Likely rookies for 2002-03

By Stephen J. Holodinsky

How Many Rookies Should Toronto Be Starting Next Season?


After years of addition by way of free agency or the trade market, next season could very well herald the first fruits of the Leafs pipeline. Three youngsters have been up and down this year in Jeff Farkas, Alexei Ponikarovsky, and Karel Pilar. The first two have been in the big show before and their latest stint proved they are ready. Pilar, in his call-up, demonstrated with a bit more tightening of his game, he could be a net gain on the blueline for Toronto in the near future.

That said, we’ve heard all of this before only to have the Leafs stick with the veterans once they break camp. This time however, it could be different. Among those players who consistently find themselves on the bubble Jonas Hoglund, Gary Valk, Tie Domi, and Cory Cross are in the last years of their contracts. It would not be a stretch to suggest that none of this foursome will be with the Blue and White in 2002-2003. Dimitry Yushkevich is also in the walk year of his deal. While he may feel comfortable in Toronto and that feeling may well flow both ways, one should remember he is a Mark Gandler client like Alexander Karpovtsev before him. We all know what happened there. To be sure, it is expected that the Leafs will make their annual plunge into the free agent markets, but that aside there will still be roster spots to fill. From this columnist’s viewpoint, there is room for at least Jeff Farkas and Alexei Ponikarovsky on the opening night roster and quite possibly Karel Pilar.