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Questions abound at Leafs camp

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs
by Matt Akler

Every new season is filled with excitement and enthusiasm about the year that lies ahead. Training camp is the place where it all starts, but along with that optimism every team has their own series of questions in preparation for the task at hand. Here are questions, and some possible answers, that the Leafs will address during this year's camp in St. John's.

How will Robert Reichel and Mikael Renberg handle their return to the NHL?

While Reichel has been out of the league for the last two years and Renberg the last one, both have been heavily involved in international play against elite competition and both were selected among the first eight players named for their respective Olympic teams. Neither may reach the lofty scoring plateaus they set earlier in their careers but both should be happy and ready in their new surroundings.

Is Mikael Tellqvist ready to step in and be the backup goalie?

Many believe that he is. Without an experienced backup to Joseph, Tellqvist will be given the opportunity to be the number two goalie. The Leafs are high on him and Mats Sundin, his teammate during the World Championship last season, spoke highly of the young prospect.

Will the team miss Tomas Kaberle who remains in a contract dispute?

Kaberle and the Leafs have not agreed to terms and his agent has suggested that the Czech will play in Europe this year. He was the Leafs' top scoring blueliner last year and if he were to miss the entire season it would be a loss, but it is still to early to believe that will be the case. Kaberle came out of nowhere three years ago after being selected 204th overall in the 1996 Entry Draft and with a glut of blueline prospects there may be another unheralded player waiting to shine.

Which defenceman will fill the roster spot of the departed Danny Markov?

Five-year NHL veteran Anders Eriksson will be given the first chance to fill the role. He is a talented player with untapped potential. The Leafs are hoping that he will become a steady player the way that Aki Berg emerged after being acquired from the Kings last year.

What young player will be the surprise of camp?

The Leafs would like to be surprised by Nik Antropov. Coming off a disappointing season last year, the lanky centre could make a push for regular duty. He certainly has the skills and will be given the opportunity. Another player who performed well in spot duty last year was defenceman Nathan Dempsey. With Markov gone and Kaberle absent, he may be ready to really step up. Competing with him for a spot on the roster will be second-round pick Karel Pilar, a 23-year old from the Czech Republic who might be ready to play the NHL game right away.

Will Curtis Joseph be happy playing without a contract extension?

There has never been any doubt about the professionalism and commitment of Joseph and there should be no reason to start questioning it now. He has every reason to have one of the best years of his career thereby improving his leverage in negotiations next year.

How will Alexander Mogilny fit in with the Leafs?

Mogilny is a gifted goal scorer and a superb skater. He will find talented teammates and a system of Pat Quinn that will give him plenty of opportunities to display his skills. The two-time All-Star should have no trouble fitting in with the Leafs.

Will the fact that camp is held in St. John's help the Leafs?

The Leafs will hold camp out of Ontario for the first time and will experience the warmth that will be directed to them as they are certain to be embraced by the hockey fans of St. John's. Seeing the reaction of the fans out east who never got to see their hockey heroes up close could prove a special bonding experience for the team.
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