Jeff Marek hosts AM 640 Toronto's Leafs Lunch, weekdays from noon to 2pm. Marek, along with co-host Bill Watters have their finger on the pulse of Leafs Nation as Marek skates through his second season on the team.
February 6, 2007
(TORONTO) -- Here's the understatement of the year: Leafs GM John Ferguson is a busy man.
With both one eye on the present and one on the future of the Toronto Maple Leafs it's safe to say that keeping the organization running smoothly is about as easy as herding up a dozen stray cats.
|The Leafs have high hopes for Jiri Tlusty. |
Nonetheless, that's what comes along with the territory of being the Leafs GM. You want the job? You got it, now roll up the sleeves because managing this hockey team is a year-round occupation.
On the horizon (both immediate and short term) are what to do with the contracts of Mats Sundin (where the presence of the word "option" in his deal is making signing the big Swede to a contract extension increasingly difficult) as well as Darcy Tucker, Jeff O'Neill, Mike Peca among others.
But, ever watchful of the future John also needs to mind his knitting about his key prospects for the future.
Let's focus today on a couple of the top-end players the Leafs have playing outside of the big squad and the Marlies.
Jiri Tlusty: Last years 13th overall pick in the NHL Entry Draft, Tlusty showed in both camp and a handful of games that he can play at the American Hockey League level already (Tlusty scored three goals in six AHL games and added an assist), even at his tender age. While there was some discussion that Tlusty would go back to the Czech Republic and play for the Kladno Bears if he was sent down to junior, Tlusty did indeed elect to start his career where so many great players have before, the Ontario Hockey League with the Sault Ste Marie Greyhounds.
Under the watchful eye of former NHLer Craig Hartsberg, Tlusty got off to a solid start with the "Hounds until a high ankle sprain put him on the shelf. He's now back in the Greyhounds lineup and racking up points with former teammate from the Czech Republic at the World Under 18 tournament David Kuchejda. Tlusty has potted ten goals in 20 games for the Greyhounds and when healthy next year, is expected to tear up the OHL.
Able to accelerate to top speed quickly, Tlusty plays a strong power forward game going to the net hard to bang in rebounds but he can also slide in to a playmaking centre role as well. He is fearless along the boards and already has a major league wrist shot. As close to a can't-miss prospect that the Leafs have within the organization.
Nikolai Kulemin: Selected in the second round 44th overall at the 2006 draft, Kulemin is to some, the best of the entire lot of Leafs prospects. Having worked his way through the Mettalurg Magnitogorsk program from youth, Kulemin has been described as a poor mans Alex Mogilny with a little more grit then scoring panache.
He works hard at both ends of the ice and has impressed many within the Leafs organization with his willingness to engage physically and create scoring chances out of nothing. He played on a line with Evgeni Malkin last year in Metallurg and was also paired with Malkin and Alex Ovechkin at last years World Championships in Riga. And if you can hang with those guys, as a scout you know something is there.
One person from the Leafs organization I spoke to about Kulemin not that long ago said he felt that Kulemin could step into the Leafs lineup as early as next year. Last year Kulemin was the Russian League's Rookie of the Year and he's already scored 24 goals in 45 games in the Russian Super League this year and keep in mind hockey in Russia is a defence-first proposition. And like Tlusty, Kulemin has spent most of his career playing against older
players and excelling. Remember this name.