Congratulations! Somehow you’ve all managed to get through three long months without hockey. Now the boys of winter are back on the ice and another season of exciting Maple Leafs’ action looms. Toronto’s line-up for the upcoming season looks to be both deep and talented. There are more experienced NHL players on hand at the club’s Training Camp than there are jobs to be filled. To further complicate matters, an improving farm system has produced several hopeful youngsters determined to push some familiar names out of the picture. Expect lots of spirited competition for NHL jobs, the emergence of some surprising newcomers and maybe even a trade or two before the 2000 / 2001 roster is finally set.
While acknowledging that these factors make the team rather difficult to handicap at this early stage, here is a preliminary position-by-position look at the 2000 / 2001 Toronto Maple Leafs:
The Rangers continued to downsize their roster by sending veteran AHLer`s Kenny Gernander and Brad Smyth to Connecticut for reassignment. Moments after the Rangers announced prized rookie Mike Mottau would attend camp on a tryout basis after a call from Glen Sather. For Mottau he will be on ice with the Rangers in Rye on Wednesday and will likely play against Atlanta and Milan Hnilinka later this week. Sather commented that negotiations are tough when you have never seen a guy play…so this will be the chance for Mottau to shine and earn a spot. Mottau has added 11 pounds to his frame since the start of the 99-00 season at Boston College and looks more and more like a NHLer. Mottau will compete not only for a roster spot but a contract which may be a lot for a rookie to handle on one plate.
Competition for the final spots on defense remain between Dale Purinton (1 game-NHL), Jason Doig(NHL -Rangers) and Tomas Kloucek. All three would rather develop in New York than Hartford. While Purinton brings personality, a physical presence and some skill, Jason Doig, who struggled in scrimmage brings a hard shot, size and some offensive ability… Kloucek does nothing great… but almost never makes mistakes. This will be interesting up until Game 1, year 2000-01.
A few players will make the jump from the farm to play significant roles in the upcoming season. Two of Hamilton’s top point producers Dan Cleary and Michel Riesen are poised to grab vacancies on the top two lines. With Alexander Selivanov and German Titov not being resigned due to inconsistency and salaries their spots could be taken by these two skilled goal scorers.
Both Dan and Michel are having an excellent camp and preseason with Riesen picking up 3 goals and 1 assist in 3 games while showing more resiliency in the physical game than in the past. A power play ace in the Swiss League and in Hamilton Michel may replace Selivanov’s goals on the power play and give Edmonton a legitimate sniper to patrol the slot and perimeter. Even though he lacks the physical grittiness the coach and general manager desire in their players he can make up for it in goal production and being defensively responsible.
Finally it looks like Dan is beginning to take his game to the next level after being brought up too early by Chicago when he was drafted. He possess the size and skill to potentially be a regular 25 goal scorer with grittiness and toughness to complete the package. Has driven to the net with authority and displayed strong play along the boards and down low over the past three games. His desire and determination that was thought to be lacking in the past is bubbling over and that alone is the determining factor that makes him a solid two-way winger.
With Calgary midway through their preseason schedule, some candidates
gunning for the big club have been impressive. With only a few positions up
for grabs, Flames staff have some tough decisions to make.
Stillman, Savard, Shantz, Wiemer, Wilm, and Bureau are all listed
centres. However, Shantz and Wiemer have been experimented on the wing.
Tkaczuk has played well in his games, improving on his two-way game, but
hasn’t been a standout. Another year in Saint John wouldn’t hurt Tkaczuk. The
story is a little different when talking of Marty Murray. In his two games in
Toronto and Ottawa, Murray was impressive. Faceoffs were dreadful last year
for Calgary and Murray has been outstanding in that category. Playing on a
line with Iginla and Saprykin, Murray was the playmaker, while Saprykin and
Iginla where the snipers. If Murray’s play continues he just may have a spot
with the team.
There is a little more room on the left side. Nazarov, Lindsay, and
Lowry all are sure fires for Calgary. Saprykin, Elomo, Botterill, Cowan,
Varlamov, and Roche all fighting for a spot. Of all names mentioned Saprykin
is the most impressive. In Calgary’s first game against Montreal, Saprykin
netted a pair of goals in a outstanding outing, helping the Flames to a 4-2
victory. In the second tilt against Toronto, Saprykin had another solid
effort, playing with Murray and Iginla. A game Calgary should have won. Coach Read more»
Like most teams, the Blues carry a roster of 14 forwards, 7 defensemen and 2 goaltenders. From the 38 players left in camp after yesterdays cuts, there are 15 cuts left with the exception of the two defensemen who will be replacing the injured Marc Bergevin and Todd Reirden.
There is all but one forward spot locked up as thirteen players on the current roster would have to clear waivers if they were to be sent down to
the minors. The Blues can’t afford losing any of these players for nothing and trades could open more spots but for the time being, there is one remaining forward spot. This spot may be filled by one of, Derek Bekar, Reed Low, Ladislav Nagy, Chris Murray, Andrei Podkonicky, Jame Pollock or Reid Simpson. Because of the need of toughness up
front and lack there of on the current roster, it will likely be one of Simpson, Murray or Low. All three players have two-way contracts, and well, these three will likely go down to the wire.
On Defense, the battle got even more interesting for the young prospects with the news of Reirden and Bergevin being out for extended periods. It is
almost guaranteed that Dale Clarke and Darren Rumble will soon be assigned to Worcester, leaving Vladimir Chebaturkin, Alex Khavanov, Jaroslav Obsut, Bryce Salvador, and Mike Van Ryn to fight over the final three spots. A recent addition to that list is 1999 1st round pick, Barret Jackman, who began skating with the team yesterday. His finger has healed sooner than expected and although he is a week behind the rest, he Read more»