Rookie Invitees looking for contract
If history is any indication, then Lance Galbraith and Ben Ondrus can look forward to a bright future. Last year, the Maple Leafs invited left winger Jacques Lariviere and goaltender Sebastien Centomo to their Rookie Camp as free agents. Lariviere had 22 PIMs in 3 Rookie Tournament games, while Centomo played very well as the #2 goaltender behind Vladimir Kulikov. Both youngsters were signed to contracts with the Leafs at the conclusion of the Rookie Tournament. The good fortune didn’t end there for either one of them. Centomo began the year as Rouyn-Noranda’s backup goaltender, but by the end of the season he had nailed down the number one job. Centomo had 24 wins which ranked 6th in the QMJHL and a 3.48 GAA which was 10th in the league. Centomo’s last year of junior competition will be a treat for Leafs fans to monitor. Lariviere, who had already spent two seasons with Moncton, became the resident enforcer for Rimouski and wound up winning the Memorial Cup. Lariviere had a career year amassing 309 PIM with 12 goals and 24 assist in 61 games. Leafs fans will be able to follow Lariviere in St. John’s this year where he will be a key component in Lou Crawford’s security team assigned the task of protecting the Leafs top young prospects.
Ben Ondrus was eligible to be drafted at this year’s Entry Draft but was overlooked. Ondrus is a 6 foot 190 pound right-winger from the Swift Current Broncos of the Western Hockey League. When naming their favorite players, many juniors list Wayne Gretzky and other offensive dynamos. Ondrus’ favorite player is Kelly Buchberger. That gives an excellent indication of how Ondrus plays the game. Lance Galbraith is the other free agent who is attending the Leafs’ Rookie Camp. Galbraith has played for the Ottawa 67s of the Ontario Hockey League for the past 4 seasons and may return for his overage year. Galbraith is more offensively minded than Ondrus, and much more physical. In 1999 / 2000, Galbraith had 25 goals and 25 assists, both career highs. He also amassed 193 PIM, which led the team. Galbraith is currently playing on the Leafs 1st line with Miguel Delisle and Luca Cereda, both of whom could be teammates/linemates in the nation’s capital this year. In fact, should Lance succeed in earning a contract at this year’s tourney, he will remain under constant scrutiny by the Maple Leafs’ organization as no fewer than four other top prospects (Cereda, Delisle, Vadim Sozinov, and Jonathan Zion) are set to join him in Ottawa. Whatever happens to Lance Galbraith and Ben Ondrus following the Rookie Camp, they are undoubtedly having time of their lives at the moment. Even though both players have never been drafted, it is very possible that we’ll see them challenge for positions in Toronto someday. The fact that the Maple Leafs have become so focussed and aggressive in acquiring and developing their young players recently certainly works in their favour. The rest is really up to them.