We've already been astonished by what these young guns can do. From Jiri Tlusty's two goals in his first ever NHL game to Robbie Earl and his speedy plays, these youngsters have stepped up and helped the Leafs and even led the Marlies to the conference finals. Yes, Toronto reached the conference finals last seaon. Maybe not in the NHL, but certainly in the AHL.
I'll start off with Justin Pogge. Drafted in the third round of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, he only improves every season. In the 2006-07 season with the Marlies, he won 19 out of 48 games and claimed three shutouts.
In the 2007-08 season, he amazed us by achieving 26 wins in 41 games, seven fewer games than the previous season. He also notched four shutouts.
He also represented Canada in the 2006 World Jr. Championship, where he was astonishing. He won all six games he played. Half of them were shutouts. He truly has talent that only expands through time. It will surely expand into the NHL not too long from now.
Next is a young man who has a bright future. He was drafted 216th overall by the Leafs and he's probably going to succeed Tomas Kaberle as an all-star defensemen. Anton Stralman is a rookie defensemen with unmatched skill.
His skill has been recognized by the Toronto Maple Leafs, who have called him up various times. He also called on by Sweden to play in the World Championships.
Stralman's superior play has also inadvertantly promoted his Swedish teammate. Cliff Fletcher is interested in signing Jonas Frogren, who was Anton's defensive partner at the Worlds.
What's even more impressive is what he did on March 29 at the ACC. After the Montreal Canadians dumped the puck behind the Leafs' net, Stralman gained some speed and took the puck up. He stick-handled past the three Montreal forwards and sniped a goal with two defensemen still defending. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-xMh0mTyEvM
Ok, so the Leafs are going to look good in net and on the blue line, how about the scoring and the playmaking for the defensemen? Who's going to do that? The answer lies within young gunners like Jiri Tlusty, Robbie Earl, Jeremy Williams, and John Mitchell.
Jiri Tlusty is a 20-year-old Czech with a bright future. He was drafted in the first round in the 2006 NHL entry draft. He stepped up in his first NHL game and scored two goals.
He was even promoted to the top line for some time last season. Jiri had great nights where he stood out, but had off nights where he would just blend in and not be noticed. I think he just has to learn to give it his best every night and then the world can see his talent.
The Toronto Maple Leafs have every position covered, but I can't talk about every single player. I just selected a couple that stood out to me. There are other players that not many people know about like Nik Kulemin, who was drafted by the Leafs in the second round of the 2006 NHL Entry Draft after the Tlusty.
The Toronto Marlies are a strong team and that means that the Leafs will one day be powerful. Is this salvation? Maybe—or it's maybe just a hope.