Here’s a capsule look at the current status of Toronto’s top 10 prospects based upon their respective performances during the 2000/2001 season:
Mikael Tellqvist (G) – Tellqvist’s outstanding season in the SEL has been well documented here at Hockey’s Future. While leading his club team to a second consecutive Swedish championship and also showing well in several international competitions, Mikael has firmly cemented his place at the top of Toronto’s prospect list. What’s Next: Having already accomplished just about everything that he possibly can at home, Tellqvist is poised to try the North American scene next season. Although there is a outside chance that he might win the back-up job in Toronto, his long term development would probably be better served by starting 40-50 games in St. John’s.SEASON GRADE: A
Brad Boyes (C) – Boyes, Toronto’s first round selection at last June’s draft, was another prospect who saw his rating soar during the course of 2000/2001. Brad led the Erie Otters with 45 goals and 45 assists for 90 points in only 59 games. He was awarded the Red Tilson Trophy as the OHL’s most outstanding player in recognition of a truly dominant season. What’s Next: Brad has one year of eligibility remaining in junior hockey and will almost certainly return to Erie next fall. He will be asked to improve his defensive positioning, skating and upper body strength in order to better prepare for a pro debut in 2002/2003.SEASON GRADE: A
Jeff Farkas (C/W) – Following a sluggish start in the American Hockey League, Farkas finally hit his stride around Christmas time and was outstanding the rest of the way. He finished second to Bobby House in team scoring, displaying great skating, stickhandling and shooting in the process. What’s Next: Now an established professional, Farkas will likely challenge for a place on one of the top three forward lines in Toronto next season. He will need to make an outstanding showing at Training Camp, however, in order to achieve this goal. SEASON GRADE: A
The St. John’s Insider on Jeff Farkas: the real deal … good wrist shot … committed to learning the game at both ends of the rink … not intimidated by physical play … two speeds: fast and faster … definitely has NHL caliber skating ability … has to improve his consistency … smart enough to know that if you address your weak areas, then management will take notice …
Nathan Dempsey (D) – Please refer to the Maple Leafs’ 2000/2001 Season Recap posted prior to the Entry Draft for a synopsis of Dempsey’s performance and prospects for next year.
Petr Svoboda (D) – Expectations for this player were perhaps a bit too high following an accomplished performance in the Leafs’ Rookie Camp last fall. He was also solid during the Main Camp that followed. Consequently, when the NHL season began, Petr was still in Toronto. Although Svoboda didn’t play very well in limited opportunities, he didn’t see things that way. When eventually demoted to St. Johns’ for remedial attention, he responded by sulking for several weeks. Just when the organization had resigned itself to writing-off the season for its top blueline prospect, Svoboda began to bear down again. He was one of the Baby Leaf’s better defenders down the stretch and into the post-season. What’s Next: Svoboda certainly has the size, smarts, mobility, poise and confidence to be a solid NHL defenseman. Whether or not that will happen next year will depend largely upon Toronto’s blueline depth chart following this summer’s retooling efforts. SEASON GRADE: B
The St. John’s Insider on Petr Svoboda: has all the tools to be another Kaberle … needs to gain more consistency … if he could develop an edge to his game he would rise up the prospect charts … slumped initially and was in the Coach’s dog house for a while but came on strongly at the end of the year … could definitely use added upper body strength … might very well challenge for a spot on the big club although another year in St. John’s wouldn’t hurt … eventually, if he keeps applying himself, Petr will become a very good two-way defenseman in the NHL …
Alexei Ponikarovsky (W) – Although the Leafs would have liked to see a little more offensive productivity from this hulking youngster this season, his overall performance was still very encouraging. In St. John’s (and in several NHL appearances), Alex displayed a willingness to use his size and strength at both ends of the ice, surprising skating ability for a player so large and an ability to adapt to several different roles. What’s Next: Ponikarovsky may never become a big-time scorer (although the Maple Leafs are still hoping that he will). In spite of this, his size and versatility might actually land him in Toronto’s line-up next season – before any other forward on this list. SEASON GRADE: B
