Pre-season Update on the Toronto Maple Leafs

By Stephen J. Holodinsky

Sep 23/97

All dressed-up and nowhere to play. That’s the problem for all the
candidates for the Leafs’ 2nd line center job. Korolev, Sullivan, McCauley,
Adams, and Deyell were all fighting for the spot at one point. Despite
playing well, Deyell got sent down with defensemen DJ Smith and Daniil
Markov a couple days ago. (Markov was injured with sprained knee ligaments
and will be out for 2 weeks). McCauley and Adams are both playing well, but
could be in St. John’s by the Oct. 1 deadline. They would like McCauley to
get more seasoning in St. John’s. Adams has pro experience from the IHL,
but Sullivan and Korolev have NHL experience. Sullivan has been a little
disappointing, seeing as all his experience and skills should have him as
the clear choice for the job. It just might be Korolev, adding to the 7
other former Winnipeg Jet players/coaches/front-office members. Whoever
comes in 2nd place for the job could wind up centering the 3rd line,
although Sullivan seems too small to be a checking center. The fourth line
seems like it’s going to be centered by Darby Hendickson. Mike Kennedy
would seem valuable as a checker, but his spot isn’t guaranteed especially
if Kypreos returns in a couple weeks and Johnson and Prochazka both make
the team.

As for other players looking to make the team… Martin Prochazka has
excited people with his offensive plays, particularly against Detroit where
he made several nice moves on Detroit defenders and scored on a nifty move
in close. He could stick on the 2nd line with Clark and the unknown center.
Mike Johnson has been impressive with his smart, physical play. Brandon
Convery was disappointing after showing glimpses of hope earlier on and
will likely be in St. John’s. On the defense, Jeff Ware continues to
impress Mike Murphy with his bruising physical play and willingness to
fight, although the rest of his game is not of NHL caliber (but neither is
Dave Manson’s, so there is hope for him). Matt Martin continues to be a
major disappointment for Toronto, having progressed very little over the
past 3-4 years when he was supposed to be a good prospect. Rob Zettler
could stick as the 7th defenseman, fighting with Wolanin and Ware for the
6th and 7th spots. Yannick Tremblay is destined to be in St. John’s for
another year. Cousineau will be gone next week, leaving Healey to back up
the Cat… unless the Cat gets traded to Philly for Rod Brind’Amour (not an
“official” rumour yet, but it would solve Philly’s goalie situation and
Toronto’s 2nd line center problem).

Potential lines:

D. King Sundin Berezin

Clark Korolev/Sullivan Prochazka

K. King Adams/Kennedy Domi

Warriner Hendrickson Johnson/Kennedy/Kypreos

Defensemen: Schneider, Gustafsson, Macoun, J. Smith, Yushkevich, Wolanin,
Zettler/Ware

Sep 15/97

Things were looking up for the Toronto defense this season because #1
D-man Mathieu Schneider was healthy again, offensive blueliner Per
Gustafsson was obtained from the Panthers for Mike Lankshear (a mediocre
prospect), and prospect Daniil Markov was the surprise of training camp. In
his first pre-season game against the Montreal Canadiens, Daniil Markov
partially tore ligaments in his right knee while trying to nail Shayne
Corson with a hip check. Markov almost bounced off Corson, and Rucinsky ran
into him when he was on his way down. Rucinsky landed on Markov’s back when
he was kneeling down on his right knee, partially tearing some ligaments in
the process. He will be out for at least a month. Too bad, because Markov
really had coach Mike Murphy and the boys impressed with his zest for
bodychecking.

As for the rest of the defense, Schneider was his usual excellent self,
scoring twice on the PP in the last period. Some rustiness was evident when
he was defending against Recchi flying down the side boards in the neutral
zone. He checked him, but didn’t get enough of the bulldog to stop him. He
had to reach back and hook him to prevent a breakaway. Per Gustafsson was
impressive with some excellent breakout passes but made a horrible pass for
a giveaway, and was rather weak with his checks against the boards and
tying up the man in front of the net. Before he got hurt, Markov was not
bad in his first pre-season game, but nothing to get excited about. At
least he’ll be a valuable defender for the Leafs in the future, if not this
season. He’s certainly better than Jeff Ware, who still seems like he
doesn’t belong in the NHL. He was kinda like Dave Manson this game: poor
mobility, poor play selection, but willing to fight. He got into two scraps
with Montreal rookie Terry Ryan. In the first one, he got his ass kicked.
In the second one, he got some revenge, although not very much.
Unfortunately, Mike Murphy indicated he was impresed with Ware’s goonery.

As for the forwards, Mats Sundin and his line (of Derek King and Sergei
Berezin) was the only consistently dominant offensive force out there.
There was a noticeable drop when any of the other four lines came out.
Highly touted prospect Alyn McCauley was “quietly impressive”, as Mike
Murphy said, for doing all the little things right. McCauley
displayed good hockey sense and defensive awareness, being in good position
most of the time. He stole the puck from Craig Rivet behind the net and
made a nice pass to Tie Domi right in front of the net for the first goal
of the game. Another prospect that’s been highly touted for his good season
last year in Sweden is 25 year old RW Martin Prochazka, who scored a goal
on a rebound at the side of the net. He was playing on the 2nd line with
Sullivan and Clark.

New guys Mike Kennedy and Kris King were not bad. Kennedy displayed some
good work on the boards like the checker that he is. Kris King almost laid
out Recchi with a near miss while backchecking and fought with Craig Rivet
of the Canadiens (and lost). These are the things the Leafs signed him for
– to provide a physical presence, grit, and leadership. Looks like he’s
doing it.

Felix Potvin was not all that great this game, much like he was for the
first two-thirds of last season. He let in a couple soft goals, but he made
a couple spectacular saves to make up for it. Cousineau didn’t get to play,
signalling that he’ll probably get sent down to the minors anyways (he was
there just in case Potvin got injured). Potvin and Healy will be the
goaltending tandem this year. Rumours out of training camp said Healy was
definitely the best goalie in camp, stoning Sundin and Sullivan on numerous
breakaways. Could he start the season? I doubt it, but he’ll be one of the
best backups in the league.

Brandon Convery was pretty impressive near the end of training
camp and could finally make the Leafs for good this season. He might make
the Leafs, but will he stay with them?

Prediction: At this time, McCauley, Prochazka,
and Markov should make the team.

Lines:

King Sundin Berezin

Clark Sullivan Prochazka

King McCauley Domi

Hendrickson Warriner Kennedy

Gustafsson Schneider

Macoun J.Smith

Ware Markov

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