Things have been relatively quiet 15 days into the NHL free agency period. Aside from the flurry of activity on July 1st, the action has halted for whatever reason. This explains why the signing of Marcel Mueller yesterday caused a significant buzz amongst Leaf fans on blogs, message boards and Twitter accounts.
This is an interesting signing on many fronts, but it has received more attention than usual because of the lack of activity in the free agent waters.
Mueller is a 22-year old left winger who posted 24 goals and 32 assists, in addition to 122 penalty minutes, for the Cologne Sharks of the German Elite League (Yes, you can play with that team in NHL '10). He also represented Germany at the Vancouver Olympics, where he collected 2 assists in 4 games.
More recently, Mueller played an agitating role on a weaker German team at the World Championships in May, scoring only 2 points in 9 games.
The Leafs beat out six other teams in signing Mueller, who Brian Burke projects as a "top six winger with size". He's listed as 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds, with a powerful skating stride and scoring upside.
Mueller already has NHL size and toughness, plus a scoring upside with 20-goal potential in the NHL. He uses his size to his advantage by forechecking hard and standing in front of the net on the powerplay. Despite his large frame and long reach, he is considered to have good footspeed.
His only downside may be his inconsistency and potential inability to adapt to the North American style of game. Starting next season with the Toronto Marlies will provide him with an opportunity to grown outside of the limelight and pressure in the NHL. Based on his play, he will likely earn an audition with the Leafs if he impresses in the minors.
The package of size, skill and experience bodes well for Mueller and his potential for success at the pro level. Based on the recent trend of Leaf prospects spending minimal time in the AHL before earning full time roles (Viktor Stalberg, Christian Hanson, Tyler Bozak), Mueller may well find himself a full-time member of the big club partway through the season.
Now that the Leafs have gotten they're man, it's time for Mueller to prove what he can do. He will determine how far he goes in the Leafs organization.
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