A summary of activity in the Maple Leafs’ Camp on the first day of the NHL Entry Draft in Sunrise, Florida.
After securing several reinforcements (Reichel, Green and Renberg) for next season’s line-up in the days leading up to the draft, the Maple Leafs finally got around to improving their farm system on the floor of the National Car Rental Center. The Leafs arrived in Florida armed with four picks in the first three rounds and eleven selections overall. After the proceedings began, Quinn and Co. were able to further enhance this stash by sending C/W Igor Korolev to the Black Hawks in exchange for Chicago’s third round pick.
There was clearly a common element in all of the player acquisitions made by the Leafs in recent weeks – speed! This skill was also front and centre at the Entry Draft as each of the five players selected by Toronto on Day 1 possess better than average skating ability.
Here is a thumbnail assessment of the newest Maple Leafs.
Carlo Colaiacovo (D – Erie, OHL) : The Leafs were fairly certain that their first selection of the draft would be a defenseman and so it was. With Knyazev already gone and Gleason, Popovic and Woywitka still on the board, Toronto opted to take Etobicoke native Carlo Colaiacovo from the Erie Otters. Carlo (whose his surname is pronounced Colee-AKA-vo) enhanced his standing with the scouts throughout the stretch run and into the OHL playoffs by displaying lots of savvy, mobility and competitiveness. At 6-1 and 184 pounds, Colaiacova is hardly a bruiser but plays an effective physical game nonetheless. He actually reminds many observers of Ottawa’s Wade Redden in that he plays with a high degree of intelligence and efficiency. A team mate of last year’s first round pick, Brad Boyes, Carlo has therefore been followed closely by the Maple Leafs this season and they are said to be as impressed with his character as they are by his one-ice play. Projected as a future top three blueliner, Carlo is a strong skater with good hockey sense who is extremely reliable in his own zone, but also a reasonable threat at the other end of the rink. He plays a physical game in the corners and in front of the net, is effective when carrying the puck and also possesses a hard, accurate point shot.
Central Scouting Report – Carlo is an excellent all-around skater who is very solid on his feet … plays a very solid defensive game … has the ability to join the offensive rush and can be a threat when pinching from the point … a very mobile defenseman who plays with poise and patience … has a hard, accurate shot from the point … an intelligent player with an excellent feel for the game … very effective on the powerplay and is used in all game situations … a disciplined player who enjoys the physical aspect of the game … a very determined player who can lift teammates with his effort.
Karel Pilar (D – CHZ Litvinov, Czech Republic) : Toronto’s second round selection is something of a sleeper. With the 39th pick overall the Leafs chose 23 year-old Karel Pilar from Litvinov in the Czech Extra League – where his captain last season was none other than Robert Reichel. Toronto had 3 scouts covering the World Championships this spring, largely to assess Reichel prior to moving on their trade with Phoenix. They obviously liked what they saw in Reichel but also came away from the tournament raving about Pilar. Karel was the top scorer amongst all CEL defensemen in 2000/2001 (12 goals and 38 points in 52 games) but is actually considered to be a defensive specialist. He is big (6-3, 207) and skates well. His mobility, when combined with a long reach, makes Pilar very difficult to beat in a one-on-one situation. During World Championship play, Karel was on the ice for only 1 even-strength goal against in 9 games. Offensively, his greatest attribute is his outlet passing, which is said to be excellent. It has been rumoured that Pilar is already committed to play for Jokerit in the Finnish League next season but Hockey’s Future has learned that this contract can be voided if Karel obtains an NHL deal this summer. For their part, the Maple Leafs are quietly optimistic that this player can take a regular turn on their blueline as early as next season.
Central Scouting Report – Not available.
Brendan Bell (D – Ottawa, OHL) : With their first pick in the third round, the Maple Leafs tabbed defender Brendan Bell of the Ottawa 67’s. The Nepean native took a regular turn on the blueline for the OHL Champions this season. As with Colaiacovo, the Maple Leafs had the opportunity to see Brendan often this season as previous draft choices Jon Zion, Miguel Delisle and Vadim Sozinov were also playing in Ottawa. Bell has decent size (6-1, 198) and is a very powerful and agile skater. He uses this skill effectively in maintaining strong defensive positioning and then clearing the zone efficiently. He is not a big hitter but fits well into the fluid up tempo game that Pat Quinn would prefer to have his team to play. He is often compared to another former 67’s star, Brian Campbell, now a highly ranked prospect in the Buffalo farm system.
Central Scouting Report – A very good, fluid skater with effortless lateral movement … has very impressive foot-speed and swift acceleration … supports the offensive rush very well and is very strong on the blue line, keeping the play in the offensive zone … a fixture on the powerplay … has a very solid and low shot from the point … a solid passer who effectively initiates the break-out from the defensive end … an intelligent player who plays a controlled game … is not overly physical, but effectively takes his man … shows tremendous poise and maturity.
Jay Harrison (D – Brampton, OHL) : With their second pick in the third round, the Maple Leafs took yet another blueliner, this time Jay Harrison of the OHL’s Brampton Battalion. Although the Oshawa native is also a very accomplished skater, that is his only real similarity to the other three defenders on this list. Jay has very good size (6-3, 205) and relishes playing an active physical game. His speed and agility allow him to hit hard and hit often. He is also quick to jump to the aid of his team mates whenever they are in trouble. Generally considered to be a mid-first rounder prior to the 2000/2001 season, Harrison dropped somewhat due to undisciplined play in his own end. The Maple Leafs are certainly hoping that another season in Stan Butler’s finishing school will help to Jay to improve his decision making skills. He represents extremely good value in the 3rd round.
Central Scouting Report – A very good skater with good speed and lateral movement … exceptional quickness for a player his size … has a very good, low point shot … plays a good positional game in the defensive zone and rarely leaves the front of the net unprotected … has good puck skills and is an effective passer … competes at a very high level and plays an extremely physical game … punishes opponents in the corners and in front of the net … has impressive strength and can overpower opponents … is very protective of his teammates.
Nicolas Corbeil (C – Sherbrooke, QMJHL) : With their final selection of the afternoon, the Maple Leafs finally got around to taking a player who is more concerned with scoring goals than preventing them. Corbeil is small (5-10, 160) but has excellent wheels and is seemingly always in motion. He was the leading scorer (33-51-84 in 68 games) with Sherbrooke of the QMJHL this year. Despite his stature, Corbeil also racked up 159 PIM. Nicolas, who is said to possess a lethal shot, excels in all aspects of the offensive game and is poised to become one of the QMJHL’s leading scorers next season.
Central Scouting Report – A very good skater with a good stride, balance and mobility … has a deceptive change of pace and good speed … carries the puck with confidence and has good hockey sense … a good playmaker who is always in motion … has a good, quick wrist shot … is used in all game situations, but is most effective on the powerplay … a solid competitor who will sacrifice himself to make the play … an effective forechecker who often forces turnovers … excels in a finesse game, but will not be intimidated in a physical game … is aware of his defensive responsibilities.