The Maple Leafs have been busy negotiating with some of their junior players in recent weeks. Since signing Brendan Bell a few weeks ago, the Leafs have
locked up Matt Stajan and David Turon; both 2002 draft picks. Stajan has exceeded all expectations since being selected in the late second round
last June. His strong two-way play in Belleville this season helped ease the loss of Nathan Robinson, Mike Renzi and Jason Spezza for Bulls’ fans.
Stajan’s solid early-season play earned him an invitation to the selection camp for Canada’s world junior team, where he earned the 13th forward spot with the squad. His reliability and strong play earned him increased playing time as the tournament wore on, and Stajan essentially unseated former Buffalo first round pick Dan Paille on coach Marc Habscheid’s checking line. He also paired with Jay McClement to form a very effective penalty killing duo, and set up Jeff Woywitka for the game-winning
goal against the United States in the semi-final.
Stajan wasted little time in earning his pay check, making his professional debut the day after signing, in the season finale with the St. John’s Maple Leafs. Stajan lined up with vetarans Brad Leeb and Josh Holden to form a very effective line during the game, and recorded an assist for his first professional point. The very next night, Stajan made his NHL debut against the Ottawa Senators in the Leafs’ season finale, when Pat Quinn deciding to rest star Alex Mogilny. Stajan centered Owen Nolan and Gary Roberts during the game, and notched his first NHL goal against Peter Skudra on a very charitable pass from Chris Phillips. All indications are that Stajan will play in St. John’s next year.
The Leafs are excited about the defensive awareness Stajan possesses, and must be intrigued by his offensive potential as well.
A slightly more surprising signing was that of Portland defenseman David Turon. Turon, drafted in the 4th round last year, had a strong training camp with the Leafs in Hamilton last
fall, but suffered a broken collarbone in the team’s Blue and White intrasquad game at the end of camp. The injury delayed his WHL debut with the WinterHawks, but did not keep him from competing at the WJC tournament in Halifax for his native Czech side. His season in Portland was not as promising as his earlier performances, and he seemed to have some difficulty adjusting to the North American game. The signing is most likely due to his birth date; he turns 20 next October, and the WinterHawks would
have to use both a valuable European import spot and an overage slot to have him on their roster next season; an unlikely scenario in the talent-hungry WHL. Turon will likely compete for a spot in St. John’s next year, but may see some time intitially in the ECHL with Greensboro due to the plethora of defensemen projected to be under contract on the Rock next year. Turon has good size, and has
displayed an ability to move the puck smartly. While it is unlikely that Turon will ever contribute much offense at the professional level he does have a good shot from the
point. Turon could be projected to develop into an Aki Berg-type defensemen in the NHL; a big, reliable defensive defensemen. At any rate, he is another in a long line of recent draft picks who have already
over-achieved considering their draft position.
The next two players that the Leafs have to consider are 2001 draft picks Kyle Wellwood and Nicolas Corbeil, who both must be signed before the league’s June 1st deadline. Wellwood had a strong season, particularly at the WJC in Halifax, were
he showed an ability to play at a higher level of competition. Recent speculation suggested that the Leafs might pass on Corbeil, a smallish center who is generally considered to
be behind Alex Steen, Matt Stajan and Kyle Wellwood on the club’s depth chart up front. However, Corbeil’s impressive play-off run may have given
the Leafs pause to reconsider signing the feisty, playmaker. The question surrounding both players is whether or not they have the ability to overcome their lack of size and premier skating ability at the
Alex Steen’s Frolunda side completed a 4-0 series sweep over defending champions Farjestad, to win the SEL championship. Steen was a solid contributer centering the fourth line, displaying the fearlessness and strong two-way play he is quickly becoming reknowned for. Congratulations are extended to Steen and Frolunda
Here is a look at how the Maple Leafs’ prospects have been performing in the Canadian Hockey League play-offs.
Canadian Hockey League (Play-off Stats)
Player Team GP G A Pts PIM
Nicolas Corbeil Sherbrooke Castors 12 9 6 25 18
Brendan Bell Ottawa 67s 11 5 11 16 12
Kyle Wellwood Windsor Spitfires 7 5 9 14 0
Matt Stajan Belleville Bulls 7 5 8 13 16
Ian White Swift Current Broncos 4 0 4 4 0
Dominic D’Amour Hull Olympiques 9 1 2 3 37
David Turon Portland Winterhawks 7 0 2 2 0
Player Team GP Save %W L T GAA
Todd Ford Prince George Cougars 1 0.889 0 1 0 7.00
Notes: The Leafs are down to two prospects in CHL play-off action, with only Brendan Bell and Dominic D’Amour’s teams still alive. D’Amour’s Olympique are thru to the finals of the Lebel Conference following a 4-1 series victory against the Sherbrooke Castors,
despite a strong series by Nicolas Corbeil for the Castors. The Olympiques have been led by diminutive Penguins draft pick Maxime Talbot, who trails only Corbeil in the QMJHL play-off scoring race.
Up next for the Olympiques are the Val d’Or Foreurs, who defeated Shawinigan in five games as well. The Foreurs feature N.Y. Rangers draft pick Shawn Collymore and leading scorer Pierre-Luc Laprise up-front. The Ottawa 67s defeated the Oshawa Generals 6-0 on Sunday night, to take the Eastern semi-final in 6 games. Next up for the 67s are the St. Mike’s Majors, who made quick work of the Brampton Battalion. Home ice advantage will be a big factor in the Eastern final, since the Majors have proven to
be a tough opponent in their own barn; the small and antiquated St. Michaels’s College arena. Brendan Bell has had a great play-off run so far,
pairing with Karol Sloboda to provide the 67s with a rock solid d-tandem. Bell has shown himself to be head and shoulders above the competition when it comes to skating and puck handling skills during the play-offs, consistently carrying the puck deep into the opposition’s end on dangerous forays. He leads all defensemen in play-off scoring in the OHL, and is well entrenched in the top ten in overall scoring.