Leafs Sign College Forward Brayden Irwin: Did Burke Find Another Gem?

Mark RitterSenior Writer IMarch 29, 2010

PITTSBURGH, PA - MARCH 28:  Phil Kessel #81 of the Toronto Maple Leafs celebrates his goal with Tyler Bozak #42 against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the second period at Mellon Arena on March 28, 2010 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Various news sources are reporting that the Toronto Maple Leafs have signed University of Vermont forward Brayden Irwin to a two-year, entry-level contract.

Irwin stands 6’5” and weighs an impressive 215 pounds. Known as a tough, grinding player with average hands, Irwin led the Vermont Catamounts with 15 goals and 34 points in 39 games this season—while also racking up 72 penalty minutes.

A former teammate of current Maple Leaf forward Victor Stalberg, Irwin has an outside chance at cracking the Leafs lineup next year, perhaps bumping the likes of Colton Orr or Jay Rosehill—both of whom are very one-dimensional players—off the Leafs roster in 2010-11.

More likely—as is the case with many big power forwards—Irwin will need to work on his skating and his overall hockey I.Q. Many scouts believe he will require some seasoning in the AHL with Leafs affiliate Toronto Marlies, where he can work on all aspects of his game and get acclimated to the AHL/NHL.

In an effort to offset the loss of draft picks and replenish a farm system that was void of many prospects, Leafs General Manager Brian Burke has already brought the likes of Tyler Bozak, Christian Hanson, and Victor Stalberg (John Ferguson Jr. Draft pick) into the Leafs organization through college hockey.

Bozak, Hanson, and Stalberg have all made decent contributions to the Leafs this season—with Bozak standing out as a legitimate NHL player and perhaps even a future star.

Like Bozak, Hanson, and Stalberg before him, Irwin is raw. I would caution all Leaf fans not to get your hopes up too high for this kid. In the end, we are likely talking about a third-line player at best, not a game-breaker.

Anytime you can bring in a decent prospect for nothing but a bag of cash, you are ahead of the game—and for that, Brian Burke should be applauded.

Time will only tell if this was money well spent. If Irwin turns into a 10-minute-per-game player, Burke will have found a gem—at least in some people’s eyes.

After all, something for nothing is always good, right?

To read more NHL news and notes, visit my website at www.theslapshot.com

Until next time,