YEAR END REVIEW: PART TWO – DEFENSE
Another steady and solid season for Carlo saw marked improvement in his skating and ungodly puck control. Originally considered not much of an offensive threat on draft day, Carlo’s offense showed moderate improvement but it did not always result in a significant increase in numbers.
Carlo’s defense remained stellar, stepping up at all the right times. Carlo was again named to the OHL All-Star Team. He was also honoured at the end of the season with a Second Team All-Star Birth. He ended the year with 13 goals and 40 points in 60 games… and a plus 30. A member of the Canadian World Junior Squad, Carlo recorded 3 points in 7 games at the tournament. His plus minus rank of plus 9 was the second best of all players from all countries in the tournament. In the playoffs, Carlo continued to step up his play. Carlo recorded 7 goals and 17 points in only 21 games. He ended the playoffs a plus 13. Carlo showed this season that he can step up his play on the big stage. He also showed a presence and hockey sense worthy of a top two Powerplay unit defenseman. Despite an unfortunate turnover in the Memorial Cup Final, and despite only recording two points in the four games, this season should be viewed as a success for the Leafs and Carlo.
Jay Harrison had a superb 2001-2002 season. Entering the year, the Brampton defenseman was viewed as a physical defensive defenseman who had the desire but lacked the skills to dominate a game offensively. Jay showed an immense improvement in all aspects of his game. He became even more physically dominant this year than he had been the previous season. His offensive instincts also appeared to kick in. He made great strides in his skating and puck control, and his offensive vision started to match his defensive hockey sense. He was named to the Canadian World Junior Squad where he was a machine in front of his own net, and teamed with Leaf prospect Colaiacovo made a great tandem for patrolling the blue ice and letting Canada’s goalies see the shot clearly. Jay then returned to the OHL and stepped up his offense. He bested his previous highs of 4 goals and 20 points in a full OHL season by the half way mark. In fact, he came two goal shy of doubling his career goals total from the previous three full seasons in this season alone. He ended the year by shattering all his previous highs with 12 goals and 43 points in 61 games. He was named top defensive defenseman in the OHL Coaches poll, and was awarded a promotion to St. John’s for the playoffs when Brampton failed to qualify in the OHL.
Brendan continued to be a very solid offensive force for the Ottawa 67’s this season. He has increased his goals and point totals in each of his three OHL seasons, finishing this year with career highs in goals (10), points (46) and plus minus (+33). However, on a very strong offensive team… Brendan has yet to have the offensive breakout year everyone expects of him.
Known almost entirely for his offensive skills, Brendan needs to step up next year with big numbers if he is to impress the Leafs brass. His defensive game is adequate, but still has weaknesses that need working on. His biggest weakness is still his aggressiveness and size. This weakness was exposed in the playoffs. Despite recording 2 goals and 7 points in 13 playoff games, Brendan was a team worst minus 7. He was not selected to make the World Junior Team, a huge disappointment as he was an early invitee to the training camps.
Tomas’ 2001-2002 season was nothing less than scouts have come to expect from him. Sadly however, it was also nothing more than they expected either. Tomas replicated his offensive production from the previous season, but showed little in the way of improved offensive instinct or skills. While his offensive abilities remain solid, they have failed to grow like scouts hope to see from young defenseman in their second year of junior play. He was named to the World Juniors for the Czech Republic, but failed to register a point in 7 games. He did show well defensively though, and the team was a weak offensive force. Tomas showed little in the playoffs, recording only one goal and 4 points in 11 playoff games.
Markus’ 2001-2002 season continued what has been one of the better success stories for a late starter into competitive hockey. He spent the entire season with TPS Turku of the elite league. It marked his first full season in the elite league, and he ended it in impressive fashion recording 4 goals and 8 points in 51 league games. The numbers may not sound too impressive, but the elite Finnish league is hardly known for offense. Markus impressed his country and coaches well enough to be named to the World Junior squad. In his first international tournament, he recorded a goal and 3 points in only 7 games. He finished his season with Turku by recording a goal and two points in 7 elite league playoff games. The season has to be called a huge success for Markus, and he is already proving to be a real steal for the virtual unknown on draft day selected in the 7th round.
