Maple Leafs 2006 draft review

By Matt Peters

The Toronto Maple Leafs most surprising move on draft day 2006 was a trade that did not involve any picks. Toronto sent its top goaltending prospect, Tuukka Rask, to Boston for former Calder Trophy winner Andrew Raycroft. Toronto quickly signed Raycroft to a three-
year deal.

Toronto’s only other trade was to exchange picks with Chicago. The
Leafs received the 99th and 111th picks from the Blackhawks for their 76th
overall pick.

Aside from the goaltender exchange, the Leafs addressed needs on
offense throughout the draft. Five of Toronto’s seven picks
came from the offensive end, where the Leafs are desperately in need
of youth and speed to compliment their aging core. The Leafs also had
a focus on Europe with five of their selections coming from overseas,
perhaps in reaction to the NHL’s new focus on speedy, skilled players.

Jiri Tlusty, C/W
Kladno/ Czech Republic
1st Round (13th overall), 6’0, 196

Youth and goal scoring haven’t been adjectives that occur very often
together within the Maple Leafs organization. Not since
drafting Wendel Clark and Vincent Damphousse with back-to-back first
round picks in 1985 and 1986 have the Leafs selected anyone regarded as a finisher.

Jiri Tlusty will try to break that trend, even if he was far from a
prolific scorer last season. Tlusty netted just seven goals in 44
games with Klando of the Czech Republic, but the Leafs have hopes he
could develop into the finisher the organization needs. He is
projected as a sniper — just 18 years old playing in the
men’s league and on particularly bad Kladno team.

The Leafs will be hoping he turns out like a host of other European
prospects who are noted from their offensive skills but do relatively
very little scoring while in their home country. Tlusty was able to
showcase his skill enough for scouts to look past his statistics,
although he did improve as the season went on. He also has some
leadership experience as he captained the Czech Under-18 team to a
2006 World Under-18 Championship. Tlusty was ranked as the fourth-best
skater out of Europe according to International Scouting Service. Central Scouting described him as a strong skater, hard worker and player with soft hands. Defense and positional
play are areas for improvement. Prior to joining the men’s league,
Tlusty posted 46 points in 99 games with Kladno Jr.

Although his offensive upside was most attractive Tlusty is known as a player who does not shy away from using his 6’1 frame for punishment.

Tlusty just signed a rookie deal with Toronto and is expected to play junior for the OHL Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds.

Nikolai Kulemin, F
Metallurg/Russian First League
2nd Round (44th overall), 6’1, 183

Kulemin was a linemate of Alexander Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin in the World Championships. But if Kulemin continues to improve the way he has over the last year, it won’t be
long before his name is mentioned by itself and not just in relation
to the stars he’s played with.

Kulemin has been old enough to qualify for the draft since 2004. He
opted out of the 2004 draft, however, believing he wouldn’t get picked, and
remained untouched in last year’s event.

Despite the lack of attention thrown Kulemin’s way, he finished this season as the Rookie of the Year in the Russian Super League last year, while playing for Metallurg with Malkin. While Malkin
is known as a pure finisher, Kulemin is known more for doing small
things that lead to goals. He excels in forechecking, grabbing loose
pucks and making the right passes. His play is normally unspectacular
but solid.

Kulemin is known as a team-first player and is comfortable playing in
a variety of roles. Although he probably won’t be called on to be
goal scorer, Kulemin will do whatever it takes to
contribute. He’s a smart player with good hockey sense, but he also
has the speed and acceleration. His upside is incredibly high.

James Reimer, G
Red Deer Rebels/ WHL
4th Round (99th overall), 6’2, 208

While the Leafs shipped off their top goaltending prospect, they added
another one in the fourth round, although no one will be confusing
James Reimer with Rask just yet. Reimer is described as a bit of
a long-term project goaltender, but one thing the Leafs won’t change
is his size. At 6’2, 208 pounds, Reimer doesn’t have much of a
problem filling the net. His style has been described as simply coming
out of the crease and challenging shooters to find space around his
large frame. While playing for the Red Deer Rebels last season he posted a 2.81 GAA and
a .910 save percentage.

