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Baby Leafs going for gold

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs

by John McCauley

TORONTO - While nine Toronto Maple Leafs players have been granted spots at the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City, they aren't the only members of the organization celebrating these days.

Three Leafs prospects were selected to the Canadian Junior team, which is preparing in the Czech Republic for the annual World Junior Championships. Brad Boyes, Jay Harrison and Carlo Colaiacovo will be in the lineup when Canada opens round-robin play on Christmas Day against France.

The three Toronto additions tied a Maple Leafs record for most players selected to the prestigious tournament in a single year. The mark was previously established in 1984 when Russ Courtnall, Gary Leeman and Ken Wregget were chosen.

Harrison and Boyes are making a return trip to the World Junior stage but Colaiacovo is making his debut. The 17-year-old defenceman was selected 17th overall by the Leafs in the 2001 NHL entry draft. Making things a little easier on the rookie is the fact he plays with Boyes on the OHL's Erie Otters.

Boyes, who plays centre, recorded four points on last year's bronze-medal winning Canadian squad. The veteran can use that experince and his three years of OHL play, to help teach Colaiacovo the ropes across the pond. The 19-year-old has been slowed with a bout of mononucleosis but he is expected to play a significant role. Toronto selected Boyes in the first round (24th overall) of the 2000 draft.

Harrison, a defenceman for the Brampton Battalion and the Leafs' third-round pick (82nd overall) in 2001, will skate with Colaiacovo, giving Leafs fans a look at a possible defensive pairing down the line.

In addition to the three Canadians, eight other Leaf prospects had been previously selected to represent their countries at the tournament: Lubos Velebny (defence-Slovakia), Ivan Kolozvary (forward-Slovakia), Jan Chovan (goaltender-Slovakia), Jaroslav Sklenar (forward-Czech Rep.), Tomas Mojzis (defence-Czech Rep.), Maxim Kondratiev (defence-Russia), Kris Vernarsky (forward-U.S.) and Markus Seikola (defence-Finland).

In addition, Leafs player development coach Paul Dennis will serve as Canada's team psychologist. Dennis, who is also the Leafs scouting coordinator will join Team Canada in the Czech Republic when the championship tournament begins December 25, 2001.

Canada will play in the B pool with Russia, Finland, Switzerland and France. The Czech Republic, U.S., Sweden, Slovakia and Belarus make up the A pool. Canada is counted among the favourites with 10 returning players but the medal race is a crowded one.

Toronto management will be watching the tournament closely to see which Leafs prospects could possibly be an option in the near future.


Carlo Colaiacovo, Jay Harrison
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