Sergei Berezin was drafted 256th overall in the 1994 NHL entry draft. Daniil Markov went to the Leafs 223rd overall in the 1995 draft. Tomas Kaberle was drafted 204th overall in the ’96 draft. The Maple Leafs have exhibited a tendency to find, develop and give an opportunity to talented players, no matter what round they are drafted. All 3 of the aforementioned players are part of the core of young players on the team as the Leafs enter the millenium season. Assistant GM and head of the NHL entry draft for the Leafs, Anders Hedberg, has become known for discovering the “diamonds in the rough” in these late rounds.
Morgan Warren, a right-winger out of the Moncton Wildcats franchise in the QMJHL, was drafted by the Leafs in the 5th round, 126th overall in the 1998 NHL entry draft. “Morgan has just not had many breaks go his way for us in his first two years”, states Frantz Bergevin-Jean, Moncton’s director of communications and assistant coach. “He has a high skill level, but you simply wouldn’t know it from the stats sheet,” he adds.
The 6-2, 190 lb. winger, born in Summerside, I.P.E., has the size, skills and skating ability to be an impact offensive forward. “We feel he could be a 40-goal scorer in our league in 99-00″, says Bergevin-Jean “as he has that type of ability. He reminds us of a young Mike Modano with his speed, creativity with the puck and his sniping ability, but every time he would get things going the last two years, something (usually injuries) would seem to slow him down”, he adds.
Morgan scored 11 goals, 10 assists for 21 pts. in 59 games in his rookie season in the QMJHL in 97-98. He followed that up with 20 goals, 16 assists for 36 pts. in 48 games this past season with Moncton. Shoulder, ankle and concussion problems slowed his productivity this past year. “He has always battled back from injuries well, but a key will be for him to stay healthy for an extended period of time this upcoming season,” says Bergevin-Jean.
“Morgan works hard at the game and he is an all-out performer on the ice as well, never taking a shift off”, states Bergevin-Jean. “He is more than just an offensive player, as well, as he is defensively responsible also”, he adds. “Undoubtedly, he will play on one of our top two scoring lines this season. If the sun shines on him, this might be a breakthrough season for him,” he adds.
Morgan appears to have all the tools to become a productive winger, but he must stay healthy and put it all together this upcoming season with Moncton if he hopes to be able sign a pro contract with the Leafs before June 1st, 2000. If he doesn’t, he of course goes back into the NHL entry draft next season.
Jonathon Gagnon was selected by the Maple Leafs in the 1998 draft from the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles franchise of the QMJHL. He was selected in the 7th round with the 181st overall pick. Born in Montreal, Gagnon is a tall, rangy center, who for the most part, is a one-dimensional, offensive player.
“Jonathon will be our #1 center this year as a 19 yr. old,” states Paul McDonald, Cape Breton’s director of communications. “He is a pure goal-scorer, plain and simple, although his playmaking ability and vision on the ice is improving,” he adds. At 6-2, 190, Jonathon has a long-stride and is a swift skater. “He can score from the circles on in,” says McDonald, “as his wrist shot is very potent. We feel he can be a 40 goal-scorer in this league this next season if his focus is there,” he adds.
Jonathon split the 97-98 season between Val D’or and Cape Breton and scored 15 goals and 26 assists for 41 pts. in 69 games. He followed that with 27 goals and 37 assists for 64 pts. in 68 games in 98-99 for Cape Breton. “Jonathon has the best shot on the team,” says McDonald.
“The Leafs followed Jonathon pretty closely last season and their scouts have mentioned that he needs to improve his intensity and consistency”, says McDonald. “He has the offensive skills to make his mark, but he needs to round out his game by improving his defense and physical play. He needs to initiate the physical play more”, states McDonald.
“There is no question that Jonathon has an offensive game which is at least at the level of most AHL players”, says McDonald. “If he gains the confidence and has the desire, he could make it higher still. The Leafs are looking for him to bust-out in 99-00 as well as round out his game,” he adds.
Jonathon faces the same deadline that Morgan Warren faces. He must prove to the Leafs he is deserving of a pro contract by June 1st, 2000 or go back into the entry draft.
Both of these players have the skills and talents to excel. They must round out their games, add some consistency and intensity to their play and be more productive. It will certainly help if they get a few good breaks along the way as well. The Maple Leafs have proven they will give them the same shot as their first round selections, if Morgan and Jonathon go out and earn it.
Special thanks to Frantz Bergevin-Jean, Director of Communications and assistant coach of the Moncton Wildcats and special thanks to Paul McDonald, Director of Communications of the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles for their time in conducting these interviews