Max raised his stock in 2001-2002 with a very impressive campaign. Spending the season with Togliatti of the Russia Hockey League, Maxim recorded 3 goals and 6 points in his 42 league games. His defensive abilities however were much more noticeable. Max was a physical force, solid on the ice and a plow in front of the net. He impressed enough to win an entry in the World Juniors, and was a member of Russia’s gold medal squad. He only recorded one point in 7 games there, but was a very dependable key on Russia’s Gold Medal winning defensive squad. He used his size well, without taking stupid penalties. He was also surprisingly mobile for his tall frame. He finished the year pointless in four playoff games for Togliatti.
Lubos’ transition to North America was not completely a transition phase. Lubos showed keen offensive instincts and a physical aspect to his game. He recorded 9 goals and 36 points in 53 games and posted 81 penalty minutes. He impressed some scouts in attendance at the World Juniors where he recorded a goal and two points in 7 games. He also impressed with his physical play and ability to read the play efficiently and push the forecheck when needed. His all around skill was quite a pleasant surprise and his hard accurate shot may one day make him a regular power play quarterback. He finished the season recording a goal and 2 points in 10 playoff games and tallying 30 minutes in penalties.
Peter had a career year in Maine. Something out of fables actually. After starting the season minus his coach of three years who died in September of cancer, no one would have blamed Peter and Maine if they could not focus and folded. Instead, Peter fed off the need for leadership. Named the Captain of Maine at the start of the season, Peter set career highs in all categories, and obliterated his previous totals. He recorded 9 goals and 41 assists for 50 points in only 44 games.
Peter recorded points in all but one of the 8 playoff games in the NCAA tournament. He recorded two goals in the 7 to 2 win over New Hampshire to advance to the NCAA Championship match. His fairy tale season ended with heartbreak in an OT loss in the championship match. All in all though, Peter had a superb final season in Maine and for the Leafs, as he has signed with Boston.
Regan had a disappointing second season for Providence. His point totals dropped by 10 points to 6 goals and 16 points in 36 games. He had a slow start to the season, and seemed at times to be sluggish and unsure of where to be at times on the ice. His defensive skill suffered at times two, including on two different occasions where a turnover cost his team the win. His playoff numbers were also low, recording no points and being knocked out after only two playoff games. Somehow, the season did not damper the Leafs view of Kelly… as they signed him to a pro contract.
Pierre Hedin had another mediocre start to his season. Playing yet another year for MoDo, Pierre recorded 7 goals and 16 points in 39 games. The real marked improvement however was in his defensive play. He was a plus 12, nine higher than his previous career high in plus minus. In the Playoffs, Pierre set a Swedish record for defenseman with 8 goals in 14 games and was a plus 9. He was instrumental in taking MoDo to the Swedish Championship Finals. He was named to Sweden World Championship team, and there Pierre recorded 2 goals and 3 points in 9 games, and was a plus 10. His showing against the world’s best in the World’s marked his first major competition on the global stage since the World Juniors. He has re-opened the door to a chance at North America and the NHL, and has turned many heads in the process.
JP had a disappointing season in 2001-2002. In the high scoring QMJHL, JP recorded only 4 goals in 61 games. His playoffs were not much better, recording only 1 goal in 16 playoff games for Cape Breton. The Leafs expected JP to show a little more offensive ability this year… and failing to do so JP lost any chance he had at a pro contract with the Leafs.
YEAR END REVIEW: PART THREE – GOALTENDERS
JF Racine had a bit of a down season, seeing an inflated GAA at the start of the year get worse by the midpoint of the season. Though he brought the goals against down by season’s end… his value to the Leaf organization started to come into question. He seemed to have lost a little of the agility he had shown before, but regained his quick glove by the season’s end. He ended with a 3.43 GAA and a .892 save percentage. In the playoffs, he saw his GAA rise to 3.50 while his save percentage improved to .899. His sub-par playoff performance however did not deter the Leafs from signing him to a pro contract, a move most likely necessitated by the early promotion of Sebastien Centomo from the Leafs affiliate in Memphis.
