The second installment of the Maple Leafs prospect update for the 2003-04 season.
Williams starring in Swift Current
Nineteen-year-old center Jeremy Williams has been posting huge numbers in the WHL over the last month, moving into fourth place in the WHL scoring race with 19 goals and 18 assists for 37 points in only 24 games. His strong play has helped lift the Swift Current Broncos into the BMO Bank of Montreal CHL Top 10 Rankings, and into a comfortable perch atop the WHL’s Central Division. After a bit of a slow start, Swift Current’s General Manager Brad McEwen says Williams’ play has absolutely taken off over the last month.
“The last probably three weeks he’s been tremendous. I think he’s had nine goals in his last five games,” McEwen told Hockey’s Future recently. “Williams has really been doing the things everyone expected him to do and knows he can do. He’s playing with tremendous confidence right now and really done a good job for us over the last month especially.”
Williams made an indelible impression on Leafs brass and observers in Kitchener during the club’s rookie camp in the fall, displaying innate offensive skills and a willingness and ability to fight through traffic. McEwen thinks that a lot of Williams’ recent success is due to his improvements in skating.
“His skating has really improved a lot the last two year,” McEwen explains. “He’s really developed a second gear now.”
McEwen noticed that Williams returned from the camp as a more confident player, as he learned to play the game at a faster pace and make quality decisions quickly on the ice.
“The quickness in his game is a lot better now,” McEwen says, “When there are opportunities to shoot he gets his shot off quicker. He’s making quicker decisions and getting a lot of good opportunities because of it.”
Williams’ strong play has earned him league wide recognition, as a recent runner-up for the WHL player of the week, as well as being named to the roster of the WHL All-Stars for the upcoming series against the Russian selects. McEwen knows that Williams is excited about the games.
“It’s another opportunity for Jeremy to showcase his talents. He’s a guy who has come out of relative obscurity to be where he is, and it’s because of the way he plays and the way he’s developed.”
While Williams’ strong play this season has established him as a top star in the junior ranks, he is still going to have to add strength to his frame if he hopes to make the transition to the professional ranks next season.
“It’s a huge issue for all junior players, and especially for a guy who is a scorer and needs to get into some areas on the ice that are pretty tough to play in to be effective,” McEwen said.
Williams is eligible to turn professional next season, and could make his debut with the St. John’s Maple Leafs next fall.
White on schedule for WJC?
Nineteen-year-old defenseman Ian White’s chances at returning to represent Canada at the 2004 World Junior Championship were dealt a severe blow when he fractured his ankle in a game in October. The thought of missing the tournament is a grim one for White, who has enlisted the help of the Maple Leafs’ medical staff to expedite his recovery. McEwen spoke to White on Thursday, and had encouraging news to report.
“He’s coming along. After his last go-around in Toronto they re-evaluated him and at that time they thought that there’s a chance he’ll get his cast off at the end of November; the worst case scenario being very early December.”
In the best case, White would be able to get back on skates for December 1st, and would have about two weeks to try to regain his conditioning and timing before the start of Team Canada’s evaluation camp.
“Making it to that camp is a big goal of his, as it should be.” McEwen says, “He’ll have to work on his conditioning and his game, but he’s going to do everything in his power to get to that camp.”
While the Broncos have been winning in White’s absence, McEwen stresses that his team can’t wait to have the dynamic player back in their lineup.
“We have a fair amount of depth, but you don’t replace a player of his calibre. White is a game breaker at this level. He can make the difference in a lot of games. He is a big part of what we do and any success that we have.”
GM McEwen on Landolt
McEwen’s Swift Current Broncos faced off against the Calgary Hitmen twice during the month of November, and the General Manager took the time to share his observations on Hitman forward and Maple Leafs prospect, right winger Shaun Landolt.
“He’s got some good qualities in his size and the way he skates, he just maybe needs to work on his consistency a bit. He’s a good depth guy for them. Calgary would probably like a little bit more offense from him since he’s an older guy on their team, but he’s a good player.”
D’Amour still on Top of the CHL
The Gatineau Olympiques (19-6-2-0) remain in the number one position in the BMO Bank of Montreal CHL Top 10 Rankings despite a 1-2 week that included a 5-4 win over the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies on November 16. The Olympiques suffered 5-3 losses to the Drummondville Voltigeurs on November 11 and Victoriaville Tigres on November 14. Nineteen-year-old defenseman Dominic D’Amour has continued his strong early play for the Olympiques, providing a tough brand of defensive hockey while making contributions on the offensive end with 18 points in his first 20 games.
Other Maple Leafs prospects in the Top Ten include nineteen-year-old defenseman Tyson Marsh’s Vancouver Giants club at the number eight spot, and Williams and White’s Swift Current Broncos at number ten.
Here’s a statistical look at how the Leafs North American-based juniors have fared so far this season.
|Jeremy Williams||Swift Current Broncos (WHL)||24||19||18||37||28|
|Martin Sagat||Kootenay Ice (WHL)||23||3||18||21||16|
|John Mitchell||Plymouth Whalers (OHL)||22||9||10||19||23|
|Dominic D’Amour||Gatineau Olympiques (QMJHL)||20||6||12||18||73|
|Shaun Landolt||Calgary Hitmen (WHL)||25||4||8||12||24|
|Tyson Marsh||Vancouver Giants (WHL)||27||1||8||9||41|
|Ian White||Swift Current Broncos (WHL)||12||2||6||8||12|
|Todd Ford||Prince George Cougars (WHL)||19||5-11-2||2.87||0.905||0|