Leo Komarov is a player in the Toronto Maple Leafs' system that most fans probably haven't heard much about. He was drafted by John Ferguson Jr. in the sixth round (180th overall) of the 2006 entry draft. Needless to say, he was a bit of a "project" draft choice.
Despite having a very Russian name, Komarov actually grew up and developed his game in Finland, but also holds Russian citizenship.
Listed as 5'11" and around the 200-pound mark, Komarov has average NHL-size but plays a much bigger game on the ice. His style of play has been compared to the likes of Jarkko Ruutu, but this season with Moscow Dynamo of the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL), he has developed into an effective offensive player.
Komarov is well-known on an international scale for being a top agitator, getting under the skin of opposing players and provoking penalties. His unique and gritty play landed him a spot on the Finnish World Junior Championship squad in 2006 and 2007.
To give you a little more insight on his game, his Hockey's Future scouting report reads as follows:
"Komarov is above all an infuriating opponent. The small and speedy forward gets under the skin, plays dirty and hits with force. He also likes to work with the puck, make plays and push to the crease whenever his skill level is up for the task. A player like Komarov likes to get near the net and he is useful there, thanks to his good shot. Although he has played all forward positions, he can't read the play well enough to lead the offense from the center position; the wing is where he should build his career. As an agitator Komarov is neither cold-blooded nor calculating, and unfortunately he takes more than his fair share of penalties. The young and brash checking player must learn to control his emotion."—Hockey's Future, 2011
At age 24, Komarov currently sits second on his Moscow Dynamo team in scoring (total points and goals), and recently finished second in the fastest skater competition during the 2011 KHL Skills Competition.
A player with a skill set of speed, grit and a little bit of skill is hard to come by in the NHL these days, and he could be a key contributor to the Maple Leafs lineup in the near future.
Brian Burke has until July 1st, 2011 to sign Komarov to an entry-level contract before he becomes a free agent. His name has been coming up more and more recently because of the breakout year he has put together in the KHL this season.
His skill set is exactly what Burke wants in a player, so it would be very surprising if he does not extend Komarov a contract before the free-agent period kicks in.
Komarov's natural position is at centre, so he may fit quite well on the third line next year with Colby Armstrong. Armstrong had taken quite a beating this year, mainly because he has acted as the lone agitator on the Maple Leafs squad. I think he would appreciate the workload being spread out a little more next season.
Add Brad Ross to the mix in a couple of years and the Leafs may have a ferocious checking line that would be a nightmare to play against for opposing teams. Ross had been on a tear recently—both with his stick and fists—and is looking like he could be the next David Clarkson.
Brian Burke eventually wants his squad to be that one team that the rest of the league dreads playing against. In my opinion, giving Leo Komarov an entry-level contract this summer would be a great start.