Jamie had a decent season for South Carolina of the East Coast Hockey League. After losing his starting job early in the year, he awoke with renewed passion and purpose. He won 20 games to only 9 losses. Despite his renewed vigour, he still ended the season with a 3.01 GAA which is way too high for the ECHL, and officially eliminates his chances of every playing for the Leafs.
Jan had a terrible second season in the OHL. Starting the year with Belleville, he saw his goals against average rise by over half a goal from his previous seasons total. He also saw his save percentage drop by 20 points. When he was traded from Belleville to London, he had a 3.45 GAA and .884 save percentage. He played 10 games for London, and saw his GAA jump to 4.27 and his save percentage drop further to a horrible .855. When the playoffs came, and quickly ended for Chovan, it was almost a relief. His playoff numbers were worse yet again, with a 5.45 Goals Against average, almost 3 goals a game higher than his numbers from the previous season.
Sebastien had a career year fit for a superstar. He started the season being assigned to Memphis of the Central Hockey League. He was named Player of the Month in November, was named to the All-Star team and named First team All-Star in the Central Hockey League. His 16 win, 1 loss record marked his emergence into pro hockey. He held a league low 2.09 GAA and a league high .934 save percentage when he got his first promotion, being called up to St. John’s of the AHL. In St. John’s, he continued his dominance. In 25 games, he went 12 wins and 7 losses on a St. John’s team that at the time was considered one of the weaker teams in the AHL. His 2.52 GAA and .926 Save percentage instantly stabilized the baby buds goaltending woes as neither Minard or Tellqvist seemed to be up to the job. His work also earned him his second promotion, an almost unimaginable call to the Leafs NHL club. He appeared in only one game, allowing three goals in two periods against Detroit. However, it needs to be noted that he took over for a struggling Schwab who let in as many goals in one period. For a first ever taste of NHL action against the most dominant offensive team in the league, Centomo did fairly well. Considering Schwab was given chances after that to make amends, and Centomo was not given another chance… and when considering Centomo was the better of the two goalies that night, you realize what a remarkable story he had become. After returning to St. John’s, he took them on the longest AHL run they had seen in many years. His 2.52 GAA, and .924 save percentage took the baby buds through the first two rounds. Down 2 games to none to Lowell and facing elimination in round two, Centomo came up spectacular. He had two shutouts in the next 3 games and the Leafs came back 3 straight to win and move on. Ironically, while the Leafs played the Islanders in the playoffs, the baby leafs lost to the Isles farm club to finally be eliminated. His season ended with the honour of being named CHL rookie of the year (Central Hockey League) after only playing half a season there.
COAST TO COAST AND ACROSS THE POND
Russ Bartlett (C) – St. Lawerence (ECAC)
As expected, Russ did not sign with the Leafs by the June 1st deadline, and is now a Free Agent.
Peter Metcalf (D) – Maine Black Bears (NCAA)
Peter and the Leafs failed to reach a contract agreement by the June 1st deadline. Peter signed with Boston today, and is now a member of the Bruins. Look for him to make the Leafs look bad soon.
Jean-Francois Racine (G) – Drummondville Voltiguers (QMJHL)
JF signed the day before the deadline and will now go pro for the Toronto Maple Leafs. With Centomo and Tellqvist in St. John’s, JF likely will be assigned to Memphis.
Miguel Delisle (F) – Ottawa 67’s (OHL)
According to a source at Faceoff.com, Miguel was almost dealt to the New Yor Rangers at the deadline, but the deal fell apart at the last second. He will re-enter the draft later this month, and New York may still get him in a early to mid round.
Jean-Philippe Cote (D) – Cape Breton (QMJHL)
JP Cote was not signed on the deadline, and now must re-enter the draft. He likely will go undrafted, which would make him a free agent..
Vadim Sozinov (C) – Novokunetsk (RHL)
Sozinov is finally officially no longer Leaf property. He may re-enter the draft this month, and likely would be selected in a middle to late round.
Jarret Stoll (C) – Kootenay Ice (WHL)
In yet another late transaction attempt, the Leafs came up a few minutes short of landing Jarret, the Captain of Kootenay’s Memorial Cup Championship team, and the Captain of Canada’s Silver Medal World Junior Squad. Jarret instead will re-enter the draft, and will be a first round pick in this weak draft.