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Leafs wait long time before making first pick but happy with Toskala trade

The Canadian Press
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The Hockey News
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Leafs wait long time before making first pick but happy with Toskala trade

The Canadian Press
By:

But the Leafs feel it was well worth the wait.

They sacrificed their first-and second-round picks in this year's draft and a fourth-round pick in 2009 to land netminder Vesa Toskala and winger Mark Bell from the San Jose Sharks.

"It's not your typical draft weekend, however we made our team better in a couple of areas," Leafs GM John Ferguson said before leaving town Saturday. "That's what this is all about. And it was a credit to our scouting staff to have identified in the past few drafts, Justin Pogge and other players that were not first-round picks but have now progressed to be the equivalent of those.

"So that kind of depth allowed us to make a move that really shores up our goaltending."

The Leafs were also in talks with Nashville about Tomas Vokoun and Minnesota about Manny Fernandez but ultimately Ferguson felt Toskala was the man he wanted.

"It's a combination of fit, ability, his record in the last three years - 63-28 - age, we think he's a top-notch goaltender who is going to come in and really give us a 1-2 punch that we lacked last year," said Ferguson.

Toskala will partner with last year's starter Andrew Raycroft.

"Raycroft is a good goalie, it'll be good competition," Toskala told The Canadian Press from Tampere, Finland, on Friday. "I hope to see more ice time than last year, but you never know."

What the Leafs hope is to sign Toskala to an extension. He's an unrestricted free agent after next season. Talks got underway Friday and will continue in earnest over the next few weeks.

The Leafs did, finally, make some picks in the draft:

-Winger Dale Mitchell, 74th overall, from Oshawa of the Ontario Hockey League;

-Winger Matt Frattin, 99th overall, from Fort Saskatchewan of the Alberta Junior Hockey League;

-Winger Ben Winnett, 104th overall, from Salmon Arm of the British Columbia Hockey League;

-Slovak defenceman Juraj Mikus, 134th overall, from Trencin of the Slovak league;

-Centre Christopher Didomenico, 164th overall, from Saint John of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League;

-Swedish defenceman Carl Gunnarsson, 194th overall, from Linkoping of the Swedish Elite League.

"Well we think that we've got some players that are going to project to be NHLers somewhere in the future," said Ferguson. "We've got some good young talent. Let's see where they're at in two, three, four years."

Mitchell likes the fact he was the first Leafs player drafted this year.

"Yesterday I saw when they traded their top two picks away," he said. "When they were picking today (in the third round) I was hoping I'd be the first one. And it happened."

Donning the jersey he worshipped growing up had him smiling from ear to ear.

"It's an honour actually," he said. "Watching these guys all my life and then being drafted by them, it's just awesome." Mitchell knows he's got some work to do on his game.

"My strengths I think are my speed and my offensive abilities, scoring goals and creating offensive chances in the offensive zone," he said. "Also. using my creativity and speed against these big guys. I do need to work on my lateral movement and defensive positioning. That would be good."

Ferguson said the Leafs had hoped to try and get a first-round pick Friday but couldn't get it done.

"We explored some things later in the first round that we considered but there wasn't anything there that made sense," he said.

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Leafs wait long time before making first pick but happy with Toskala trade