It’s hard to imagine that by the Christmas break, the offensively-challenged, Sundin-less forward corps of the Toronto Maple Leafs would be sitting at 7th overall in league scoring. They’re averaging a robust 3.10 goals for a game, which is a marked improvement over their 2.74 goals for average from last season. And what’s even more impressive is that key roles are being played by some of the Leafs younger players.
John Mitchell is a hard-working two-way player. Kulemin has shown flashes of his offensive potential and deadly wrist shot. Jeremy Williams is a scoring machine with 5 goals and 2 assists in 7 games played. And Grabovski has been a big surprise, tied for the rookie lead in goal scoring and is on pace for 29. Heck, even Andre Deveaux is starting to get on the scoresheet.
The forgotten man (at least for now) in all this is Jiri Tlusty. Upon being sent down to the Marlies after going pointless in 9 NHL games, Tlusty proceeded to record but 3 points through his first 8 games played. Combining that with his poor numbers from last season (Don’t ask me why he was playing 4th line minutes as an offensive minded 19 year old because I have no clue), a few people were already starting to write him off.
But now, Tlusty is starting to regain some of that lost confidence and it’s translating to results on the scoresheet. He’s currently on a 4 game point steak with 7 assists over that span, including a season-high 3 assists last Wednesday night. He’s got 5 goals and 10 assists for 15 points over his last 15 games played.
Where’s all this talent coming from? Let me refresh your memories. The Toronto Maple Leafs drafted Jiri Tlusty, the 2006 World U-18 Czech team Captain, 13th overall in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft. At the time, it was deemed a great pick as Tlusty was a very skilled player who had slid a bit after some concerns about his fitness level at the NHL combine.
International Central Scouting pegged Tlusty as the 8th best player in the draft and had this to say:
“He had an impressive second half this season. He is a well-rounded player who hits, makes plays and scores goals. He sees the ice well and contributes defensively. Tlusty gained a ton of valuable experience playing senior hockey with Kladno in the Czech league.”
NHL Central Scouting had Tlusty as the 5th best player in the draft and also had some very high praise:
“Excellent, fast, mobile skater…strong on his skates…outstanding acceleration speed…excellent overall skill level…has soft, good hands…a very good puck-handler…sniper who can score in many ways…hard working player who does not shy away from the physical part of the game.”
So at the tender age of 20, it looks like Tlusty’s still got a lot more to show us. (Sorry couldn’t resist!)
As a player with some decent size at 6′ 209 and soft hands who doesn’t shy away from the rough stuff, look for Jiri to be back up with the big club at some point the season. From his very first NHL game, when he scored 2 goals, one where he burst down the left wing and put one over Fleury’s right shoulder and the other which bounced off his rear end, we immediately realized two things:
#1 – He had some serious skill.
#2 – He was very unusual.
Sorry for the long pause in between blogs. I’ve been away on a ski trip down in Montreal and the slopes were fantastic. I had a great time, and I hope you guys all have a blast during your time off as well. Happy Holidays everyone!
Always a pleasure,