The 2005 NHL Entry Draft enabled the Toronto Maple Leafs to address some of the glaring needs in their prospect system. Selecting netminder Tuukka Rask with their first selection, the Leafs acquired an intriguing prospect who should develop into a reliable NHL starter. Toronto also gained some much-needed size, drafting physical rearguard Phil Oreskovic along with rugged wingers Alex Berry and Johan Dahlberg. But the wild card for the Leafs could be Chad Rau, a talented offensive center that lit up the USHL last season and will attend Colorado College.
The Toronto Maple Leafs had a solid but unspectacular draft, adding some quality talent and picking somewhat conservatively. There’s no telling how long these draft picks will be a part of the Toronto prospect system, as the Leafs have made a habit of sacrificing prospect development for immediate results. That could change under the new CBA, especially with the farm club moving in nearby.
Tuukka Rask, G – Ilves, FIN Jr.
Round 1 – 21st overall
Born: 03.10.87 Height: 6’2 Weight: 165
Tuukka Rask was the second netminder taken in the 2005 draft, considered by some to be a more promising prospect than Carey Price. Rask has a wealth of international experience, capturing the award for best goaltender at the 2004 Viking Cup while leading his Finland squad to a gold medal. In the past year he demonstrated strong play at the 2004 U18 World Championships and the 2005 World Junior Championships, establishing himself as Finland’s starting goaltender at both tournaments.
Rask plays a butterfly style and has great lateral mobility. He has surprisingly quick reflexes, but his sound positional play ensures that he doesn’t have to rely on them most of the time. Rask plays the angles very well and has excellent recovery skills. The only weaknesses to his game are occasional mental lapses where his technique breaks down momentarily. Another area of concern is his conditioning, which sometimes leads to inconsistency. He’ll need to improve his stamina in order to take on a professional workload.
Rask is expected to develop in Finland for the next few years and he’ll be given plenty of time to shore up his skills. With talented goaltenders pouring out of Finland in the past few years, Rask could benefit from increased coaching and development programs overseas.
Phil Oreskovic, D – Brampton, OHL
Round 3 – 82nd overall
Born: 01.26.87 Height: 6’3 Weight: 217
Phil Oreskovic is a big, powerful defenseman, and provided a stabilizing presence along Brampton’s blueline last season. While he’ll never be a scorer (picking up only 14 points over the last two years) the North York, Ontario native has seen his stock increase gradually over the past two seasons.
Oreskovic is a smart player that positions himself well, and he’s developed a mean streak that helps him on the defensive end. His stock increase can be attributed to hard work and increased determination, something scouts noticed as the season went on.
Alex Berry, RW – Junior Bruins, EJHL
Round 5 – 153rd overall
Born: 03.06.86 Height: 6’2 Weight: 195
Alex Berry spent last season skating for the Junior Bruins of the Eastern Junior Hockey League, a league that is growing in notoriety every year. He was a major contributor to the Bruins last season, helping the club capture the EJHL championship. Berry finished the year with 21 goals and 31 assists in 63 games, good enough for the Leafs to pick him up with a fifth round selection.
At 6’2, 195 pounds, Berry plays a rugged game and always finishes his checks. While he’s not a gifted scorer, he always works hard to create scoring chances and he’s very strong on the puck. Berry, the son of former NHL coach Bob Berry, will play for the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in the fall, and he needs to develop his skating if he hopes to make an impact.
Johan Dahlberg, W – Modo, SWE Jr.
Round 6 – 173rd overall
Born: 02.03.87 Height: 6’2 Weight: 194
Johan Dahlberg plays a hard-nosed, physical game and he’s drawn comparisons as a poor man’s Peter Forsberg. Make that a very poor man’s Peter Forsberg. The hard-hitting Swede is known for his hot temper and could develop into a reliable agitator in the pros.
Dahlberg is a conservative pick for the Leafs. He’ll never be mistaken for a sniper, and he doesn’t have the stickhandling to beat opposition one-on-one, preferring to drive through his opponents to the net. Dahlberg’s goals aren’t pretty, but he’s an effective grinder and a player that wears down the opponent’s top line with excellent intensity. He’s expected to spend a few years in Sweden before making the transition to the North American game.
Anton Stralman, D – Skovde, SWE-2
Round 7 – 216th overall
Born: 08.01.86 Height: 6’0 Weight: 176
Anton Stralman has been productive in his time with Skovde of the Swedish second tier league. A reliable two-way rearguard, he opted out of last year’s draft to increase his stock for the 2005 draft.
Stralman has a strong shot from the point, and he’s effective at moving the puck from his own end. His physical game is very inconsistent and he needs to work on his decision-making in the defensive zone. Too many times last season Stralman took himself out of position going after the big hit. His offensive skill makes him an interesting prospect, and he’ll be playing in the Swedish elite league for Timra in the fall. Relatively undersized at 6’0, 176 pounds, Stralman is a long way from the NHL and he’ll need to bulk up to handle the rigors of a full season in the competitive professional European leagues.
Chad Rau, C – Des Moines, USHL
Round 7 – 228th overall
Born: 01.18.87 Height: 5’10.5 Weight: 175
Chad Rau had a phenomenal season for Des Moines of the USHL last season, posting 71 points in 57 games and capturing Rookie of the Year honors. He led the Buccaneers in almost every offensive category, averaging nearly 1.25 points per game. Rau was also named to the USA squad that won gold at the recent U18 World Championships, the only player from the USHL named to the team.
Rau is natural goal-scorer and utilizes a quick release to get his shot off from anywhere. He’s a very smart player, and knows how to get into open ice and create scoring chances. The knock on the Minnesota native is that he is undersized at 5’10 and 175 pounds. His offensive ability is unquestioned, but scouts are unsure whether or not he’s big enough to battle through checking at the next level. Rau will have a chance to silence his critics this fall when he begins play at Colorado College.
Pekka Lampinen, Jason Ahrens, Johan Nilsson, and DJ Powers contributed to this report. Copyright 2005 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.