Tough Young Players Fueling Maple Leafs New Drive to The Cup

Graeme Boyce@CivilizedGraemeCorrespondent ISeptember 26, 2009

LONDON, ON - SEPTEMBER 17:  Viktor Stalberg #45 of the Toronto Maple Leafs skates in a pre-season game against the Philadelphia Flyers on September 17, 2009 at the John Labatt Centre in London, Ontario. The Leafs defeated the Flyers 4-0. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

Notwithstanding the spectacular victories, the Maple Leafs preseason results have reinforced a lot of summertime speculation and supposition surrounding the highly-anticipated revolutionary youth movement.  Because, other than Viktor Stalberg, none of the youngsters have displaced a starter, and neither Burke nor Wilson are going to place their veterans on waivers any time soon.

After last night's game in Detroit, however, Stalberg has to learn he can't rush with the puck crossing in front of our net.  Lucky for us, old guy Brad May was checking.

The out-of the-blue play of Gunnarson makes any one of the veteran blueliners vendable again, though at the trading deadline.  The team's top four defenders are Beauchemin, Komiserik, Kaberle and Schenn, backed up by White, Exelby and Frogren.  However, Garnet Exelby looks a bit risky when he chases a open ice hit.  Too bad about injured Mike Van Ryn; it can't look good for him this year.

Until recently, the big quandary seemed to be whether both Matt Stajan and Lee Stempniak would  survive these so-called meaningless games, given the pressure night after night from Christian Hanson and Tyler  Bozak.  These pre-season tilts against some of the best players in the league have been exciting, and both Stajan and Stempniak have made mistakes.  Rust.  They will shake off the rust.

The other player posing a really decent challenge, for his physical consistency alone, is Jay Rosehill, which means it really doesn't look good for dependable Jamal Mayers.  Rosehill on a line with Colton Orr will be fun to watch, if Rosehill makes the team.

The Maple Leafs high-scoring forward lines are firming up: speedy and skilled Ponikarovsky|Grabovski|Kulemin will lead the charge; then feisty Blake|Stajan|Stalberg will jump over the boards, to be followed by an equally aggressive Hagman|Mitchell|Stempniak, and Primeau|Wallin|Orr will certainly deliver an entertaining fourth line.   Tlusty hasn't had a great camp.

Bozak and Hanson are bound for more ice time with the Marlies.  But an injury here or a bad bounce there and Nazem Kadri will be a Leafs player soon enough.  His play this pre-season has been encouraging, at times simply inspiring.  Management will reward him with the time he needs to beef up, after all he won't lose any skill playing another season in the OHL.

Fixed up Vesa Toskala has made some impressive saves over these past few games, which bodes well.  He won't be hung out to dry this year by his new and improved team.  The Monster should take a honing month with the Marlies, as Joey McDonald is capable of backing up Toskala to start the season.