St. John’s Maple Leafs Season Preview

By Kevin Kelly

ST. JOHN’S MAPLE LEAFS ENTER 2002-03 AHL SEASON WITH
LOTS OF QUESTIONS, BUT FEW ANSWERS


The signing of goaltender Trevor Kidd by the Toronto
Maple Leafs on August 26th may have been the
short-term answer for the parent club, but the
goaltending glut in St. John’s for this season may be
the biggest dilemma for Marc Crawford and the St.
John’s Maple Leafs coaching staff as they enter the
2002-03 season.

Not including Ed Belfour and the newly acquired Kidd,
five goaltenders are under contract with the Leafs.
Top prospects Mikael Tellqvist and Sebastien Centomo
look to battle for 1 and 2 spots, but don’t forget the
Baby Leafs MVP two seasons ago Mike Minard is also
there. Add J-F Racine and Jamie Hodson to the
goaltending mix and it’s possible the Leafs could make
some kind of move to shore up their forwards or
defence for the upcoming season.

The real problem for the Leafs this year will be
asking some of the younger players to take up the huge
losses of leading scorer Donald MacLean (now with the
Columbus organization),perennial Baby Leaf rearguard,
Nathan Dempsey, who will handle a different wind in
the Windy City and the Blackhawks this season rather
than the cold October wind of St. John’s and fan
favorite Jeff Farkas (traded to Vancouver for Josh
Holden). Also gone are Francois Bouchard (Europe),
Jacques Lariviere (trying out with Pittsburgh) and
Andre Payette (free agent)

The Leafs did get some new faces over the off-season,
signing WHL scoring champ Nathan Barrett, the
aforementioned Holden, defencemen Richard Jackman and
Ryan Bonni, but it will be asking more of the Leafs
younger players to step up and take action. One of
those forwards will be Luca Cereda. The Swiss forward
had a horrible first 3/4 of his rookie season but to
his credit played extremely well defensively in the
latter part and during the Calder Cup playoffs. If he
keeps it up, he can be a leader on this team.
Meanwhile on the defensive side, I suspect Chris
Chartier could be the offensive catalyst behind the
blueline on the powerplay. Chartier impressed many
during his rookie season and don’t be surprised if he
makes some headway this year.

Returning forwards include the always offensively
dangerous Bobby House and Bob Wren (who with Barrett
could be the team’s scoring leaders), grinders Morgan
Warren, Doug Doull and Craig Mills and the
aforementioned Cereda. Defensively, expect Jay
Harrison, Petr Svoboda, Regan Kelly, Allan Rourke,
Bonni, Jackman and Chartier to patrol the Leafs
blueline.

Then with every training camp, there are those players
who could stick in Toronto or be sent back to St.
John’s. These include Nik Antropov and Alexei
Ponikarovsky, top prospect Brad Boyes, Aaron Gavey,
Paul Healey, and Josh Holden up front. As for
rearguards, there’s Anders Eriksson and Karel Pilar.
Pilar did play well with Toronto last season, but
remember all that guaranteed money Eriksson is
getting.

If you include injured defenceman Marc Moro (out til
December with reconstructive knee surgery) and fringe
players like Jonathan Gagnon and Robb Palahnuk, who
could head to St. John’s or elsewhere and you have the
makings of a somewhat competitive team, but you wonder
if the kids will help the Leafs to the Calder Cup
Playoffs again this year.

It makes for an interesting training camp.