement on the Jonas Gustavsson front, the 24 year old star netminder of the Swedish Elite League. From the Toronto Sun: “According to a Swedish source familiar with the situation, Burke will be in the Danish capital of Copenhagen today to meet with Par Larsson, Gustavsson’s Swedish-based agent. ”

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            The Maple Leafs have forfeited a fourth round draft pick and $500 000 for paying Swedish defenseman Jonas Frogren a $750 000 signing bonus this past summer, part of which he used to buy out his former contract at Swedish club Farjestad.