Back to the Future 5: The Final Grades

By Stephen J. Holodinsky
Slap them sticks on the ice, breakout those funny noisemakers you hear on New Years, dump the confetti from the rafters, the Jr Buds won the rookie tournament and looked pretty good doing it. The line of Lance Galbraith-Luca Cereda-Miguel Delisle was the most productive trio in the round robin with 14 points in 3 games (6 goals, 8 assists), the team as a whole showed it could not and would not be pushed around and more often than not was the team that did the pushing. Players like Peter Reynolds, Mirko Murovic, Michal Travnicek, Vaclav Zavoral, Alexei Ponikarovsky and Ben Ondrus made sure of that. The skating skill of Brad Boyes, Jonathon Zion, Luca Cereda and Ondrus were on full display. About the only downside to the whole thing was the fact that the team gave up an average of three goals per game. While some of this was goaltender error, too many times the Baby Buds after taking a lead got over confident and stopped skating, which sounds strangely familiar. Without further ado, here are the final grades on the players. (Grades will be based how they performed in Kitchener, taking into account the amount of experience each player has)

THE FORWARDS:

Brad Boyes-Incredibly smooth in the open and shifty in a crowd, showed great offensive instincts and a knack for clogging opposing passing lanes. Being physical is not part of his game at this time, but he’ll have to improve on that if he wants to be a pro.

ETA: 2002/2003

Grade: B

Luca Cereda-Centered the most dominant line in the tournament. Showed great positional play defensively, some dandy playmaking skills, and a penchant for hanging on to the puck in deep until the right play made itself available to him. A year with Brian Kilrea will make this kid a very good one.

ETA: 2001/2002

Grade: A

Miguel Delisle-Quietly went about his job as the ‘other guy’ on the top line and this helped him somewhat. Showed good creativity in the offensive zone both passing and shooting. Still needs some seasoning, but could be a pretty good sniper.

ETA: 2002/2003

Grade: B

Johnathon Gagnon-The 20 year old, played well positionally, but really didn’t make much noise on offense. Leafs got what they thought they were getting, nothing more, nothing less. His experience should have made him more dominant.

ETA: ?

Grade: D+

Lance Galbraith-Another ‘grizzled vet’, Galbraith started out a bit slow but then shot the lights out becoming the tourney’s leading sniper with 4 goals and an assist. Showed some sand in sticking up for his pivot by fighting twice in the Rangers game. A bit on the small side and a undrafted invitee, Galbraith has certainly earned a contract. Could be a challenger for Adam Mair’s spot if he improves his speed a bit more.

ETA: 2001/2002

Grade: B+

Jacques Larivierre-The oldest player on the roster at 21, ‘Big Jack’ did what he does best, play the role of traffic cop. 4 majors in 3 games, all won by the Rimouski enforcer, will most likely earn him a ticket to The Rock. Needs to improve his puck skills and speed if he’s going to go anywhere else though.

ETA: ?

Grade: D

Frantisek Mrazek-Was held out of action for the entire tournament due to illness.

ETA: ?

Grade: Incomplete

Mirko Murovic-Showed nice hands and speed for a big man and was quite physical. A bit mechanical at times. Combined well with Boyes on the second line.

ETA: 2002/2003

Grade: C+

Ben Ondrus-The other undrafted invitee, Ondrus is cut out of the Darcy Tucker mold and showed all of it. Very good speed, heart of a lion, and loves to go to the net. Incredible corner work. Another that should get a contract.

ETA: 2002/2003

Grade: A

Alexei Ponikorovsky-A very frustrating player for the opposition to play against because of his incredible reach. If he is in pursuit of the puck he is much like an octopus in that the reach takes away every option but straight ahead into the boards. When he has the puck it is impossible for one man to take it away. Quite physical as well. Looks like a smoother skating Antropov without the offensive repertoire. Could play now, but Leafs might be patient.

ETA: 2001/2002

Grade: A-

Vadim Sozinov-Very much out of condition due to the lack of proper summer training facilities in Khazakhstan, he was a step behind everyone the whole tournament. Still showed a nice sniper’s touch in the last game. Conditioning needs to improve to get an accurate read on his abilities.

ETA: 2002/2003

Grade: Incomplete

Michal Travnicek-As ornery as all of the reports have him, Travnicek himself has said that he would like to check someone every shift. His puck skills need some serious work though, the effort is there.

ETA: 2001/2002

Grade: C+

Kris Vernarsky-Looked very good shutting down Josef Vasicek in their first game against Carolina. His defensive capabilities are not in doubt. His highlight reel assist against an admitted outgunned Sabre defense raised eyebrows though.

ETA: 2002/2003

Grade: C+

Morgan Warren-Showed absolutely nothing despite being put on the second line in the last two games with Murovic and Boyes. If there is a hockey player in that equipment, one was hard pressed to find it.

ETA: ?

Grade: E

THE DEFENSE:

Jean-Phillipe Cote- A rookie and it showed. Although he was physical at times, his stride has a hitch in it which will need to be worked on if he is to go further. Puck handling also needs to improve, but he’s young.

ETA: 2003/2004

Grade: C-

Peter Reynolds-Had an absolutely dominant first game and outplayed all defenders for the tournament. Belligerent, smooth with the puck, positionally sound, there wasn’t anything more you could ask for.

ETA: 2000/2001

Grade: A+

Allan Rourke-Engineered a nice give and go play with Lance Galbraith against New York and played ok positionally, but other than that showed little. Soft on defense, not as imaginative on offensive as one might have though coming into the tournament. A disappointment.

ETA: 2002/2003

Grade: D-

Petr Svoboda-Came into this as the odds on favourite to join the big club in training camp. Started out a bit tentative but by the end of the tournament had brought up his physical game. His defense is solid and his passes good, but he didn’t blow people away like many thought he would.

ETA: 2000/2001

Grade: B

Lubos Velebny-Really didn’t distinguish himself other than physically, but even then not to the extent of other first time Europeans. Is young, has time.

ETA: 2003/2004

Grade: C-

Vaclav Zavoral-Very physical with a belligerent demeanor especially in front of the net, not an offensive wizard, but passable considering the rest of his game. Skates well enough.

ETA: 2001/2002

Grade: B

Jonathon Zion-Very good speed, nifty moves and smart passing. Shows very good instincts as to when to pinch. Positional play is good at this point, but he’ll need to be paired with a thumper on the blueline. Could fill the Bryan Berard role in the future.

ETA: 2002/2003

Grade: B

GOALTENDERS:

Sebastien Centomo-Unorthodox but effective for the most part. Tends to flop too much leaving himself vulnerable for high shots. With the other netminders in the pipeline, doesn’t appear to have much of a future.

ETA: ?

Grade: C

Jamie Hodson-didn’t see any time during the tournament.

ETA: 2001/2002

Grade: Incomplete

Jean-Francois Racine: Great size, his side to side speed could use some work as well as his ability to put goals behind him. Had to be bailed out by Centomo in the Buffalo game. He is young however and has time to develop.

ETA: 2004/2005

Grade: C

Some further kudos for the coaching:

Putting Vernarsky on Josef Vasicek of the Hurricanes when Boyes was having problems dealing with his size in the face off circle in game one.

Moving Ondrus up from the fourth line when he showed he could play higher in the rotation.

Pairing Zion and Reynolds for the first two games of the tourney.

Hockey’s Future and Stephen J. Holodinsky would like to thank all of the Leaf players and personnel that made this coverage possible.