Reimer should get a fair shot within the Leafs organization, as they
do not have a backlog of talent at goaltender. They do, however, have
a fairly young group of tenders with Raycroft now leading the way.

Korbinian Holzer, D
EC Bad Tölz / German Jr.
4th Round (111th overall), 6’3, 190

While the 2006 draft was largely a European affair for the Leafs, they
stepped into uncharted territory with the selection of Korbinian
Holzer. Holzer is the first German selected in team history. However,
it might be a while before he earns the title of being the Leafs’ first
German draft pick to make it to the NHL.

Holzer has been described as a sleeper pick but one that will
still need a few more years of grooming. He is strong and uses his size well, but also with intriguing offensive skills.

Holzer scored one goal and had two assists at the most recent World
Junior Championships. In 32 games, he had two goals and three assists while playing a limited role for EC Bad Tölz in the 2.GBun.

Viktor Ståhlberg, LW
Frölunda Indians / Swedish Jr.
6th Round (161th overall), 6’3, 191

While the new CBA rules limit the time NHL clubs can hold onto the
rights of European players, the Maple Leafs shouldn’t have many
problems at least bringing Viktor Ståhlberg over to North America. That
much has already been done for Leafs. The Swedish forward will play
for the University of Vermont next season after playing with a
junior team in Sweden last season.

“He has size, incredible speed, great skills and can offer a very
different look for us,” Vermont coach Kevin Sneddon said on the
Vermont athletics web site. “He had incredible development last year
while playing in Sweden.”

Ståhlberg appeared in 41 games for the Frolunda Indians last
season. He had 27 goals, 26 assists, and 89 PIMs.

Tyler Ruegsegger, C/RW
Shattuck-St. Mary’s/ U.S. High School
6th Round (166th overall), 5’11, 170

Things have been moving pretty fast for Tyler Ruegsegger over the last
few months. First his college entrance was moved up a year earlier than
expected and then he was drafted into the NHL.

Ruegsegger signed on with Denver University last fall, but wasn’t
expected to begin playing for the school until fall 2007. That was
until he scored 38 goals and 89 points in 60 games with Shattuck-St.
Mary’s. He will be joining the team this fall, which has 11 other NHL
draftees, five of whom are incoming freshmen.

Although he was attending high school in Minnesota, Ruegsegger is
originally from Lakewood, CO, a suburb of Denver.
Ruegsegger’s exceptional stick work and reputation for being highly
competitive certainly could be put to good use someday on a Leafs
roster that lacks finishers. He took a bit of a different route than many of his collegiate peers
as he has no junior-A or U.S. Development Program experience. He was
planning on playing for the Omaha Lancers in the USHL before Denver coach George Gwozdecky asked Ruegsegger to come on board immediately.

At 5’11, 170 lbs. he lacks size, but that has become much less of an issue.

Leo Komarov, C
Assat Pori / Finnish Jr. A
6th Round (180th overall), 5’10, 187

If Leo Komarov is able to jump to the NHL, it may be a good bet he
will earn his first two minutes in the box before he scores a goal.
Komarov greatest skill is his ability to be a pain in the side of the
opponent. Scouts have described him as a small, speedy player who
likes to mix things up around the crease and take checking
assignments – or in short, a pest. Komarov originally hails from
Estonia but moved to Finland early in his life.

Even with his somewhat limited skill set he managed 68 points in 133
games over the last four years, although he scored just six points in
44 games playing for Assat Pori last season. His strength is his
ability make chaos and use his hands around the net to manufacture points. He’s racked up 274 penalty minutes in the process. In order to make his way out of Finland, he will need to learn to control his emotions. His play beyond areas where he can use his body is limited.


Pekka Lampinen, Sergei Balashov, Eugene Belashchenko, and Leslie Treff
contributed to this article. Copyright 2006 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.