Despite the fact GM Brian Burke made it known the Leafs would need to recoup some of the draft picks traded away by his predecessors, his first acquisition results in the loss of another selection.
In bringing in enforcer Brad May from his former team in Anaheim (May and Burke were also together in Vancouver), Burke has followed through on his promise to make the Leafs tougher to play against and to be fair, a conditional sixth-round pick in 2010 isn’t a huge loss, but it is curious nonetheless.
Speaking of the future, with the World Junior Championship now complete, I thought it would be a pertinent time to review how some future Maple Leafs fared in Ottawa.
Closest to home and the most successful in the tourney was the GTA’s own Chris DiDomenico, a sixth round draft pick who now owns a shiny gold medal thanks to Canada’s 5-1 win over Sweden. DiDomenico was given a plum spot on a line with fellow Quebec Leaguer Angelo Esposito and teen superstar John Tavares. This was essentially Canada’s top line (though Cody Hodgson’s line was easily 1A) and DiDomenico made the most of his opportunity, tallying seven points in six games and registering a plus-4 rating.
The natural center also made the first headline after the tournament when he was traded to the high-powered Drummondville Voltigeurs from his old squad, the Saint John Sea Dogs. With Drummondville, DiDomenico has a legitimate shot at playing in the Memorial Cup, an experience that will help further his development. Always an underdog-type of player – no team in the Ontario League wanted him, which is why he went to the Quebec League – DiDomenico is rising fast in the organization and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him starring for the Marlies next year.
On the other side of the coin, 2008 second-rounder Jimmy Hayes will also be remembered for helping Canada win gold, but unfortunately he did so as a member of Team USA. The Boston College freshman scored the second of America’s three first period goals against Canada, but his alleged mocking while skating by the Canuck bench has been cited as a rallying point for Canada’s comeback. Hayes had one other goal in six games in Ottawa, but it’s important to take a long-term view on his game. As a power forward, Hayes will hit his stride later than, say, DiDomenico; Hayes is still realizing what he can do with his 6-foot-5, 210-pound frame. The Boston native was one of the most impressive kids I saw at the NHL draft combine last summer, so as long as he cuts down on the antics, there is hope.
The third Toronto prospect at the tourney was Germany’s Jerome Flaake, a fifth-rounder from 2008 who tore up his home country’s junior circuit last year, but has been more modest playing with men this season. Flaake exhibited excellent speed against Canada, but often got flattened by bodychecks before he could do anything dangerous with the puck. Flaake led the Germans with five points in six games, but since Canada plays the most similar game to the NHL (or American League for that matter), he must be seen as a longer-term project at this point.
At a lower rung of the world juniors, right winger Mikhail Stefanovich (98th overall in 2008) put up six points in five games. Not bad, until you consider that his Belarus team beat Estonia 19-1 and bested France 8-2. Stefanovich did make amends back in North America however as the reigning Quebec League player of the week, putting up seven goals (four in one game) and an assist in three contests. He now has 39 points in 30 games for the Quebec Remparts and will be one to watch as he continues to learn the North American game.
This article also appears in the Toronto Metro newspaper.
Ryan Kennedy is a writer for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey's Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Monday and Wednesday, his column - The Straight Edge - every Friday, and his prospect-watch feature, The Hot List appears Tuesdays.
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