-- When Brian Burke
took the reins as general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs
, truculence became the order of the day.
Toronto prospect Brad Ross
embodies the meaning of the word, and has no problem with the title at all. In fact, he's ready to follow in the footsteps of one of the Leafs' most infamous agitators.
"Yeah, I'm OK with it for sure," Ross said of being known as a pest. "I like to model my game after Darcy Tucker
and he did that exceptionally well for Toronto when he played there, so I just really want to try and be like him. He's good friends with my assistant coach in Portland, and he shares stories with me about him and his game. It's pretty good. He reminds me of how much of a team guy Tucker was."
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Finding someone to play the pest has become a necessary role to fill for many NHL teams. Having a player who can be counted on to get under the opponent's skin, and potentially rattle their calm demeanor can be a major advantage. Of course, it comes with its own set of misconceptions, and Ross is determined to avoid those pitfalls.
"People think playing the pest is only about taking bad penalties," Ross said. "They think that I just do a couple of things -- I go out there and take penalties and fight. I've got a lot of other pieces to my game. I can pass; I can play power play or kill penalties ... all of those things."
Make no mistake -- Brad Ross
knows his way around a penalty box. He has amassed 493 penalty minutes in his last three seasons with the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League. However, the 19-year-old has been showing offensive talent during his time in junior hockey. Last season, his third in the WHL, he set personal bests of 31 goals and 69 points. He had 14 multi-point games and recorded two hat tricks.
"People sometimes come down on my skill," Ross said, "but I know I can help out. I've played with guys like Ryan Johansen
and Nino Niederreiter
(in Portland). I've learned a lot from playing with those guys about how to contribute."
Though the Leafs have scored a total of nine goals in two wins here at the Oshawa rookie tournament, Ross has yet to register a point. He's been aggressive -- Ross has been in the middle of every scrum, and he always is prepared to stand up for his teammates when things get chippy. However, he realizes time is running out for him to contribute offensively, so Ross wants to make sure Tuesday's game, his last of the tournament, counts.
"I came to show my physical play and my skill," Ross said. "I really want to make sure I turn up big on Tuesday."