The St. John’s Insider on Alexei Ponikarovsky: has to work on either his competitiveness and checking or his offense because without one or the other he doesn’t yet deserve a spot on the big club … he could be run out of St. John’s if he puts in another playoff performance like this year’s … frustrating player because sometimes he owns the boards and other times doesn’t compete for the puck at all … also has to work on his release as he too often fails to get his heavy shot away … lacks imagination and passion … he is a first year pro with potential so he will be afforded additional time to develop … he did impress early in the year – hopefully he will be more mentally and physically prepared for a long season next time around … very strong on his skates …
Don MacLean (C) – MacLean certainly experienced a full range of emotions during the 2000/2001 season. After an outstanding training camp, he won an NHL job with the Leafs, then lost it again just as suddenly. After being assigned to St. John’s, MacLean fell into a prolonged scoring slump. Though the Sydney NS native eventually got himself back on track (finishing with 60 points in 61 games), his career took a small step backward on the whole. What’s Next: Unfortunately for MacLean, the Maple Leafs have recently added 2 new NHL calibre centremen to the roster. He will need to recover his scoring touch on the farm next season before he’ll earn another chance to play in Toronto. SEASON GRADE: B
The St. John’s Insider on Don MacLean: a bit old for genuine prospect status … very well rounded player but his skating might prevent him from being effective in the NHL … uses his size well in corners and along the boards … plays well in traffic … along with House and Mills will be a good mentor for the kids coming to St. John’s … can’t be intimidated …
Allan Rourke (D) – Heralded as a potential offensive star after scoring 31 times during his final OHL season, Rourke was indeed a factor on the attack as a rookie in St. John’s last year. More importantly, he was unexpectedly solid in his defensive play as well. Though he began the campaign as the 7th rearguard, Allan quickly joined the starting line-up and stayed there. Rourke was perhaps the organization’s most pleasant surprise this season and the Maple Leafs are very happy with his progress. What’s Next: Rourke will be asked to exert greater control of the tempo and flow of the game next season in St. John’s. More emphasis on physical play would also expedite Allan’s graduation to NHL duty. SEASON GRADE: B
The St. John’s Insider on Allan Rourke: very well suited to the professional game where solid positional play is stressed … shows a willingness to improve (just as Farkas did) in his defensive play … didn’t play much early in the season but maintained focus and waited for his chance just like an experienced professional … great attitude – joins the rush really well and his composure could allow him to develop into a good power play quarterback some day in the NHL … he has the size to carry some more weight … good shot from the point … team mates battle in front of the net because they know that he gets his shots through on a consistent basis … needs to be a little bit more nasty at time … if he played a more physical game, he could really raise some eyebrows …
Miguel Delisle (W) – Delisle blossomed (just as the Leafs had hoped that he might) with Ottawa of the OHL this season. Miguel posted 34 goals and 72 points in 61 games and also established himself as an imposing physical force in the attacking zone. What’s Next: Delisle will return to the 67’s next fall for his final junior campaign. The Leafs will be hoping that he can achieve a higher level of consistency at both ends of the ice prior to turning pro in 2002/2003. SEASON GRADE: B
Luca Cereda (C) – If Rourke was their biggest surprise, then Cereda may have been the Leafs’ biggest disappointment in 2000/2001. Its not that the 1999 first rounder did anything wrong – simply that he wasn’t able to play at all following surgery to correct a congenital heart defect. There are many people in the Toronto organization who believe that Cereda’s long term potential is greater than that of any other forward presently in the system. What’s Next: All indications are that Cereda will report to Training Camp in September in perfect health and anxious to resume his budding career. The Maple Leafs will certainly be hoping that he can pick things up right where he left them last fall. SEASON GRADE: N/A
Special thanks to Alec Turpin for providing his insights on all of the St. John’s Maple Leafs’ players discussed above.
Freedom looms for dozens of NHL players. Watch for a free agency preview (from the Maple Leafs’ perspective) that will be posted on July 1st. Hockey’s Future will also offer commentary on all of the team’s acquisitions throughout the next several weeks. Stay tuned for a busy summer here at HF.