The Weekend Warrior

By Randy Nicholson

Another in a series of weekly articles summarizing activity in Leafland during the previous 7 days – with some personal observations, commentary, prospect updates and fun thrown in for good measure.

Back to Mother Russia: Vladimir Kulikov, the spunky little Russian goalie who performed so strongly at last year’s Rookie Camp and then again at the Main Camp this year, has returned home to play for Red Army this season … the Leafs were obliged to try find a job for the late-round 1999 draft pick somewhere in North America after he signed their minimum $40,000 contract offer (one that had been made simply to guard the team’s long term negotiating rights) … unfortunately, he had signed too late in order to be included the Canadian Hockey League’s European Draft … as a 19 year-old, he is too young to play in the minors and as a signed player, he’s ineligible for the U.S. junior league where the Leafs had hoped to place him …

Antropov closer to returning: Nik Antropov is getting closer to resuming his promising NHL career … the Khazakh prodigy, who is recovering from reconstructive knee surgery, has been skating on his own the past few weeks, usually after his teammates have completed their work … he often is accompanied on the ice by Maple Leafs Assistant Coach Keith Acton, who has been monitoring Antropov’s progress closely … “Hopefully in two weeks I’ll be able to start practising with the team,” said Antropov, who is aiming for “the end of November” as a tentative return date … “I’ve been skating every day, but it’s kind of boring … it’s been tough … when I skated for the first time, I wondered about the knee … but right now, I don’t even think about it … I feel stronger and stronger all the time” Antropov added … in other injury news, centerman Yanic Perreault is still slated to make his return some time around October 20th …

Leafs Trivia I: During the often dreary days between 1984/85 and 1989/90, Toronto players recorded hat tricks on 32 separate occasions … only half of these 3 goal efforts were turned in by players originally drafted by the Maple Leafs … because some of these players performed the feat more than once, there are actually only 7 Toronto draftees involved … name them (answer below Whatever happened to) …

“Blue and White Report” needs your support: I must say that I am really enjoying my own copy of the Blue and White Report … those of you that love the Maple Leafs won’t find anything in the stores that is even remotely close to the quality contained in this publication and it costs almost nothing … now that Tim’s willing to send it to you on a trial basis, you’ve got absolutely nothing to lose (and no excuse not to give it a try) … place your order today using the easy link on our site – I’d like to think that we can encourage Mr. Hennie to keep producing his fine publication for many years to come … I’ve got mine – its really up to all the rest of you Leafs fans now …

Leafs Trivia II: Complete this deal … Tom Kurvers to Vancouver on January 12, 1991 in exchange for (answer below Trivia I answer) …

Prospect news: As expected, Leafs’ defensive prospect, Jonathan Zion is off to a flying start in his final CHL campaign … Zion was a stand-out on the attack at the Kitchener Rookie Tournament and has carried this fine play into the regular season with Ottawa … Jon has 9 points (1 goal and 8 assists) in 9 games thus far … the other Toronto prospects assigned to the 67’s are producing uneven results … winger Miguel Delisle has tallied 5 points (4 goals and 1 assist) in 7 games … overager Lance Galbraith (clearly the biggest and most pleasant surprise of all players attending the Rookie Camp but apparently still unsigned as of this date) has recently returned to the team but has picked up only 1 assist in 4 games thus far … Khazakh rookie Vadim Sozinov is still finding his stride with only 2 goals in 9 games played – with both markers coming recently in the same game … Plymouth center Kris Vernarsky continues his strong early season play with 8 points (2 goals and 6 assists) in the team’s first 7 games … Erie’s Brad Boyes remains among the OHL’s leading scorers with 11 points (3 goals and 8 assists) in 8 games …

Who am I: I was acquired by the Leafs from Boston during the 1969/70 season … utilized primarily in a checking role during 2 1/2 seasons in Toronto, I would later became a dependable scorer after jumping to the World Hockey Association in 1972 … I eventually completed my NHL tour of duty in Chicago and Edmonton before being forced to retire prematurely in 1980 at the age of 32 due to a severe back injury … (answer below Trivia II answer) …

Rules strictly enforced: The early portion of the NHL season has seen an inordinate number of minor stick infractions penalized as per the new guidelines handed down to league officials … it would appear as though any use of the stick (slashing, hooking, cross checking) when covering an opponent is now to be rigorously punished … one couldn’t help but wonder while watching the Leafs and Habs on opening night just how many goals a player such as Sergei Berezin might get if this approach is followed all season long … truly gifted players like Berezin, who could probably get around most defenders in a telephone booth, are almost impossible to cover when only legal means are available …

Cereda’s surgery scheduled: Don Meehan, the agent for Leafs prospect Luca Cereda, has revealed that the native of Switzerland will have heart surgery on Oct. 19th in Lausanne in order to correct a heart murmur detected during medicals at training camp last month … barring complications, Cereda is expected to resume his career next season in St. John’s …

Prospect thumbnail – Alexei Ponikarovsky (C/W): Sitting in the stands at the Kitchener Memorial Arena in September, it was impossible to ignore this hulking Ukrainian forward … Ponikarovsky is listed at 6-4 but certainly looks to be much bigger … in fact, the resemblance to Nik Antropov is positively scary … he also has an extremely wide, thick frame and proved virtually impossible for opposing defenders to handle one-on-one … more importantly from a Leafs’ perspective, Ponikarovsky can skate and play hockey with the skill generally seen in top European prospects … Alexei has a chance to be a very significant player in St. John’s this year and certainly seems to have the full confidence of Coach Lou Crawford early in the season … he has landed on the top line (with House and Hakansson) and is playing in all important situations, scoring once in each of the team’s first two games … Alexei will almost certainly become a bonafide NHL star if his game continues to progress at its current rate …

Whatever happened to: Francis Larivee …

Trivia I answer: The 3-goal marksmen in question were John Anderson, Russ Courtnall, Wendel Clark (3 times), Gary Leeman (4 times), Peter Ihnacak, Vince Damphousse (3 times) and Daniel Marois (3 times) …

Trivia II answer: Anxious to destroy the evidence of an earlier disastrous trade as much as to acquire fresh talent (Kurvers had been acquired for the draft pick that could have easily become Eric Lindros and eventually did become Scott Niedermayer), the Leafs obtained Brian Bradley from the Canucks … after some successful short stints in a strong Vancouver line-up, Bradley seemed to be a young player with lots of offensive upside who was also quite responsible defensively … unfortunately, he barely got a chance to show what he could do in 2 seasons with the Leafs … selected by Tampa Bay at the 1992 Expansion Draft, Brian’s game finally blossomed … he scored 42 goals and 86 points in the Lightning’s inaugural season and averaged near
ly a point per game during the ensuing 3 years … sadly, Bradley’s career was cut short due to concussions and other neurological problems in 1998 …

Who am I answer: Jimmy “Max” Harrison was a personal favorite amongst Toronto players during my childhood years … Harrison was all that I reckoned a good hockey player should be at the time – he was the possessor of a deadly slap shot, he was extremely rugged and also a feared fighter … Jim’s nickname pays homage to former Leafs great and fellow Westerner, Max Bentley …

The regular season is underway – watch for updates on all Toronto personnel (whether playing in the NHL, the minors or elsewhere) here at your headquarters for Maple Leaf news and views – Hockey’s Future.