Leaf Prospect Rankings Redux (Part I)
Half a hockey season is a long time when it comes to developing players between the ages of 18 and 23. As such it only makes sense to take another look at the Leaf prospect ladder now and see how the yung’uns are shaping up. Are they picking up the skills they’ll need to compete in the big show according to plan? Are some lagging behind? Are some leapfrogging others? Here’s the latest:
1. Mikael Tellqvist-G: Though Mike Minard has played the majority of minutes on The Rock this year, there are just too many positives in Tellqvist’s game to say that he will be anything but a starting goaltender in the NHL once he adjusts to the North American game. Will he be in the ACC by the end of the year? Will he be there to start the next one? Will he be there in 2003-2004? Who knows. When he does arrive though, it will be as more than someone to play one game in four.
2. Brad Boyes-C: His recent WJC performance on the heels of a bout of mononucleosis has only solidified his spot at the second rung and maybe even moved him closer to the top one. He showed the ability to lead the charge to the net in the tournament which was something that hadn’t been part of his game until then. Definitely has the mean streak needed to make up for his lack of size in the pros. Demonstrated some unbelievable hand-eye co-ordination and was equally comfortable as a playmaker and a finisher. Great in the faceoff dot.
3. Carlo Colaiacovo-D: One of the big leapers, the Erie blueliner was one of the best defensemen on the ice for Canada in the WJC’s. He was smooth when he carried the puck, made smart passes, got his shots through, and took his man out of the play with authority when the need arose. Simply put, you couldn’t have asked for more from the U-20 rookie. He’s a definite keeper for Quinn and co.
4. Petr Svoboda-D: While his development has zigged when it should have zagged somewhat this season, he like Tellqvist, has too much going for him in the way of tools and smarts not to make it. All players hit walls throughout the process of going from a junior aged superstar to solid NHL rearguard and this season to date has been one of them for the young Czech. Still the fact remains, regardless of the bumps in the road that he is encountering now, Svoboda looks to be another in a long line of two way blueliners the Leafs are going after these days.
5. Markus Seikola-D: Another in the pipeline who has used a stellar performance in the WJCs to vault up the prospect rankings. Seikola looks to be the latest in a seemingly endless stretch of solid Finnish defensemen that started with Teppo Numminen of the Phoenix Coyotes and has continued through to his teammate Ossi Vanaanen. The young Finn showed off both his heavy point shot and his heavy hitting ability in the tournament. Although he feels he has to work at his skating, it didn’t seem to give him any problems on the big international ice surface.
6. Alexei Ponikarovsky-RW: It seems that no matter where they line this guy up all he seems to do is get it done. He skates, he bodies well, he plays in all three zones, and his offensive game is getting better as he matures. He’ll probably never be a superstar in the bigs, but can he be the two way thumper on the second line or the physical good hands guy on the third unit? As he makes his way from The Rock onto the Toronto roster and up the big team’s pecking order, there is no reason why not.
7. Jeff Farkas-LW: The former Boston College speedster was the player that had the most to lose coming into this year and he most definitely has lost it. He was red-hot at the end of the 2000-2001 season and he had a good camp with the Leafs in September. Nonetheless, as Pat Quinn is wont to do, he went with experience and sent the winger to the minors. Since then the Jeff Farkas of late last year is nowhere to be found. This was his year to make an impression. If he doesn’t he risks being overtaken by others in the pipeline if he hasn’t been already.
8. Karel Pilar-D: When the Leafs draft him a lot was expected by many. An overager it was thought he would compete for playing time with the big club right away. It hasn’t gone that way, and what’s worse, he hasn’t been the most impressive horse in the barn in St. John’s either. His physical play has to improve of he’ll go nowhere. The Leafs already have Tomas Kaberle on the roster and the latter is more offensively gifted than Pilar. He has a lot to prove still.
9. Luca Cereda-C: Needless to say, this season is going to be a mulligan for the Swiss center and if he reacts to his heart surgery anything like Nik Antropov did his knee surgery perhaps next season as well. There is no doubt Cereda is a project for the long term in the Alyn McCauley mold. Before he went down though, he was dominant among his peers, literally a man among boys. Should he get back to that form the Buds are going to have themselves an assist machine, but it is going to take a lot of time before anyone knows whether that is possible.
10. Tomas Mojzis-D: A steal late in the 2001 draft, Mojzis hasn’t disappointed so far this season despite being traded from Moose Jaw to Seattle partway through it. A bit of a risk-taker, with the puck, he demonstrates extreme patience in waiting for the play that he wants to make when carrying it into the zone as opposed to being hurried into a pass. He has a nice shot and his wheels are superlative. His selection to the Czech U-20 team was no fluke. The kid is a talent.