MEANWHILE, DOWN ON THE FARM
Two new Baby Buds mean changes up front
As most Leaf fans know, the clubs AHL affiliate will be sporting a couple of new veterans in Bob Wren and Doug Doull come opening night at Mile One Stadium. Wren who has been in the Anaheim Mighty Ducks system for the past four seasons comes with the reputation as a nifty distributor fully intact having averaged 46 helpers a year in his stint with Disney. Doull, on the other hand, is almost his polar opposite. Not the most skilled player on the team puck-wise, the ex-St. John’s Flame is a never-say-die grinder who willingly drops the gloves when the occasion presents itself. By bringing in these two players there is more than one message being sent. With Wren in the line-up the top three pivots look to be the ex-Duck, Donald MacLean and Luca Cereda. This will allow the latter to develop in a stress free environment while still presenting a challenge as far as climbing up the rotation is concerned. It also heralds the conversion to wing of more than one Leaf prospect, the two coming readily to mind being Jeff Farkas and Alexei Ponikarovsky. Farkas, without question, is no surprise here. The Leafs have been grooming him for a spot on the wing for a year or so now. However, last year at times due to necessity, he lined up in the middle. Ponikarovsky, while playing outside in his limited stints with the big club, spent the bulk of his time in the middle when with St. John’s. As Toronto is thick with pivots and lacking in scoring wingers at the lower levels, look for the Ukranian forward to spend a lot more time on the flank this year in an effort to develop his finishing skills. And Doug Doull? His signing is bad news indeed for Shawn Thornton. Thornton, who has been with the Baby Buds for three campaigns now, has yet to show enough improvement to warrant a shot with the big club. Management might have hoped at one time that a blooming Thornton would soften Tie Domi’s contractual demands, but as it stands now, he might have a tough time holding onto his job in the AHL unless he shows more than he has in the past.